Tuesday, February 20, 2007

SONIC YOUTH @ HIGHER GROUND - 2.18.07



I realize that this isn't the first post where I've said this, but I almost didn't make it to the concert on Sunday night. My girlfriend Jaime-Lynn turned 27 on Monday, and we spent most of the weekend as a pre-birthday celebration, the peak of which was a party at our place on Saturday night. After a lot of pale ale & several too many shots of blueberry juice & vodka, I passed out late & enjoyed a debilitating hangover for most of Sunday. I got up around 1pm, ran some errands, had dinner with my parents & then returned back to my place around 6pm, when Jaime and I decided to take a "short nap". We ended up oversleeping and ran out of the house around 7:55 to make it to the Sonic Youth show.

We live right down the street, so we got to Higher Ground at about 8:05, still pretty groggy. We made our way through the line, checked our coats & made it into the main hall where opening act Wooden Wand was about mid-way through their set. Jaime was kind enough to be my DD for the night & seeing as I needed a bit of the proverbial dog hair, I made my way up to the upper level bar in the back of the hall (after filming a couple of Grace Potter concerts earlier in the winter I realized that this was the place to be--good view, good acoustics, not too crowded. And most importantly, faster bar service). I bought a Diet Coke for Jaime & a Red Bull & Vodka for myself. Not my drink of choice, but it was necessary.

Jaime and I watched Wooden Wand play a couple songs, our reaction being pretty neutral. I guess we were both expecting something a bit more energetic from an opening act for Sonic Youth. Not that I really knew what to expect from anything--I had never seen SY live and didn't really have a tremendous amount of exposure to the band prior to the past year. "Goo" was on heavy rotation in my car CD player this summer & I enjoyed "Sonic Nurse" and "Rather Ripped". But other than that, I just had a passing aquaintance with the majority of the Youth's oeuvre. I was looking forward to hearing some new stuff & hoped to hear at least one or two familiar songs, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. A band that is as established as Sonic Youth has every right not to play crowd pleasers if they don't feel like it.

I took a few more pulls off the Bull & looked toward the stairs. Now there are a couple of familiar faces--fellow music bloggers JB & Tanner. Although we have chatted on an almost daily basis via the webernet for the past six months or so, I still had never met them in person. I grabbed Jaime-Lynn (who is in love with Tanner's pussy. Cat. JC Pennys.) and went over to say hello. It's kind of strange to finally meet people that you already know quite a bit about, but they were incredibly friendly guys and just as clever and fun as they are in their blogs. We chatted a bit about the show, the blogs, Wooden Wand live vs. albums, etc. and the ladies talked about their cats. We parted ways to get to our viewing positions as the show began.

Sonic Youth took the stage to a roar of grateful music fans; it was Sonic Youth's first concert in VT, and it's not often that we get talent of their caliber in our neck of the woods, so we made sure they (and the folks at Higher Ground) knew we appreciated it. The show started off in a way that completely took me off-guard. I was expecting a brooding group of musicians who would take the stage, start right into the music & not say a word to the audience. Maybe even turn their backs to the crowd. Instead, Thurston went right into the small talk, saying how glad they were to be in Brattleboro (just kidding) and how they had wanted to visit Vermont for a while. They said the had spent the day visiting a guitar shop (Advance?) and having lunch at Leunigs. A nice touch that was obviously appreciated by the crowd.

After a few minutes of banter, the band got down to what they do best. And I was surprised that I even recognized the first song (I wasn't taking notes, but I think it was "Dirty Boots"???). Beginner's luck, I figured. They'd play a hit to get the crowd warmed up & then break into the new stuff. But it wasn't the case. The concert played out as almost a Sonic Youth Greatest Hits show. And they nailed every song, and not in a distanced, impersonal way--the energy & passion was there like they were playing them for the first time, but with the technical precision and closeness that you only get after playing it a thousand times. I hate to use the word "tight" to describe a band, but that's exactly what they were--and everyone I spoke with that night felt it too. They owned those songs.

What impressed me even more though was that the band still had the desire to be experimental, taking breaks in between groups of songs to do some screeching noise compositions, with Thurston playing his guitar with a drumstick or just playing the feedback from the amps. I've always been drawn to experimental art, whether it be film, music, poetry/prose, painting, etc., and It always worries me that I'll grow old and bore of the avant-garde. Maybe not so much "bore" of it as get to tired to do it--it takes a lot of energy & effort to keep finding new and unique sounds/images/etc. and to keep reinventing visual or sonic languages of your own. Watching Sonic Youth (with some members older than my father), it made me hopeful that the youthful wonder of the weird and unknown doesn't necessarily die as you grow older. It just takes more effort.

I got progressively drunker as the night went on, so I won't bother to review the end of the show. Let's just say I don't remember anything disappointing. I had a bit of a sobering moment when I turned to my left & saw Mike Gordon from Phish standing next to me. Apparently I wasn't the only one who noticed him, as random people stared at him & a few fans came up to break the musical spell he seemed to try to be getting into. I thought about how much it must suck sometimes to be a celebrity. Here I was, it my own little trance & no worries about being the center of attention or having anybody counting how many Sierra Nevadas I've put down. As nice as fame and recognition can be, anonymity can be even nicer. And it's either one or the other.

OK, sorry for the tangent. After a two-song encore, the show ended & we headed to a small table at the right of the hall to grab a free poster. It turns out they were designed by JDK, and some of their crew were there to take photos of people with their posters, which said: "Thank You Sonic Youth. You Made It OK to __________". I was too numb from music and beer to think of anything witty to put on mine, but lots of other folks filled theirs out & had their pictures taken. You can see them all on JDK's website. Funny enough, despite my laziness, I still ended up in Jaime's pic:



I look kind of sullen and angry, but it's just the post-booze nods kicking in. It was past this old man's bedtime.

Jaime and I waited in line a while for coat check. While there, I spied another member of VT music royalty, guitar virtuoso Scott Tournet of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Scott was looking dapper as always & was all smiles for the fans and friends who came up to chat with him. Is it just me or are the members of that band just the happiest & best looking
bunch of people in the world? They seem to be doing really well & building quite a fanbase nationwide, and if anyone deserves it, it's them.

I chatted a bit more with Tanner in the coat check line and he showed me his poster inscription--by far my favorite of the night. We said goodbye & how good it was to meet each other finally. Then Jaime and I spent another 15 minutes waiting for our jackets, and she was kind enough to drive my drunk ass home.

9 comments:

casey said...

Are you by chance going to HG tonight (Wed. 21)?

jay said...

I will not; I have some post-production work to finish up for a friend's short film and then I'm doing my taxes. The exciting life I lead...

Plus I got kind of burned-out on the G.Love in college because my Philly-born roomate played them over and over and over and over....

casey said...

Not G. Love — Hero Cycle, Lymbic System, etc.

Wanted to chat about something...

jay said...

Uh oh....hope I'm not in trouble...

You can always write to me at kinojay33@yahoo.com

Eva the Deadbeat said...

nicely told Sonic Youth tale - love all the personal bits. i am still so happy SY played VT - even if the show was full of Canadians! what could be sweeter?

jay said...

Thanks Eva--and welcome to SpittingOutTeeth! I'm a big fan of The Deadbeat Club, so it's great to see you here!

Flatlander said...

Nice review. I had forgotten about Thurston's discussion of where they ate. He really was in a perky mood.

By the way, the opener was "Candle" from Daydream Nation.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

Aww, you are TOO nice! Thanks! I have been hearing about this teeth blog for a long time and am glad to have finally found the real deal! Most excellent! Do you ever explain the name of your blog? I am curious as I have mega teeth issues...similar to Megadeath but not quite the same thing...

jay said...

The "Spitting Out Teeth" name came about when I first started the blog. I couldn't think of a name, so I just decided to turn on the TV and I would name the blog whatever the first thing I heard was. It happened to be a BBC news program and a woman was talking about someone "spitting out teeth". So the name stuck.

It was also kind of strange because I used to have recurring dreams about my teeth falling out. Now I don't really dream at all, which I guess means I'm insane. Cool!