Went to see the subject of last week’s Advocate cover story at the Calvin last night.
It’s rare that you’re able to say this, but really, the show lived up to its billing.
I was fashionably late, spending an unfair amount of time outside the venue trying to give away an extra ticket.
For free, mind you.
That being said, I missed The Warblers. There’s another blog, in this neighborhood of the internet, that is written by someone far more professoinal than I who saw them, and would be willing to share his thoughts with you regarding this band.
For me, the evening started with Thurston Moore and his band, Demolished Thoughts. Thurston has, as one would expect from a Sonic Youther, had a slightly troubling solo career. I never particularly cared for 1995’s Psychic Hearts, thought 2007’s Trees Outside The Academy sure wasn’t bad, and really enjoyed 2011’s Demolished Thoughts.
Demolished Thoughts, produced by noted Scientologist Beck Hansen, is one heck of a folk album, featuring thick string arrangements and other stringed instruments that don’t sound like guitars lit on fire. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s too dang pretty not to like.
Thurston and the Demolished Thoughts Club Band brought the new album (and some songs from Trees) to life quite well. It’s always a little strange to see Moore with an acoustic guitar in hand (considering his role in innovating the electric guitar), but it always works. In lieu of the multi-guitar attack of Sonic Youth, the violin and harp filled in admirably, giving the songs a depth that made you forget how stripped-down the band actually was.
Shortly after the show, Thurston and co. taped a set on legendary unfunny-man Jimmy Fallon’s show. If you can possibly stay another few seconds on this blog, you could scroll down and see the video evidence.
Really, it’s ok, Jimmy Fallon doesn’t do anything criminal like say ruining the 2004 Red Sox World Series win in this video. It’s safe, I promise.
It was a good start.
Next was Henry Rollins.
Oh, Henry Rollins.
In many ways, Henry is a testament to dedication; he’s never been the most talented, and sometimes not even good at what he tries, but he does it. He tours relentlessly doing spoken word shows nowadays, leaving a life of rock ‘n roll behind him. That’s a little bit sad- at his prime, Rollins was a vocalist who could howl live, letting out gutteral moans that were primal and righteous.
Seriously, if you get a chance, check out the majority of live Black Flag performances with Henry singing. They’re better than the records, emitting an aura of pure wounded emotion.
That’s neither here nor there. Stop living in the past, ok?! He’s only going to do spoken word shows now, and, well…
…His spoken word performances can range from horrific (sometimes he tries too hard to be a stand-up comic; he’s a gifted storyteller, not a comic) to inspiring (when he sticks to intelligent commentary, the jokes write themselves).
On this night, he was great. He let the material unfold on its own, telling poignant stories about time he spent in North Korea, the virtues of drinking cow urine, and male-bonding over skewered rats.
I saw Henry doing something similar in 2003; he wasn’t that good last night, but both times were infinitely better than any of his recorded spoken word releases. Henry has a knack for telling stories, and letting intelligent, independent commentary spew forth from his mouth.
After Rollins wiped the cow urine off his mouth, he did a q and a session with the headliners, Dinosaur Jr. While the exchange was enjoyable, and it broke up the process of the show well, there was little pertinent information extracted from it.
Then comes the fun part: Dinosaur Jr. playing their classic album Bug, beginning to end. They warmed up with a couple classics, “In a Jar” from You’re Living All Over Me and “The Wagon”, a single from after Mascis dumped Lou Barlow from the band. I want to go on record as saying that “The Wagon” is a classic song that everyone should hear once or twelve times in their life time.
But, there I go, again, getting distracted.
Then came those unmistakable opening chords for “Freak Scene” and Bug began. The band played the album pretty straight, but hearing the songs in a live setting gave me a new perspective on the whole album. I always enjoyed the album, feeling the songwriting was superior to previous Dinosaur efforts, but didn’t much care for the production.
Seeing the songs live gave them an energy I always felt Bug lacked. Their previous album, You’re Living All Over Me, sounded like it could’ve been recorded at a basement show (with all the negative connotations that comes with as well). In contrast, Bug always felt cleaner, to a fault.
I have a similar problem with a lot of bands, who tend to refine and perfect the songwriting process at the very moment they choose overly-slick production. I’m looking at you, At The Drive-In.
The band concluded the set with a violent rendition of Bug‘s last song, “Don’t” that was long, vicious and cacophonous. It even included audience participation, as I guess Lou Barlow blew his voice out the previous night trying to sing it, and pulled some random dude from the crowd, who performed the song’s refrain admirably.
They came back for two more songs, 1990s modern radio hit “Feel The Pain”, another song Barlow was out of the band for, this time many years removed from his tenure, and their always-great cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”.
A nice way to end the evening.