A banner evening with Wild Flag
Supergroups often don’t add up to more than the sum of their parts, usually sounding like a disappointingly muted jumble of the original bands from which the musicians sprang.
Then there is Wild Flag. The combustible combo of Janet Weiss and Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney, Mary Timony of Helium, and Rebecca Cole of the Minders clearly did not convene to simply have a few drinks and make music as an afterthought. The ferocious foursome is interested in doing some serious damage in the area of sugar-sweetened acidic indie rock.
And Friday night at the Paradise that’s just what Wild Flag did, lending even more muscularity to the already brawny sound of its self-titled debut. During the 70-minute performance it was sometimes hard to tell who was having more fun, the shaking, shimmying, stomping members of the band or the wildly appreciative audience hooting for Brownstein’s windmills and Timony’s inventive riffage.
While there are certainly echoes of the women’s previous bands in the Wild Flag DNA - with Brownstein and Timony’s definitive yelps and yowls it’s a given - but this new collective never simply retraces old steps.
The women thoroughly owned the night. From the first downbeat of the mighty Weiss -who managed an impressive blend of wild and sharp all night - on “Black Tiles,’’ all sinuous, needling guitars and the barbed vocal interplay of Timony and Brownstein to the clattering closing cover of Television’s “See No Evil’’ they were a force to be reckoned with combining classic rock, punk, and prog but never losing their hard pop candy center.
“Future Crimes’’ was a neck-snapping thrasher, “Glass Tambourine’’ offered a satisfying Led Zep-crunch, and Cole - a blur of movement - contributed an excellent thickening agent of organ swells to “Boom.’’
The night’s peak came on an epic, 11-minute version of “Racehorse’’ that explored every weapon in the band’s arsenal. From Brownstein’s shredded scream to Weiss’s tasteful bashing to Timony’s kinetic, warped leads, and Cole’s proggy keyboard flourishes the musicians worked as an air-tight unit of defiance, swagger, and joy. As the song built and crashed, over and over, it felt like the best kind of pummeling, never-ending wave.
Eleanor Friedberger of the Fiery Furnaces warmed up the room with a more static set with decidedly lower-key charms.
Sarah Rodman can be reached at email@example.com.