A Packed Palace Theatre Is Treated To a Flawless Night of Music Thanks to Sleater-Kinney


Photos by Vito Ingerto

Due to the impending snowmageddon, Saturday was a bit of a mad dash to get stuff done. I spent my day running errands, making sure there was enough food in the house and all of the usual stuff so, when it came time for my show of the night, I was ready. I was ready not to be surrounded by people grabbing for the last bag of carrots for the inevitable crock pot meal they were planning or people panic buying tanks of gas. Okay, it wasn’t that crazy but you could feel something in the air throughout the day of people just trying to stock up just in case we did get the foot of snow expected and I feel like I wasn’t really able to breathe until I stepped foot in The Palace Theatre in Saint Paul.

My first breath was accompanied by the beautiful sound of opening act Black Belt Eagle Scout. Her chill yet powerful sound was just what I needed to forget about the insanity of the day and how I still had a lot to do at home. Black Belt Eagle Scout is Katherine Paul and there are truly just not enough words to describe the beauty of this Indigenous Swinomish/ Iñupiaq woman. Although her music was much more slow moving and chill than I tend to find myself craving, I was instantly hooked by her organic beauty and the way her voice fluttered with every word. Katherine has this vibrato in her voice that instantly intrigued me. It was clear as day yet subtle in the same way. It wasn’t a forced vibrato by any means but seemed to come to her as naturally as the earthly songs she was singing.

I know that it’s weird to describe a sound as earthly. We use that word in fashion and food, but we underuse it in music. Katherine is a perfect example of what this can mean. As mentioned, there was something organic about everything in her set including her music. Although songs were clearly written and well-thought-out, there was this freeing spirit about every word and note that Katherine and her two bandmates performed on stage on Saturday night. Beyond that was her movements. Whether Katherine was wailing away on her guitar or just strumming as her vocals did the heavy lifting, there was this sense of organic movement about everything she did. Okay, I’m talking myself in circles. Long story short- Black Belt Eagle Scout may be more tame than what I look for in the music I typically listen to, but she and her bandmates had me sold and created such a beautiful atmosphere to get the night started.

Although the set changeover between Black Belt Eagle Scout and headlining act Sleater-Kinney was lengthy, time flew by. This was partially because of good conversation with a friend and partially due to anticipation of seeing this band live. Although I did see Sleater-Kinney last year at Riot Fest in Chicago, it was only for a split second as I was running between stages. What I did catch last September was terrific but I couldn’t stay so I was anxious to see if it was just a fluke or if this band was really as good live as I thought they were.

Yeah, yeah, I know the fame surrounding this group and you probably do too. This Olympia, Washington based group has the one and only Carrie Brownstein on guitar and vocals. If you’ve seen Portlandia, you know Carrie. She is the actress who plays next to Fred Armisen in the quirky skits that make up the hilarious show. I would love to know how many people were at the packed Palace Theatre show on Saturday night solely because of this. Honestly, it’s okay if you were. I get it. That show is fantastic but, for me and other people, Portlandia was the furthest thing from our minds. We were at the show to see this legendary band that has been making waves since 1994.

The music of Sleater-Kinney is indie-rock meets grunge. It’s fun and poppy, but some tracks have a harder edge to them that is enough to get even the most stiff human to move a little bit. Whether the band was playing one of their more standard indie-rock leaning tracks or some of the harder songs that lean a bit more into the Riot Grrrl side of things, they sounded like pure perfection. Every note came through as loud and clear as every word. It was honestly like listening to one of their many recordings but with an infectious heart and passion you can’t get from listening to a recording. It was a larger than life sound with a larger than life set that instantly answered my question– Sleater-Kinney is as good live as I thought they would be after having just caught a couple of seconds of their set last year.

Sleater-Kinney clearly put some money and thought into their stage set-up for this tour and the way it fit the perfectly unfinished facade of The Palace Theatre was magical. The back of the stage was lined with a giant white wall with arched “windows” cut out. Colored lights would flash through these “windows,” creating a sense of dimension that was not lost on me. On top of that, two elegant chandeliers hung from right above the stage. It was a subtle addition that the band did not need to add but it brought something warm, cozy, and slightly over the top to the set. All of these elements fit the space so well that, had you never been to The Palace Theatre before, you probably assumed that these were permanent fixtures in the beautiful venue. It was small things like that that really enhanced an already flawless set from Sleater-Kinney.

When I woke up on Sunday, it still hadn’t started snowing. All of that panic and stress that I had felt while running errands on Saturday seemed to be for nothing, but Saturday night’s show hit me harder because of the day I had had, so I’m thankful for that and thankful for yet another night spent immersed in a world of live music.