Lizzo playing First Avenue again is not really news. Lizzo returning to her hometown club as the opening act on Sleater-Kinney’s reunion tour, however, is something else.
“It definitely feels like a big break for me, and a very meaningful one,” the Minneapolis hip-hop star said by phone Wednesday.
Cool for how it pairs one of the most influential, cult-loved punk groups of the late-’90s with one of the most buzzing young indie-rap/R&B stars of today, the tour with Sleater-Kinney also finds common ground in the themes in both acts’ music and personas. What Sleater-Kinney did for women in rock, Lizzo is doing for women in the still sadly male-dominated hip-hop realm.
“Everything that they stood for, I feel like we represent it, too,” Lizzo said. “When we’re on stage doing a song about positive body image or another about female empowerment, everyone out there is super into it and right there with us.”
Working her way toward Denver from Salt Lake City when she called — Saturday’s First Ave gig is the sixth stop on the tour, which started last Sunday — Lizzo admitted she did not even know who Sleater-Kinney was as of three years ago. The scrappy punk trio from Spokane, Wash., played their last show in 2006 when she was only 17 and living in Houston, “mostly still into gospel music.”
Ironically, it wasn’t until she formed her group Grrrl Prty in 2013 that she learned about the riot-grrrl movement, the great groundswell of ’90s bands with women who railed against rock’s boys-club mentality. Sleater-Kinney was one of the big ones, along with Bikini Kill and Minneapolis’ own Babes in Toyland (see page 5).
“We decided to use the three R’s in Grrrl Prty because there were three members,” Lizzo explained. When people asked about the riot grrrls, Grrrl Prty’s DJ, Shannon Blowtorch, urged Lizzo and MC-ing partner Sophia Eris to watch “The Punk Singer,” a rock doc on Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hannah.
It’s not yet clear how, but Sleater-Kinney did know about Lizzo. When the rapper announced a month ago via Twitter she would be joining their tour, guitarist/co-vocalist Carrie Brownstein replied in a retweet, “We can’t wait. Thanks for joining us.” Lizzo also is a fan of Brownstein’s other, now more famous project, “Portlandia,” the hit IFC TV comedy series in which she stars opposite “SNL” alum Fred Armesin.
The shows themselves have been hard-hitting: “Corin’s voice is incredible, really so soulful. Janet is a beast on drums. Carrie is just so fly on stage, and I love her percussive vocals. Everyone in the audience just lose their minds. It makes it that much more special and deep that they would even pay attention to the opening act, much less be into us like they have.”
The only downside to Lizzo joining the tour — if there is one — is it further delays the follow-up to her debut album, “Lizzobangers,” already a year and a half old. She continues to get offers to play overseas festivals and other opening gigs, including a U.K. trek with Chvrches.
“We’ve learned to just not plan far out,” she said, coyly adding, “Come out to the show, and you’ll see what we’ve been working on.”
When: 9 p.m. Sat.
Where: First Avenue.
Tickets: Sold out.