“Love is die/ Love is to not die/ Love is to dance," chanted the amazing Theresa Wayman, front-woman of the all Female L.A. art-rock group Warpaint during their performance of a crowd favorite, “Love is to Die” off of their self-titled album (2014). Needless to say, the crowd died of love for the four women who played a mind-blowing, nearly two-hour long set on Denver last night. Hoards came flocking to the Gothic Theatre to see them perform their new album Heads Up, but Warpaint took us through all corners of their sound, dipping into every album they’ve put out to date.
These ladies brought a strong powerful stage presence last night, but they knew exactly how to bring down the vibe too. Their sound is percussion heavy, murky and open-ended without losing sight of itself. They often build into bright flares of echoing, guitar and vocals, crafting sonic dreamscapes through slow, tense ascents. Sometimes squirming below into the ether, or escalating above into the support beams of the theatre space.
“Tension” is the perfect word to summarize their sound; the group dances in the in-between, toying with hot and cold tonalities, and oscillating between fast and slow tempo changes. It’s highly listenable. Still accessible without sacrificing its experimentation.
They played tracks like “Composure” and “Warpaint” off of The Fool (2010) to warm up the crowd before announcing that they were going to play their newer tracks from then on. They then played tracks “White Out”, “New Song”, and “Don’t Let Go”, all off of Heads Up (2016). Theresa Wayman was brought to her knees, sweating, black halos under each eye and hair falling in her face toward the end of her set, completely lost in her performance. Her vibrancy left the audience struck with the sense that they were witnessing something profound, something honest and alive, unmoderated.
Despite the two year hiatus, Warpaint members kept busy in the meantime with solo projects. According to Pitchfork, Jenny Lee Lindberg (bass and vocals) released a solo album under the name jennylee, and Emily Kokal (vocals and guitar) worked with Saul Williams and Paul Bergmann. Stella Mozgawa (drums) was featured on a Kurt Vile EP. Theresa Wayman has been working on her solo project called BOSS.
They came together again to create their newest release, and it is a strong, even necessary addition to their previous. It’s both the familiar, dreamy, post-rock sound they’re been consistently working toward, but it reaches new heights, stirring in dance and pop without being kitschy, clean or over-produced.
Jenny Lee Lindberg told Pitchfork on Heads Up, “I feel really proud of what we made—almost surprised and shocked. When we were making it, I was like, “I wonder what this is going to sound like? How’s this going to come together?” I love the way that it came together so nicely. I feel so proud of it, and like it’s an evolution of our band. It sounds like a mature version of Warpaint.”
Last night’s performance only reiterated the sentiment. These ladies are forward moving and their recent work bears the fruit of their effort. We only see progress in the future of Warpaint, a band who continues to surprise us with new-found depth and emotive ability.
After the band ended their set and humbly stepped off, the crowd waited for literally fifteen minutes, cheers swelling, begging for more. Finally, Wayman and the rest reappeared, eliciting a truly thrilled reaction from the crowd. They played multiple encores afterward, and only once the astonishment wore off did the crowd begin to stagger out, stupefied and totally enamored.
Words: Kendall Morris