“Is that the name of your sorority?” Carrie Brownstein bonded with the incredible, and incredibly mixed sold-out crowd at the Paradise on Saturday (e.g., gay, straight, lesbian, old, young, an African-American man wearing a Planned Parenthood T-shirt, “Stand Up for Kerr”), once bandmate Mary Timony revealed that she had attended BU. This after two songs and a beer thrown at the stage (“Can we get a towel, please?” “This is the first beer I’ve had thrown at me in my 20 years of playing music . . . My beer-throwing cherry”).
WILD FLAG — Brownstein, Timony, keyboardist Rebecca Cole, and drummer Janet Weiss — took a few songs to warm up. Maybe it was the crappy Paradise sound (more on that in a minute), or maybe it was just that the songs got better. But yes, by the fourth song, “Wild Pair,” you could sort of hear the guitars and Brownstein had broken into a rhythmic vocal yelp over a fast “Ace of Spades” two-chord vamp-and-roll. From then on, we got girl-gang harmonies, psych-rock jams, and a few near-transcendent moments. Maybe it was the extended jam on “Racehorse,” or maybe the anthem “Romance,” or maybe the one-two-punch of the encores: Television’s “See No Evil” and Fugazi’s “Margin Walker.” Even the guitars were almost loud enough. “Is there a guitar-shredding sorority,” Brownstein had asked. Yes, Carrie, there is.
Which brings me back to the Paradise’s crappy sound. The club’s sound — once the pride of the city — is now the worst it’s ever been. If I complain that I could not hear the guitars, the club can always say, “That’s the mix the band wanted.” And I suppose that’s the mix that Guided by Voices and Gang of Four wanted when I saw their shows too.
The club has moved the stage “out of the way” of the two giant pillars that have always been one of its peculiarities. But, in fact, in the old set-up, you were never far from the stage, no matter where you stood. Now, the stage is essentially shoved off to one side of the room. There is almost no optimum standing room. Under the new balcony overhangs — despite their proximity to the stage — you hear the voices around you more clearly than you hear the band. So your other choice is to hang WAY stage left. And because of the angle, the pillars now cut off a bigger percentage of the sightlines than they ever have.
Isn’t it time for another renovation? And believe me, I’ve seen them all — back in the ’70s, I watched a Captain Beefheart show from one of the many tables on the club’s terraced floor. The tables and chairs were screwed into the floor. Even that was better than what the Paradise is giving us now.