LIVE, IN PHOTOS: Sleater-Kinney at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Halloween

The girls got spooky on All Hallow’s Eve in NYC.

Sleater-Kinney’s The Center Won’t Hold Tour took up residency in New York City for Halloween, playing a pair of sets split between Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre and the Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center in Midtown. While Corin Tucker donned a witch’s hat for the occasion, Carrie Brownstein respectfully declined a costume, though she did at one point hurl a cauldron filled with candy into the crowd.  

After forming in Olympia, Washington in 1994 and eventually relocating to Portland, Oregon, the band has grown to be one of the seminal acts of punk’s riot grrrl movement. Proudly feminist, they’ve never shied away from progressive politics. 

After taking a hiatus in 2006, the group reformed in 2014, releasing the acclaimed No Cities to Love the following year and marking themselves once and for all as one of indie rock’s most substantive voices. 

The announcement that their 2019 follow-up, The Center Won’t Hold, would be produced by Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, was met with feverous excitement, matched only by the intrigue that came a few months later when long-term drummer Janet Weiss declared she was leaving the trio just before the album’s August release. 

The departure has remained difficult for even their most impassioned fan base to track. After initially proclaiming enthusiasm around the album’s recording sessions, Weiss tweeted, “The band is heading in a new direction and it is time for me to move on.” 

In an Instagram comment, Brownstein expanded: “what am I supposed to say? She left. We asked her to stay. We tried. It’s hard and sad.“ 

The live incarnation of the band has taken on drummer Angie Boylan and multi-instrumentalists Katie Harkin and Toko Yasuda. Describing the group’s current status, Brownstein continued via Insta: “So, what’s up? The usual…Women picking up the pieces when someone quits, because we have to and we want to. We’re going to keep going because we believe in ourselves and it’s a privilege to get to play music for people. It’s a new chapter. And all artistic entities have many chapters, if they‘re lucky. Either the music will resonate or it won’t.”

Tucker and Brownstein have seemingly approached this fresh chapter with a renewed responsibility. The lack of a safety net that may have been provided by Weiss’ steadfast stage presence has resulted in a thrilling high wire act between the two remaining long-term collaborators.

Soldiering on, they’ve been regularly stretching out setlists to include multiple encores, presenting an epic twenty-eight-song performance, including the bulk of The Center Won’t Hold.

“All Hands on the Bad One” from 2000’s album of the same name and “Words and Guitars” from 1997’s Dig Me Out both found a renewed zeal. “Price Tag,” “A New Wave,” and “Entertain” from 2014’s No Cities to Love have also settled into comfortable spots in the set list, with plenty of space for rarities and one-offs to be slipped in night to night. 

Tucker’s confidence was on full display, and Brownstein’s fervent guitar riffs were awash in her own transcendent energy. While their interplay may have been more reserved on recent tours, this reliance on each other seems to have brought out the best in both. 

Closing their first encore with the anthemic “Modern Girl” from 2005’s The Woods, Sleater-Kinney treated the faithful to a bonus encore featuring “Call the Doctor,” the title track off their 1997 sophomore album release, before closing the night with “Dig Me Out”—perhaps their defining work, a song about heartbreak and survival.

For more pics, peep the gallery below. 

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