Sleater-Kinney | The Warfield | 3/30/2024

Article Contributed by Gabriel David Barkin | Published on Monday, April 1, 2024

There is a legion of Sleater-Kinney fans who were big fans of the Olympia, WA, riot grrrl trio long before founding member Carrie Brownstein turned her attention to acting and starred with SNL alum Fred Armisen in the offbeat television sketch comedy show “Portlandia.” (Sleater-Kinney was in the middle of a six-year hiatus at the time.)

The band also has a somewhat smaller but significant number of newer and younger fans who discovered Sleater-Kinney because they heard the cult-fave actress from “Portlandia” (she also had a recurring role on “Transparent” starting in 2014) was in a punk rock band.

Sleater Kinney | The Warfield

Both sets of fans, the “OGs” and the young’uns, were in the house at Sleater-Kinney’s Warfield Theatre show in San Francisco on Saturday night. And both sets of fans were rewarded with a stirring performance that combined well-known songs from their 30+-year career with nearly the entirety of tracks from “Little Rope,” Sleater-Kinney’s eleventh studio album.

Sleater-Kinney was in studio writing songs and recording “Little Rope” when Brownstein's mother and stepfather died in a car accident in late 2022. Completing the record was a challenge, and the songs written in the aftermath of Brownstein’s family tragedy are heavily tinged with grief.

Sleater Kinney | San Francisco, CA

The set-opening “Hell” sets the tone for the new album, and it also summarized what to expect during the hour-and-45-minute show:

Hell don't have no future
Hell don't have no past
Hell don't have no worries
We're gonna live at last

Sleater Kinney | The Warfield

With their dueling Gibson guitars – Brownstein playing an SG and Corin Tucker a Les Paul – Sleater-Kinney’s frontwomen strutted like seasoned rock stars. Which, of course, they are. Brownstein in particular made ample use of the available acreage on stage. (The rest of the band, including drummer Angie Boylan and two multi-instrumentalists, was set up several feet behind the two singers.) She pogoed around, pranced, and posed like a rock guitar goddess. Which, of course, she is. Brownstein frequently came over to Tucker’s side of the stage for Instagram-ready silhouette juxtapositions of the two bandleaders on the backlit platform. At one point (during “The Fox”), Brownstein even did Pete Townshend-like windmills.

Corin Tucker | Sleater Kinney

Both singers were in fine vocal form. Brownstein’s well-honed indie swagger (often channeling Patti Smith’s delivery) and Tucker’s soprano punk crooning haven’t mellowed one drop. Tucker has a quality that sounds theatrical, operatic, melodic, and punk – all at the same time. Her distinctive 90’s grunge rock voice soars and screams on lyrics like this one from “Jumpers”:

Lonely as a cloud
In the Golden State
The coldest winter that I ever saw
Was the summer that I spent …

Carrie Brownstein | The Warfield

“Jumpers” drew one of the biggest cheers of the night. It’s a melancholy song that openly discusses suicidality. It’s also one of two songs Brownstein says she wrote while living in San Francisco, and the song’s references to the city and its famous bridge are enough to warm the hearts of locals, regardless of the subject matter.  

Suicide. Grief. Hell. Sleater-Kinney is not afraid to confront their demons. On “Dress Yourself,” another new track, Tucker sings, “The wreck of you is on display.” Put it all together and it could be depressing. But somehow, it isn’t. Sleater-Kinney’s music is a release of emotion, not a pent-up reflection of unresolved turmoil. Their songs are poignant but also cathartic.

Corin Tucker | Sleater Kinney

Their songs are also loud. Especially in concert. It’s hardcore rock and roll, rarely calm and often bordering on (but never veering into) chaos. Sleater-Kinney’s music is grounded on powerful riffs and in-your-face guitars backed by crashing cymbals and thunderous tom-toms.

Angie Boylan | Sleater Kinney

Some longtime fans might miss Janet Weiss, the founding drummer who left in 2019 and whose John Bonham-esque performances earned her a spot on numerous “Best Drummers of All Time” lists. Angie Boylan was admirable on the skins, but she’s got big shoes to fill.  

Sleater-Kinney’s biggest hit, “Modern Girl,” came near the end of the set. So often at big concerts these days, there is one song that brings out the cell phones for video; this was that song. Brownstein told the audience that this one too (as with “Jumpers”) was written in San Francisco. More cheers.

Sleater Kinney | The Warfield

The main set ended with the closing track from “Little Rope.” “Untidy Creature” asked, “Could you love me if I was broken?” The answer, also in the lyrics, encapsulated the entire show:

There's no going back tonight

Sleater Kinney | The Warfield

The appreciative crowd earned a four-song encore. Sleater-Kinney might be broken, but the fans will always love them for it.

Earlier in the evening, Boston’s Palehound played an opening set.  They may not take over the world, but they’re much better than just a “sell some beer” opener.

Palehound | The Warfield

Palehound was originally a solo recording act by singer and songwriter El Kempner (who celebrated a birthday at The Warfield on Saturday). Now a touring quartet, the band treated the audience to a lively, lo-fi, punk-infused set.

Kempner and Co.‘s guitar-heavy sound is drenched in the Pixies, dripping with Elliott Smith, and has hints of alt-emo cult fave Sparklehorse. (Perhaps even their name was derived from the latter?) They opened with “Good Sex,” the opening track on the 2023 album “Eye on the Bat,” which exemplifies Kempner’s wry lyrical creativity:

Bad sex makes a good joke
That anyone can get
But good sex makes a bad joke
That's only funny if you were there

Palehound | San Francisco, CA

Palehound. Grab a beer — or a kombucha — and check them out.

Rachel Dispenza | The Warfield

Between the two acts, Rachel Dispenza did a short set of comedy. It’s no coincidence that they are Sleater-Kinney’s merch manager; the band and crew went to see Dispenza perform during an off night on tour – and they liked it so much that they invited them to open up a few shows. (Which says something really cool about the band!) Dispenza said afterward that they got the biggest cheer of their career from the San Francisco crowd, who were warm to their deadpan humor and bisexual identity content.


1. Hell   NEW
2. Needlessly Wild  
3. Bury Our Friends
4. The Center Won't Hold
5. Small Finds   
6. Get Up
7. All Hands on the Bad One
8. Hunt You Down   
9. Hurry On Home
10. One More Hour
11. Don’t Feel Right   
12. Start Together
13. Can I Go On
14. Jumpers   
15. Six Mistakes   
16. Dress Yourself
17. The Fox
18. A New Wave
19. Modern Girl   
20. Untidy Creature

22. Good Things
23. Say It Like You Mean It
24. Dig Me Out
25. Entertain