“San Francisco, don’t tell Portland,” Sleater-Kinney vocalist-guitarist Corin Tucker confided to a sold-out crowd, just a few songs into the first of two shows at the Masonic on May 2. “But you were the first city we fell for.”
Ah, I bet she tells that to all the metropolises sheltering the Northwestern combo, still one of the most powerful bands of its time -- punk, riot grrrl, however you dub your brand of rock ‘n’ roll fun. Cue “What’s Mine Is Yours,” off their 2005 release The Woods, an album that feels like a short lifetime ago even though it’s still recent history to this all-woman combo, back after an almost decade-long break of child rearing, touring with other bands, and Portlandia satire. “I’m still running,” wailed Tucker, as comical, anguished, ferocious expressions flickered across her pale, round, pretty face. “I’m still running.”
Long may they run, judging from the night’s forward-thrust set list, which pulled mostly from their new album, No Cities to Love, and The Woods.
While much of the rest of the world spent the evening glued to an overhyped Mayweather-Pacquio fight, Sleater-Kinney delivered on their promise to "destroy a room with this love." And though guitarist-vocalist Carrie Brownstein may have spent half of the last decade poking fun at alternaculture and the lifestyle of the archly hipster and locavore with Portlandia, there was little of that show’s irony in the house as Sleater-Kinney seemed seriously intent on rocking their fans' socks off.
The several thousand true believers at the Masonic arrived obviously starved for the trio’s breed of politicized punk and boldly feminist rock ‘n’ roll, now re-entering a landscape where Emma Watson, Taylor Swift, and Beyoncé could scandalize their followers by owning that now-verboten so-called F-word. And so out they came from the trees for the last great band to come down their pike. The gang -- the one you picture displaced by S.F.’s high-speed gentrification -- was all here: graying '90s San Francisco anarcho-punks, coffee house sitters, zine scribblers, long-of-tooth baby dykes, battered-looking rabble-rousers, queercore crusties, twirly girls poured into plaid bustiers of yesteryear, and other unclassifiable happily fringe-dwelling eccentrics. The dream of the '90s was alive in San Francisco after all.