Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sonic Youth | Higher Ground | Feb 18th

The Vermont blogosphere is going gaga over last Sunday's Sonic Youth show. So, I thought I'd get off my ass and post a few thoughts about the show.

- Wooden Wand, the opening acoustic duo, struggled to gain the crowd's attention. Their latest album, Second Attention, is OK but it isn't a sound that is going to win over a large room of uninitiated folks catching up with their friends.

- The new decorations on the ceiling annoyed me at first. The bright pink spinning light on the right towards the stage was particularly distracting. However, over the course of the show, they grew on me. Perhaps it was the beer but I think it was more a factor of realizing the room needed something. It had been a bit of a sterile room. So, the spinning planets added a bit of atmosphere and hopefully inspiration to the artists. If you haven't seen them yet, here's a clip I filmed of them during SY's "Rats".

- I was glad to see former Pavement bassist Mark Ibold on stage with the band. I always get a good chuckle out of watching him play. He's always sporting that goofy grin and staring at the fretboard like a guy at his first lesson. I can't think of any other musician that has logged as much stage time around the globe as Ibold and still stares so intently at their frets.

- Great setlist. I never expected to hear so many earlier tunes. "100%" was a huge treat. And the tunes from their Saturnine-inspired new album Rather Ripped sounded super-duper live. On Highgate, Tanner noted that SY didn't do much of the rib-rattling experimental walls of sound that they are famous for. The songs were kept pretty tight. They did a little towards the end but it was much less than when I saw them in the 90's and it didn't make the walls tremble as much as before. I don't know if the show was an outlier or if they've moved away from that stuff in recent years but I had no problem with it. They have so many good songs, I was happy to see them work their way through a solid set list than spend 10 minutes exploring their reverb. Here's a clip from "Teenage Riot". As usual, the sound sucks but it gives a sense of the scene.

- I've never seen Thurston Moore be so bubbly. He was chatty and enthusiastic throughout the set. The two times I had seen them before, he was much darker and introverted. But that was about a decade ago and a lot can happen in that time. The reason why his bright mood was so ingratiating is that not many bands of SY's ilk come to VT. So, we were probably all a lot more excited to see them than they were to be playing Burlington. However, Thurston and everyone in the band seem to be greatly enjoying being there which, as a fan, feels great.

- I spent most of the show in the back in front of the soundboard. At one point, while taking a picture, I realized that my hand was casting a shadow all the way up onto the stage. I turned around and noticed the projector right behind me for their projected images. So, being a dork, I contorted my hand into the shape of a dog's head and started making ten foot tall hand shadows onto their backdrop. I had the dog barking and going back and forth across the stage. Then I started having the dog bite Thurston's head. Well, I guess that was the final straw because the lighting guy grabbed my shoulder and told me to stop. It was amusing while it lasted. I just wish I had gotten a photo or video of it.

- Here's some photographic proof that there are hipsters in Vermont. However, there were a lot of Canadians there so it might have been an imported hipster.

- The local artist, JDK, who does a lot of the post-show concert posters for Higher Ground did something a little different for the SY show. He printed signs that said, "Thank You Sonic Youth. You made it okay to:" Fans could then fill in the blank. JDK then photographed the fans holding up their signs and posted them on his website. If you scroll to the right on his site, mine is the one about snowmobile suits. It's a reference to 1980's TV appearance SY did on some late night program (similar to this Letterman performance of "100%" but in snowmobile suits). However, after walking away, I realized the correct answer was: You made it okay to: Play Burlington.

- Eva Deadbeat has a cool video of the scene and JDK's poster thingy.


Neil said...

I honestly don't know if I regret missing the show so much now, considering the VT blog posse covered it so faithfully and lovingly. Shit, I can watch Eva's TV show about it, I can look at my friends on the JDK page, I can watch YouTube clips, read about 5 different blog entries... It's total armchair-audience satisfaction!

Those lights BTW, are made by my old housemate & Cave Bees svengali Steve Tremblay. He's got all sorts of glowing, flashing & often wildly spinning creations incorporating familiar home items & industrial castaways. I think some of them are up now at the Starry Night cafe in Ferrisburg.

jay said...

Great review--your shadow puppets were amazing! It's a good thing it was the older, wiser, mellower SY because otherwise Thurston would have beat your ass for shadow-eating his head.