Last night in New York City, Sleater-Kinney made their first in-person public appearance together since announcing that they are reuniting after nearly a decade apart. The venue wasn’t the Tonight Show or The Colbert Report or a special cameo on Broad City (although that would have ruled) – it was The Chris Gethard Show, a cult-favorite public access comedy program. And they weren’t even there to play music. Their only purpose was to temporarily join the show’s zany late-night world.
“What are you guys doing here?” the endearingly nerdy host asked the band at Manhattan Neighborhood Network’s midtown studio. “Our show is not cool!” Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss just laughed.
Gethard had a point. Sleater-Kinney are one of the most important bands of the last 20 years. Their reunion is a huge deal for a lot of people; they’re way bigger than that studio. But that just made last night more fun for everyone who was there in person or tuning in from home. It was an unpredictable, bizarro hour of rock & roll fun.
The band members got to the studio just a few minutes before the live show started at 11 p.m. “We protested our way here,” said Weiss, alluding to the New Yorkers who marched through the city’s streets after word got out that the cop who killed Eric Garner would not be indicted – news that cast a shadow over an otherwise happy night.
After an entertainingly awkward five-minute interview, in which Gethard confessed his extreme nervousness at meeting three of his musical heroes, the show moved on to the main event: a game called All Hands on the Bad One, named after Sleater-Kinney’s fifth album. The house band, the LLC, played a few sloppy bars of Sleater-Kinney’s “All Hands on the Bad One,” and Brownstein smiled. “We just relearned that song,” she said. “It’s not as good as that.”
The rules of the game were that everyone in the band, plus Gethard and cohost Shannon O’Neill, had to keep both of their hands on a deeply obnoxious character named Todd Watch for as long as they could. The winner would get to destroy a city made of cardboard boxes. (In the world of TCGS, it all made sense.) Todd Watch came out wearing a trench coat and a smug grin, and set himself to annoying the hell out of everyone in the room. He announced that he was a salesman and tried to talk Sleater-Kinney into buying a used shower curtain. He pulled a plastic bag of mustard-flavored cookies from his pocket. He threatened to expose an infected toenail. Patiences were tried.
There was a brief break as the night’s musical guests, the D.C. punk band Priests, came out to scream through “And Breeding,” one of the most furious songs from their excellent EP, Bodies and Control and Money and Power. At the end of the song, lead singer Katie Alice Greer pulled a homemade T-shirt reading “POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY NOW / BLACK LIVES MATTER” over her red dress. The electrifying performance and that somber moment made a strong case for Priests as the new act most worthy of Sleater-Kinney’s legacy.
Next came a call-in Q&A and chat session, with everyone’s hands still firmly planted on Todd Watch. Weiss told a funny story about a disgruntled fan who keyed the band’s rented minivan on a long-ago tour. Tucker said the group has gotten better at taking constructive criticism since its first run. Brownstein briefly took her hand off Todd and was the first to be eliminated from the game. Tucker and Gethard followed in suit after Priests played another song.
By midnight, Weiss and O’Neill had been declared co-victors. The cardboard city was carried out, and the entire audience joined in smashing it to bits. It was a cathartic way to end a depressing news day.