Sleater-Kinney & THEESatisfaction
The Ritz, Raleigh
Wednesday, April 22, 2015

When I found out Seattle duo THEESatisfaction were opening for Sleater-Kinney in Raleigh, I wondered how a crowd of aging hipsters and guitar-loving music snobs would react to a hip-hop duo.

I first heard Sleater-Kinney in high school, when my quest to find edgy music on the Internet led me to their MP3s. For me, it was a time where all-women rock bands seemed scarce. You either listened to heavy, riot grrrl-like acts like Sleater-Kinney or Le Tigre or more juvenile acts like Kittie or The Donnas. But what stuck for me about Sleater-Kinny was “Modern Girl,” with Carrie Brownstein singing about happiness, hunger and anger, all fuzzed in distortion. Her mix of sarcasm and optimism resonated for years to come, even during the band’s hiatus. It remains one of my favorite rock songs.

But how would such anthems blend with THEESatisfaction’s mix of smooth rap and R&B, built with jazz-inspired beats and lyrics influenced by Afrofuturism, black queerness and casual hedonism? More than a genre, their music seems a lifestyle, growing larger in the digital age due to social networks like Tumblr and AfroPunk that connect like-minded artists of color in search of creative exchange.

When THEESatisfaction hit the stage, the only instrument was a Macbook Pro, ostensibly loaded with tracks. That alone made me nervous for them ahead of the rock band set. Still, they boldly began with some of the slower tunes from the new EarthEE. The audience slowly grew, their arrival chatter competing with the band as they worked through manageable choreography. I scanned the room to see if I could find more people into THEESatisfaction, but many folks seemed slightly confused. They began nodding and rocking to the steady beats, though, and soon enough, the crowd started to interact, especially when THEESatisfaction reached the faster tracks from AwE NaturalE. It was clear they had a plan. Even the couple next to me—seemingly dressed for Coachella on a weeknight in North Carolina—danced hard to tracks like “QueenS.” THEESatisfaction had succeeding in priming the room for the headliners.

And Sleater-Kinney’s set was, as expected, intense. They go harder than most bands I have seen. Watching them at last play some of my personal favorites—including “Modern Girl,” which Brownstein encouraged the audience to sing along with—made for magic moments. I’m still reeling from the power and feeling of it all.