The next chance you’ll get to see Warpaint live in Los Angeles is opening for Depeche Mode at the Hollywood Bowl in October. It’s that and many other accolades that had Thursday night’s show at the Santa Monica Pier feel like a victory lap for the local favorites, who have been thriving as one of the most consistent live bands currently out there.
The joy of it being basically a hometown gig for the band was palpable. After roaring through their usual opening combination of “Heads Up” and “Krimson”, the band dusted off an old classic from their debut EP, the fitting “Stars”. “Glow in the darkness, that’s how we do it,” sang guitarist and vocalist Theresa Wayman, her hair blowing in the wind while the band in fact glowed in the dark thanks to the shimmering lights behind them.
The Pier concerts always bring out a wide range of people, many whom may not be familiar with the band they are seeing. What a great way to experience Warpaint for the first time, whom I consider the ultimate “you gotta see them live” band. I saw really young kids in the front of the crowd moving wildly to tracks “So Good” and “Whiteout” from their 2016 masterpiece Heads Up. I’m pretty sure I caught guitarist and vocalist Emily Kokal smiling in those kids’ direction when she caught how into the show they were.
Wayman and bass player Jenny Lee Lindberg seemed especially revved up for this show. Lindberg moved off her perch in the corner and shimmied over to the middle of the stage, flashing smiles towards the crowd and towards her bandmates regularly, always while delivering the signature grooves that have helped define the band. Wayman recognized longtime fans in the front who told me they were on the beach listening to the soundcheck and who worship their band, and seemed to shoot smiles their way when their energy transferred to the rest of the crowd.
The reason I keep seeing this band every chance I get is that they find new ways to surprise me. On new album cut “The Stall”, they played an especially fantastic outro to end the song. At the end of one song, Kokal sang a verse from an unreleased song “Chic U”, and Wayman later implored the crowd to crash towards the front of the stage, which made the vibes feel that much more upbeat. Is there a better drummer out there right now than Stella Mozgawa? She just gets better and better each time.
The last couple years hitting the festival circuit hard, there have been a few bands I’ve been lucky to see a half-dozen times or more. I’ve felt especially lucky seeing this band as many times as I have this year, because I don’t know if there’s a more dynamic band currently touring. Also, can somebody book this band to play the Hollywood Forever Cemetery? Please?
Chicago rock and funk group Wild Belle opened things up and really brought the heat with their memorable performance. There was no better way to close it than with their killer anthem “Throw Down Your Guns”.
KCRW DJ Jason Bentley did a great job spinning tunes between bands, and I always end up Shazaming a few when he’s up there. Unfortunately, my service on the Pier is always so shitty so I couldn’t identify any of the songs.
Here’s hoping the Twilight Concert Series shows continue to deliver the way they have this year. Seeing a band like Warpaint in that setting is a pretty rare treat, and it was a fantastic way to end the summer.
Photos by Frank Mojica