Warpaint’s debut album, The Fool, swept over us late last fall, briefly threatening to pull us under as the hype roared. Fittingly, the album’s narrative is stuffed with imagery “full of swimming thoughts beneath deep breathing that sinks so far down” (those are words from “Lissie’s Heart Murmur”).
Meanwhile, there’s the theme of latching onto a love you fear losing. Amid the murky post-punk clamor mixed with shadowy pop, this L.A. quartet delivered one of 2010’s best. And if it matters, the members are all women.
Last Friday, Warpaint played the Beachland Ballroom, somewhat surprised by the large crowd. Three of the four members contribute vocals, as drummer Stella Mozgawa hammers away diligently. While the vocal harmonies could have been sharper, the rest of the performance was incredibly tight.
It’s clear this band has been sculpting these songs for years, and their current stage show is the culmination of that effort.
The largest crowd response came from the album highlight “Undertow,” and “Billie Holiday” from 2009’s Exquisite Corpse EP.
When the pre-encore finale, “Beetles,” turned into an extended jam stretching out for more than 11 minutes, it felt like the band earned it. Warpaint clearly enjoy themselves onstage, something that translates to the audience and something the concert's openers desperately need to learn.
To be fair, the NYC-based Family Band tote ominous, often beautiful, songs that sound like Cat Power backed by Black Mountain. The lead singer looms like a skeletal, female-version of Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox. They could do a lot if they focus their concise musical statements.
On the other hand, Australia’s PVT were basically Swans in Joy Division-mode, complete with excessive reverb to further aggravate already droning vocals. The best parts of their set were instrumental, but even those moments weren't so original. I saw them watching Warpaint’s set. Hope they took notes. —Michael Tkach