Category: Troubadour

Wild Flag to assert itself at Troubadour

The band, which has Sleater-Kinney roots, has produced an album capturing the passion of the riot grrrl era.

Wild Flag at Spaceland in 2010

Wild Flag was unveiled in a pall of mystery in the fall of 2010. Little was known other than the fact that the band was anchored by two-thirds of the rock offensive that was Sleater-Kinney, an Olympia, Wash.-bred group that hailed from the thriving '90s indie scene of the Pacific Northwest. The all-female group split in 2006, but not before defining the riot grrrl movement and providing an alternative to the male-dominated grunge scene.

Wild Flag's birth was announced sans music, and with a short news release that compared the group to the sound of an avalanche pummeling a dolphin. The ambiguity, however, wasn't for long. Their self-titled album, released in September, is loud, assertive and lean. Its 10 tracks capture the unrestrained passion of the riot grrrl era, but do so with a mix of grown-up levity and confidence. 

“We needed a no-frills, direct, energetic feel,” said Janet Weiss, the rhythmic stronghold in Sleater-Kinney and now Wild Flag. Her band begins a two-night stay at the Troubadour on Wednesday. “We needed a record that jumped off the vinyl and jumped off your speakers. It's very clear what's happening. You can hear everyone playing, and there's not much that's buried. This is bold.”

In the track “Racehorse,” vocalist-guitarist Carrie Brownstein — Weiss' Sleater-Kinney partner, star of IFC's “Portlandia” and ex-National Public Radio blogger — snarls, “What you don't know is me.” The sludgy, adrenaline-building groovy punk stomper clocks in at nearly seven minutes. Throughout, Rebecca Cole's vintage organ serves as a bass, and guitar wrecker Mary Timony delivers garage-rock psychedelics.

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Trailer premiere: 'Troubadours' documentary showcases the rise and influence of the Troubadour club

It's a club whose name has become shorthand for a certain sound, and a certain vibe: The Troubadour.  The intimate West Hollywood club, since its opening in 1957, has introduced some of the world's most acclaimed singers and songwriters to Los Angeles, and the world.

A new documentary about one of the most important partnerships to blossom at the club in the late 1960s and early 1970s, between musicians James Taylor and Carole King, will premiere this weekend at Sundance Film Festival, and Pop & Hiss offers you a first look at the trailer to the film, called "Troubadours." Directed by Morgan Neville, the film is subtitled "Carol King - James Taylor - The Rise of the Singer Songwriter," and provides a look into the Laurel Canyon and West Hollywood scenes that gave rise to artists ranging from Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell to Jackson Browne, Elton John and Harry Nilsson, among many others.

The film features interviews with important musical voices of the era, including former Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn; producer/visionary Lou Adler; actor/banjo player/comedian/writer Steve Martin; Kris Kristofferson; J.D. Souther; and Elton John.

It's been a good year for King and Taylor, whose 2010 American tour focused on the songs the pair worked out at the Troubadour 40 years prior. Their closeness and obvious affection for each other onstage struck a nerve among concertgoers, who helped make the tour one of the most successful of the year. Neville, a seasoned cultural documentarian with a passion for L.A. stories -- his previous films include "The Cool School," about the Los Angeles art scene of the 1960s and '70, "Johnny Cash's America" and "Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story" -- sought to capture the essence of King and Taylor's relationship for "Troubadours."

After the film's premiere in Park City, Utah, it will be broadcast throughout March as part of PBS's American Masters series. Concord Records will release a combination CD/DVD package on March 1, which, in addition to the 90-minute film, will be augmented with a CD of classic tracks from that fertile period of L.A. song: King’s "It’s Too Late," Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James," Waits' "Ol' 55," Bonnie Raitt's "Love Has No Pride," Elton John’s “Take Me To The Pilot," Warren Zevon’s “Poor Poor Pitiful Me," Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken,” and others.

-- Randall Roberts

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