Warpaint delivered a hypnotic performance at Bowery Ballroom last weekend.
Atmosphere. It changes with every live performance and some artists, for better or worse, are more skilled manipulators of mood than others. Warpaint, an all-female quartet from Los Angeles, are arguably the queens of atmosphere. Their set in Manhattan last weekend struck a delicate balance between emotion and production, resulting in a performance in which all actors – the band, the fans and the presentation – were completely in sync.
Drummer Stella Mozgawa opened the performance with a tight drum solo. Her band-mates gradually joined her, adding instruments to the beat as Warpaint’s first song, “Bees” set the night’s parameters of ghostly vocals, mesmerizing harmonies and seductive bass and guitar riffs. The focus, forever rooted in the music, drifted from member to member. Lead vocals were shared between guitarists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman, with bassist Jenny Lindberg offering some serious groove and an infectious smile throughout the gig.
Mixing in the new with the old, the next song on their set list, “Heads Up,” is the title track of Warpaint’s most recent album. The band, despite the leap in timeline, stayed dedicated to the live-jam and songs often transitioned into different tunes – this was especially deep in “Beetles” – only to circle around and bring it back to the original, recognizable chorus. Adding to their dedication to music, Warpaint barely spoke during the performance, offering intermittent yelps and “hell yeah’s” until near the end. Wayman, taking a moment before the band slipped off stage, yelled out to crowd.
“Thank you so much, you f*cking amazing people! Thank you! Godammit!”
Returning for an encore, the band let rip on an instrumental jam session. Their sound – applied to their overall performance – incorporated dreamy influences from psychedelic and progressive rock, peppering in hip-hop percussion here and there. Without vocals, Warpaint elicited feelings of desire, resentment, and strength in reference to past relationships and experiences. Their voices, when present, fortified these emotions; these musicians are no strangers to atmospheric whispering and wailing, keeping tight control of notes and tones, layering their voices over one another in a wave of sound.
Possibly one of the most obscure and underrated bands on the scene, Warpaint portrays nothing but promise in their future. Their sound, which has developed immensely since their earliest album Exquisite Corpse, continues to absorb new influences. It also matures with its creators, who show nothing but tenacity and creativity in their music. For the full, immersive performance, I can only recommend that you grab some tickets and experience the magic of Warpaint for yourself.