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Warpaint at the Troubadour (Live Review)

Emily Kokal (vocals/guitar) of Warpaint
Emily Kokal (vocals/guitar) of Warpaint

Warpaint played two sold out shows at the Troubadour this weekend, Friday with Aska and Sunday with Cc: and Drug Cabin. It took Warpaint six years to release their debut album The Fool, which came out on Rough Trade in October, but going slow is okay if you can still sell out two shows at the Troubadour. Friday night's show was full of girls screaming "I love you!" and "You're beautiful!" at the "new queens of the underground" and a few guys who looked like they were confused about where they were and why they were there. Not the guy in the Faith No More shirt though; he looked like he really wanted to be there.

Aska of LA-based bands Moonrats and The Sads opened for Warpaint
Aska of LA-based bands Moonrats and The Sads opened for Warpaint

I first saw Warpaint at Cinefamily in August of last year doing a live score for Experiments in Nature with Moonrats, another lovely Aska project. They played against an underwater backdrop projected behind them, curated by Cinefamily programmer Tom Fitzgerald. It looked beautiful, but it wasn't particularly interesting. They sounded all right, but the projections were more memorable than the band's sound.

Emily Kokal and Jenny Lindberg of Warpaint
Emily Kokal and Jenny Lindberg of Warpaint

On Friday night Warpaint showed they've grown quite a bit since their 2009 Cinefamily performance, in large part due to the addition of drummer Stella Mozgawa, apparently a session drummer who had toured her native Australia with Devo. That woman is a powerhouse, an unstoppable force of nature that transformed the show from good to great. Warpaint's had a Spinal Tappish rotating cast of drummers over the years (including actress/model Shannyn Sossamon, Warpaint's original drummer and the sister of bassist Jenny Lindberg, who was in the audience), and it seems they've finally found the right one to solidify their sound.

"Undertow" is the best track off The Fool, exemplifying Warpaint's considerable musical potential, and completely mesmerizing live. Singer-guitarists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman pull you in with the song's strange serenity, threatening, "now I've got you in the undertow." You can feel the slow-burning fury as they sing "What's the matter?/ You hurt yourself?/ Open your eyes and there was someone else." It's a beautiful exploration of the ethereal and ambient creepiness.

Video of "Undertow," from Friday's show:

 

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