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Posted at 5:18 PM ET, 03/11/2011

In concert: Wild Flag at Black Cat

By Mark Jenkins

wild flagIndie rock's newest supergroup, Wild Flag, made its D.C. debut at the Black Cat on Thursday. (All photos by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

It's unusual for a band that's still woodshedding material for its first album to fill a club the size of the Black Cat. But Wild Flag, which sold out the 700-capacity venue Thursday night, is just not any fledgling rock group. The quartet contains two-thirds of Sleater Kinney, which had earned a major following by the time it unplugged in 2006. Plus, Wild Flag is kind of a hometown act: Of the four members, only singer-guitarist Mary Timony lives in Washington. (The rest are based in Portland, Ore.) But Carrie Brownstein, who also sings and plays guitar, is well-connected locally thanks to her work for NPR's music website, which recently debuted Wild Flag's first recording.

That tune, "Glass Tambourine,'' clearly began with Timony. The songs on which she sang lead showed her taste for madrigal-style melodies and the courtly side of British prog-rock; they also featured bouncy backup vocals (provided mostly by keyboardist Rebecca Cole, but sometimes by drummer Janet Weiss) that recalled late-'60s psychedelic pop. Brownstein's influences tended more toward the '70s, suggesting the heavier rock style she brought to Sleater Kinney's last album, "The Woods.'' Indeed, some of Brownstein's high-pitched vocal flourishes seemed to be calling for a response from Corin Tucker, her musical foil in that band.

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In short, Timony's songs suggested such acts as King Crimson and the Move, while Brownstein's recalled the Rolling Stones and Patti Smith. The latter's '70s style echoed in the show's magnum opus, the Brownstein-led "Racehorse,'' which concluded the 55-minute set with an instrumental rave-up. After that, the quartet returned for an encore that wasn't exactly a surprise: Smith's "Ask the Angels.''

The music was held together by Weiss's exemplary drumming, and by all four players's enthusiasm. The songs that felt the most unified were the ones in which Timony and Brownstein traded vocals, but there weren't enough of those. Too often, when one of them sang, the other kept her head down and concentrated on her guitar. Wild Flag's D.C. debut showed great enthusiasm, much potential and some good material. But most of the songs sounded as if they needed to be dumped back in the Cuisinart for a little more blending.

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By Mark Jenkins  | March 11, 2011; 5:18 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags:  Wild Flag  
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Next: In concert: Tyondai Braxton and Wordless Music Orchestra at Library of Congress

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