Los Angeles rockers Warpaint gave Wellington's San Fran venue a solid dose of their indie-grunge in a performance both slick and playful. After catching the attention of Red Hot Chilli Peppers guitarist John Frusciante in 2007, the group have been prominent in the alternative rock scene for the last decade. Their fourth album Heads Up arrived in 2016, hearing the band’s contemporary sound at its most versatile and polished.
Warpaint’s palette was simple and solid... nimbly stepping from atmospheric art-rock to raunchy post-punk.
Without any opener the group came out strong with the stripped back Stars, cruising the song’s sensuous psychedelia in a slow mind-bending whirl. A quick transition to Heads Up instantly pulled the crowd from intoxicating bliss to an energetic shakedown. With lead and rhythm guitar alongside bass and drums, Warpaint’s palette was simple and solid, yet they excelled in hooking a variety of ear-worms with it: nimbly stepping from atmospheric art-rock to raunchy post-punk. The huge thudding kick and crunchy bass line would slip together to make a warm low-end sludge, while shrill guitar notes peeled out into space.
Highlight Elephants was a paranoid mesh of distorted vocals and chafing guitars, the back-end dropping to half-tempo for a jaunting groove down. Textures were nicely developed alongside cutting song structures, a combination that was both dreamy and exciting. In the middle part of the show, things briefly lost their edge, descending to slightly too mild atmospheric rock but all returned to solid ground with the floor-filler funk of New Song. A superb blend of contemporary pop and post-punk tune, all shot through with an infectious disco flavour that got the crowd moving.
An all-female band, the ladies certainly brought the vibe and Wellington were loving it. In performance, they were totally badass cool while on stage things kept fun and carefree - a truly refreshing dynamic for a rock band! Proving a fitting venue, San Fran was relatively intimate while still holding a decent capacity. I’ve never noticed such a high-ratio of women at a concert, and it definitely synced up to give the room a passionate and wholesome energy.
Following in the vein of PJ Harvey or The Pixies, Warpaint were most adept at nailing the entrancing contrast of sharp and sweet vocals against a raw throaty back-end, taking it through many different styles to make an engaging whole.
The vocal performances shifted between anthemic songs about lost-lovers to cold-blooded and hard-eyed chants. Tight and breathy, Whiteout foregrounded the group's marvellous blend of lead and back-up vocals in a heady and touching chorus “You oughta know it but it happens all the time / is there a question? You treat it like a crime.” With a gutsy bass riff and pulsating percussion, personal favourite Disco//very was like a slowed down house tune as it descended to a sweaty hypnotic funk that left San Fran half-delirious with the repeated refrain “Don’t you battle, we’ll kill you / rip you up and tear you in two.” Following in the vein of PJ Harvey or The Pixies, Warpaint were most adept at nailing the entrancing contrast of sharp and sweet vocals against a raw throaty back-end, taking it through many different styles to make an engaging whole.
Overall Warpaint set a high standard of performance and adaptability to give a true thrill ride of a rock gig. In a genre that seems fast dying-out, here’s a band that is firmly holding on to their edge.