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Singing together under bright pink stage lights, the four women of the psychedelic rock band Warpaint harmonized together in a melange of soft voices. Their Sept. 13 performance saw Warpaint unwavering on stage — totally comfortable, almost as if unaffected by the presence of the crowd.
“I'm a million years old, I'm a champion now,” Warpaint sang while performing their song, “Champion,” the second song on their set, and the first song on their new album “Radiate Like This.”
They seemed to be saying, “We know what we’re doing, watch us play.”
The four have been playing together as Warpaint since their early 20’s. Now, they’re in their 40’s and on tour for their fourth album, “Radiate Like This,” which is just as seductive and groovy as their earlier work, but with the confidence, comfort and blend of musicians who’ve played together for nearly two decades. On stage, age hasn't changed a thing. Warpaint has retained their energy. Without the pressure of the newness, they have the choice of being whoever they want to be, and focusing on the music.
This was particularly clear in how the group sang together — Every song was sung with at least two voices, creating an echoing choral sound. The combination of voices differed in each song: The group changed which members were singing together, which ones took lead, and if the harmonizing voice sang higher or lower. The effect was one layered, rich voice, and one that could only have been achieved with the years of experience Warpaint has under its belt. While many artists can mimic this in recordings, watching the group sing live showed how naturally creating this beautiful and atmospheric sound comes to Warpaint.
Their music was so emo and seductive and yet so danceable. Their lyrics feigned themes of craving, longing and lust, but at their root they were about coming to accept one’s feelings at any given moment.
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The group incorporated old hits from their discography into the setlist and revitalized them. The shocking drop into the minor key of the chorus of “Love is To Die,” for example, brought out the eerie aspects of the track.
During the bridge of the song, all the music stopped except a light tapping of the drums. The three women on strings stood equally spaced on the stage. Bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg stood on the far left in a long skirt and a dark t-shirt, her purple dreads up in a half-up-half-down bun on top of her head. Guitarist and singer Emily Kokal stood tall in the middle, with a long pink and white squared skirt. Around her torso was a four part chain, holding a pendant in the middle. On the far left, guitarist and singer Theresa Wayman stood, her bleached hair in two braids, a button up shirt over a short skirt, and tall black boots. She looked like Courtney Love. They’re witchy, hippie rocker style made them all the more mesmerizing to watch.
“I'm not alive, I'm not alive enough,” they sang together. “Why don't you dance, why don’t you dance and dance and dance and dance?”
The guitar riffs, the layering of ambient notes and the quick taps of the drum made the sound infectious. They danced like there was no one watching, and so did the audience.
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A lot of their songs, with their repetitive lines and guitar notes like gothic bells, procured feelings of a summoning or affirmations. Each member brought a big and unique personality to the show. No one faded into the background; their sound and presence was completely balanced.
Late in the set, Lindberg sang the first verse of a cover of “I’m so tired” by Fugazi, just her and her bass line. Even though this was the first time she took the lead when singing, it was consistent with the sounds of the rest of the show echoing back to the harmony she sang on previous songs. Her voice alone was haunting, lonely and beautiful — a perfect Warpaint cover. Lindberg swung her bass forward and backward; when she rocked side to side while Wayman played a ghostly guitar solo, her purple dreads swung behind her.
When the song was over, Kokal joked with the drummer, Stella Mozgawa, saying that the last drum beat she played sounded like the drop in “In the Air Tonight,” by Phill Collins. Mozgawa drummed the low dramatic beat again, and Kokal sang along.
“I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord.” She sang as everyone laughed
While its the synonymous voices that makes Warpaint who they are, the most incredible moments of the show were when it seemed as if the women of Warpaint genuinely forgot they were performing — when they weren’t singing, or dancing, just contributing to the sound — when each of them bent over their respective instruments, completely, entirely in their own world. Their long hair draped over their guitars, the hypnotic drum beat growing louder, it was hard for the audience watching not to close our eyes and just dance and dance and dance.
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