Los Angeles art-rock quartet Warpaint is composed of all female musicians. But it isn’t a “girl band,” a “girl group” or even an “all-girl band.” It’s just a band, and the gender is irrelevant. It must suck to be a female musician though—you can never know whether the attention you receive is for your music or for your appearance. Some bands cater to the image, dressing up in outfits or coquettishly winking at the crowd. Warpaint did no such thing. It was just a quartet of four phenomenally talented musicians who just happened to all be knockout-gorgeous.
Nominally fronted by singer/guitarist Emily Kokal, Warpaint plays to the slow burn—the combination of shimmering arpeggio guitar lines and harmonized vocals, none of which are particularly powerful, has an uneasy relationship with a destructively expert rhythm section that made me think of Tool, of all things, and a non-linear song structure that flows like molted lead. And then the whole thing is dunked in oceans of reverb. When the band gets going, it’s difficult to stall its momentum.
The members were all refreshingly animated onstage. The quiet Kokal charmed the audience members by thanking them quietly while the dynamic duo of bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg and denim-ed drummer Stella Mozgawa grinned and goofed off while playing immensely intricate parts that never stood still. It was a winning combination, and it should have been a complete success. It’s not fair that Warpaint gets the “but…” treatment, but…
It’s interesting that the show was entirely sold-out months in advance at the Bowery Ballroom. Evidently a lot of people connect with Warpaint’s complicated, multi-part, doomy, and—let’s face it—difficult strain of rock. Clearly they are drawn to the bleak, swampy, tense tone of the music. What separates Warpaint from the usual reverby guitar bands is the sense of urgency that every note in the music projects, and the sense that underneath the effects pedals and the complex song structures, there’s just four musicians having a hell of a time.