Concert Review: Warpaint keeps it broody & moody at Turner Hall

Los Angeles band Warpaint visited Milwaukee last night for one solid, broody rock show. The setlist primarily highlighted songs off their moody 2016 release Heads Up.

The opening act Rose of the West was a perfect match for Warpaint. Despite originating in Milwaukee, something about the band seems southwestern, like a dark creature in a desert. Their music sounds gloomy and deep with obvious 90s grunge and 70s rock roots. It may have been the lead singer’s red hair and poise on stage, but Rose of the West is a bit like if Florence + The Machine went shoegaze. Give their newest emotional release a listen.

Warpaint began with their song “Heads Up.” The song is a slow burn that calls attention- at first haunting, but then transforming into a head-bopping beat.

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Photo by Kellen Nordstrom

Seeing the magnetic dynamic between the members on stage provides a better context for their newest album Heads Up. All members were lined on stage in a row. From left to right, it was Stella Mozgawa on drums, Theresa Wayman on vocals and guitar, Emily Kokal on vocals and guitar, and the bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg in a slinky tunic and big glasses. It was nice that the drummer was not tucked behind but right in front. The band switched roles throughout the show, showcasing an abundance of talent. Because these musicians wear many hats nothing is set in stone, which allowed the movements on stage to occur like rehearsed impromptu.

The atmosphere was witchy, with the foggy overwhelming lights, and the occasional circling of the band members throughout the set. I hoped for a seance. White lights would periodically blind the crowd for emphasis (if only I’d hung onto my #eclipse2017 sunglasses). It recalled the memory of when Daughter played at Turner Hall last year. Their stage presence was a little stuffy but the lighting work was fantastic.

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Photo by Kellen Nordstrom

They played the submerged song “No Way Out” which ended in a yelling-chant of the words “she said, she said, she said, she said.” Theresa and Jenny then switched instruments. Warpaint’s sound travels like fog. It’s heavy without being thick or oppressive. Warm is a fitting adjective.

More incantations occurred in the next songs. They chanted, “I won’t give up on you, I won’t give up on you,” during their fan-favorite song “The Stall.” This was followed by their song “Elephant” that includes the chanting of the words “we won’t let you fall, we won’t let you fall.” Very reassuring. What other band offers emotional support like that? I trust Theresa with my life now.

“Elephant” broke into a charged jam session. At this point, I stopped taking notes at the show, which is how you know it was super cool. Next they played “Love is to Die.” Even the moms & dads & grandmas (I saw you! Don’t think I didn’t see you! I hope I’m going to weekday shows well into retirement) that were chaperoning any one of the front row high schoolers knew this one.

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Photo by Kellen Nordstrom

Emily flashed some peace signs. That was about as close as the band got to interacting with the crowd. The lack of banter made the show feel very serious. I would’ve liked to see them let loose and live a little. More peace signs! Say something! Acknowledge your audience!

The set closed with their songs “Disco//Very” and then “New Song.” No competing for the last word, show’s over, go home. Warpaint gets a special place in my heart specifically for not doing an encore. In the words often attributed to Andrew Vanwyngarden, “I was blown away by Warpaint, and it’s hard to blow me away because I’m fat and pretentious.”

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