Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Live: Thurston Moore and more

When: 2/1
Where: Glasslands

OK, when I listed this show in my last "upcoming shows" post, I didn't really explain what kind of show it was. It wasn't until I was on my way over on Sunday night that I realized I should have given more warning. I used to be neighbors with Thurston Moore and his wife and bandmate Kim Gordon in the wee town in New England where the two now live. Thurston was always playing shows around the area with various people no one ever heard of. So I forgot to mention that when Thurston plays a small arthouse venue like Glasslands, and when he has a bunch of names you have never heard before on the bill, it's going to be a noise/art rock/experimental/freeform set. He's not going to be playing songs from Psychic Hearts. He's not going to be playing "songs" at all.

So sorry if anyone went to the show unprepared! My bad!

Sunburned Hand of the Gene Moore - I arrived during the set of this band (actually called, separately "Sunburned Hand of the Man" and "Gene Moore" - Thurston's brother, rumor has it). They were rather uninteresting noise rock, with nice solid walls of sound but nothing that hasn't been done before. They made random loud sounds with guitars and electronics, occasionally accompanied with an arrhythmic drum beat for a few seconds at a time.

The trouble with noise as a musical genre is the same as what I said recently about singer-songwriter music - every possible creative avenue has been explored, and originality is next to impossible. Sunburned Hand of Gene Moore was decent, with nice walls of sound, but it was nothing I hadn't heard before.

John Olson with Okkyung Lee & C.Spencer Yeh - John Olson is from Wolf Eyes, one of the very worst bands I've ever had to sit through. This set was nearly as painful - it seemed completely random, for the most part. The strings were off-putting, and Olson just messed around with a bunch of equipment with no apparent larger vision than doing shit that sounds kind of "cool." In contrast to the previous act, however, this group seemed to do their best at their quietest moments. Then there were flickers of subtle beauty that were definitely not accidental.

Tovah D-Day - I assume that's who this next act was, anyway, since they are the only other folks on the flyer. There were two of them, an older man playing autoharp and a younger woman with a bunch of electronic equipment, a tin can and a metal wastebasket with springs strung across it. Of all the acts (Thurston excepted), this was definitely my favorite. The autoharpist gave hints of actual harmonies and real notes, while his partner's the bizarre equipment made well-conceived sounds. It seemed to me that she had taken the time to identify the noise makers that would make exactly the kind of noise she envisioned. It was still an improvisational set, but it seemed more purposeful and the result was more satisfying and interesting than the goofing-around style of the preceding groups.

Thurston Moore and Mats Gustafsson - This set started with Moore attacking his guitar with pieces of metal while Gustafsson made some brutal shrieking noises on a baritone sax. Eventually Gustafsson migrated to some electronic equipment and then back again to his sax, while Thurston finally ditched his guitar and went straight to the source, attacking the amplifier by picking it up and slamming it down until the chair it had been resting on was in shambles.

Photo from
Thurston Moore

Noise-wise, it wasn't that different from what the other bands had done - but it had something they all lacked: it was punk. This is the punk-rock spirit, this is subversive, this is what's at the core of rock'n'roll - not that you necessarily have to break shit to be punk, but it's not a bad means of self-expression. Especially when it's accompanied by closely-controlled, frantic sonic experimentation that leaves your audience's ears ringing.

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