NPR Day Party
Reviewed by Audra Schroeder, Fri., March 18, 2011
NPR Day PartyParish, Thursday, March 17
When I interviewed Merrill Garbus a few weeks ago, she spoke about image in pop music, and how it's important to retain ownership as a woman. It was heartening to see three bands in a row that embraced that at NPR's day show. Garbus confirmed her buzz as legit with Tune-Yards, multitasking on drums, ukulele, and vocal loops. "Gangsta," with its double-sax skronks, and "Biznass," both from next month's Whokill, collided hip-hop, folk, and African sounds in a way that's reverent but transgressive. The transition to Khaira Arby was a natural. The Malian singer's story is one of perseverance: After years of being forbidden to sing, she developed a following in Timbuktu, and is finally in America for her first U.S. tour two decades on. Her voice is her story, big and bell-clear, and the band responded with something approaching psych – repetitious drones that crested in waves. The crowd changed slightly for Wild Flag, the quartet of Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss, the Minders' Rebecca Cole, and Helium's Mary Timony. Many a lady (and man) no doubt squealed at the idea of this supergroup, and live, the synthesis of S-K and Helium's tightly wound guitar offensive didn't disappoint. Brownstein and Timony trading licks and harmonies, while Weiss kept her usual impeccable time and Cole added low end on short, sharp songs needed no bells or whistles.