Team Dresch Digs Deep Into Its Playbook

Friday, June 22, 2007

Backhanded Compliments 101: "You sound so much better now!"

That's what one fan shouted to a reunited Team Dresch at the Black Cat Wednesday. The progressive queercore group is back together after calling it quits in the late '90s and, apparently, never sounded better.

Perhaps they jinxed themselves with the title of their 1995 debut "Personal Best" -- a fiery, all-but-forgotten punk masterpiece that sealed the gap between Sonic Youth's pop leanings and Superchunk's noisier fare. While most of the band's feminist-punk peers spent the '90s gender-politicking their lungs out, Team Dresch singers Jody Bleyle and Kaia Wilson traded confessional lines in a heart-on-sleeve call-and-response. It gave their music a distinct emotional depth -- and created the template that Sleater-Kinney would hijack to stardom a few years after Team Dresch's demise.

Wednesday night's set was mostly culled from "Personal Best," with the band thrashing through spirited versions of "Hate the Christian Right!" and "#1 Chance Pirate TV." The crowd bounced along, and rejoiced during "Freewheel," a rollicking pop counterpoint to the band's more heavy-hearted numbers.

Despite the sentimental tunes, the reunion show never felt self-important. Bleyle struck a goofy rapport with the crowd, cracking jokes and rehashing fuzzy memories of a mid-'90s gig with Bikini Kill at George Washington University. (A certain Post freelancer grimaced, still bitterly regretting his then-teenage decision not to sneak out of his parents' home on a school night to see it.)

The young crowd apparently had no such qualms. This was a reunion concert well worth getting grounded for.

-- Chris Richards

© 2007 The Washington Post Company