Live Review: First Aid Kit with Peggy Sue at Black Cat, Washington DC – 30th March 2012

By on Tuesday, 10th April 2012 at 2:00 pm

Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Soderberg – better known by their stage name First Aid Kit – have never played Washington DC before, until late last month. Their first visit was thwarted by a freak accident: in October 2010 I saw Casiokids and Delphic play fun dance parties at DC9 and expected to see First Aid Kit the week after, but after a still unexplained death outside the club, the venue was shuttered for weeks and the girls were forced to cancel. Nearly a year and a half later, on the strength and hard NPR promotion of their latest album, ‘The Lion’s Roar’, released in January (read my album review here). Washington spoke of their approval of the band and the new release with their wallets: before I knew it (and much to the disappointment of several of our local friends), the gig quickly sold out.

The opener for the evening was Peggy Sue. At first, I thought this was a bad fit with First Aid Kit, as when I think of Peggy Sue, I think of pop song with heavier drum beats. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The strong harmonies of Rosa Rex (the ginger) and Katy Klaw (the brunette), paired either with gently played guitar or those that were attacked for faster songs, were just the perfect set-up to First Aid Kit. I found it adorable when the two girls were up on the tippy toes of their shoes, singing their hearts into the mikes.

Self described breakup ballad ‘You and I’ dazzled, but it was two more unique songs that stole the show: an unusual and inspired cover of Martha and the Vandellas’ ‘Heat Wave’ (featured on a CD collection of ‘50s/’60s covers being sold only on this tour), and a new song called ‘Idle’ referencing the Devil and Robert Johnson. (I wonder if they’re Led Zeppelin fans.) But the song that best bridged their performance to the Swedes set later was ‘How Heavy the Quiet That Grew Between Your Mouth and Mine’, which Klaw explained as their only country number. The audience lapped up their performance.

To say that the Soderberg sisters arrived onstage looking flamboyant is a bit of an understatement. While the younger, brunette Klara wore admirable knee length cowboy boots, both sisters wore what I’d best describe as black and gold sequined ponchos. Sorry for the stereotype, but I was expecting plaid shirts and denim. But it really didn’t matter to the crowd assembled what they wore. A series of beautifully spun songs followed, filled to the brim with gorgeous harmonies, followed in quick succession. In between the songs, the sisters spoke to us like we were old friends.

Klara admitted she’d scared Johanna who, in the shower, was too easy of a target with a Psycho-themed prank. They insisted the club had to be completely quiet for the two of them to sing a particular song; shockingly to Cheryl and I, the room became so quiet you could have heard a pin drop (never happens at the Black Cat, ever) and they sang ‘Ghost Town’, the mournful chorus of “if you’ve got visions of the past / let them follow you down / and they’ll come back to you someday / and I found myself attached / to this railroad track / but I’ll come back to you someday”. What a sad song, yet so beauteous. Considering their ages (Johanna is just past 21 and Klara is still not legal), you have to wonder how girls so young can write so well about such real, complicated experiences and relationships.

With a new album out, the set was heavy with new songs (‘New Year’s Eve’, ‘To a Poet’, ‘In the Hearts of Men’) and to my relief, I liked these better live than on recording. Singles ‘Emmylou’ (video below) and ‘The Lion’s Roar’ didn’t disappoint either. What struck us completely out of character was the sisters’ inelegant headbanging. So that’s when their flowing long locks of Scandinavia hair comes into play! The funniest moment was during ‘The Lion’s Roar’, the last song before the encore; in a fit of overzealous headbanging, Johanna lost her poncho and the poor girl, she wasn’t wearing a bra, just a little tank top, so it was a bit of an embarrassing moment for her. But I give her props for totally taking it in stride, for when they returned for a rousing encore of a cover of Patti Smith’s ‘Dancing Barefoot’ followed by ‘King of the World’, she came back without the poncho and embraced womanhood. “I’m nobody’s baby / I’m everybody’s girl / I’m the queen of nothing / I’m in the king…of the world!” announced the younger Klara, and for that evening, they were kings, queens or at least certainly joined the kind of folk rock royalty that they have revered for years. While there was a part of me that was sad that I never got to see them at much tinier DC9 2 years ago pre-‘The Lion’s Roar’, I am very grateful I got to see them perform in front of an adoring all-ages crowd, circumstances they so deserved.


After the cut: both bands’ set lists.

Peggy Sue Set List:

This Constant Night
There Always Was
Yo Mama
Funeral Beat
Parking Meter Blues
How Heavy the Quiet That Grew Between Your Mouth and Mine
Heat Wave (Martha and the Vandellas cover)
Idle (new song)

First Aid Kit Set List:

This Old Routine
Hard Believer
In the Hearts of Men
Heavy Storm
New Year’s Eve
Ghost Town (acoustic)
To a Poet
When I Grow Up
Dance to Another Tune
Tangerine (I believe this was the song that replaced I Met Up with the King due to keyboard problems)
The Lion’s Roar
Dancing Barefoot (Patti Smith cover)
King of the World

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One Response

3:20 am
27th February 2014

great site

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