Warpaint at The Vic Theatre

Warpaint is one of those bands that can leave you in awe at the end of their live show. I’ve been a believer since I had the good fortune to see them play Metro in March. I’ll get into Sunday’s show at the Vic, but first, a bit of history.

Warpaint has been around since 2004 and they’ve released three albums: 2008’s Exquisite Corpse, 2010’s The Fool and 2014’s Warpaint. The band originally consisted of Theresa Wayman, Emily Kokal, and sisters Jenny Lee Lindberg and Shannyn Sossamon (fun fact: she was in A Knight’s Tale and 40 Days and 40 Nights–don’t pretend like you don’t know who I’m talking about). Other members, like drummers David Orlando and Michael Quinn, joined and left the band by 2009. The four-person, all-female band now consists of three of the four founding members: Wayman, Kokal and Lindberg–along with drummer Stella Mozgawa; all of whom use their individual talents to create Warpaint’s unique sound.

Seeing them twice in the same year, at different venues, gave me an interesting perspective because there was a noticeable evolution in both their stage presence and their sound between these two shows. In the first, their simple stage setup was a combination of subtle cotton candy-colored stage lights and a fog machine. They were just barely visible silhouettes throughout the entire show, giving you the sense of being in a dream. Their performance at that show was heavily focused on their 2014 release, which included two tracks (“Love Is To Die” and “Feeling Alright”) mixed by legendary Radiohead engineer and producer Nigel Godrich. This album is what led me to discover Warpaint, and it is a beautiful fusion of psychedelic rock/art rock and dream pop, with a little bit of trip-hop thrown in for good measure. This is also how you can describe the album to people you’re trying to impress with your vast, expansive, and most likely false knowledge of musical genres.

Starting with Nine Inch Nails playing between sets, this second show was missing that ethereal, dream-like feeling from the outset. The backdrop was an oversized cover of their self-titled album from 2014, featuring the band members photographs subtly superimposed over each other, juxtaposed against all the band members clearly visible at the front of the stage. Their set list was split much more equally between their three albums, which have incredible variance in feel. They kept with their songs like the dream-like “Keep It Healthy” and “Biggy” from their 2014 album, and their picks from their earlier work included “Undertow” from The Fool and “Elephants” from Exquisite Corpse. It was clear at this show that they’d gotten much more comfortable playing around with extending each song at a nearly hippie jam-band level (that’s a positive for me, but definitely up for debate with most of the population).

The sounds and moods from their two earlier albums that they seemed to focus on more during this Vic show are much different–gritty, edgier, a bit more melancholy, and at times, reminiscent of the angst of mid-90s Hole. Their broad range of musical styles, which they play very well, are incredibly impressive, and that’s led to a lot of recent success working with world-renowned producers and performing Lollapalooza. I still can’t help but wonder what this shift in tone signifies, and what it means we’ll see next from these women.

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