August 9, 2013
There was a lot of love in the air at Crescent Ballroom last night as indie rock legends Sebadoh played their first area show in a while. A lot of the feely-good vibes came as much from the stage as they did from the crowd that was loaded with obviously longtime fans.
People were calling out tunes they wanted to hear from the minute the band took the stage. Lou Barlow, who was recently in town playing bass with his other band, Dinosaur Jr., made a funny reference to his kid being at a One Direction concert as Sebadoh was just about to rock Phoenix right before busting into "Magnet's Coil" from 1994's Bakesale. And then it was on. All the Sebadoh goodness that's been happening for more than 25 years oozed out for the next two hours.
Driving, crunchy, noisy guitars, vocal (and guitar/bass) switch-offs between Barlow and longtime bandmate Jason Loewenstein, and a little of that familiar chaotic air that extends a sense of anything-could-happen.
Lou continued on vocals and guitar for a few more songs, including "Skull" and Rebound," also from Bakesale, and "Ocean" from the 1996 release, Harmacy, before taking over the bass, giving the vocal and guitar reigns to Loewenstein.
Trading instruments mid-set, for some bands, just never fucking works; it can come off as annoying or distracting. But with Sebadoh, it's been one of the factors that is essential to their engagement. Where Barlow is ache-y, Loewenstein is angry.
You get aggression and angst all over the place with these guys, but the shift in deliveries makes it a well-rounded experience. Now at the helm, Jason led the trio through a few songs--predominately more offerings from Bakesale, including "Drama Mine," "S. Soup" and "Careful," gritty and vicious, in the best ways.
Together, Barlow and Loewenstein are mental mayhem magic.
Barlow repeatedly thanked the crowd for coming out, seeming genuinely surprised, and pretty happy, to see such a big crowd. For just about two hours, the band that now includes Loewenstein's bandmate in Fiery Furnaces, Bob D'Amico on drums, went through an array of songs, many of them older favorites.
The band went back to 1992's Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock for "Brand New Love," and a few from another early 90's recording, Bubble and Scrape, including "Forced Love" and "Soul and Fire."
The latter felt a little phoned-in, but it isn't the first time I've seen that happen with a crowd favorite that people expect to hear. Either way, it wasn't disappointing.
The band paid homage to Phoenix music by talking up some of the greats like Sun City Girls and Meat Puppets. They even did a mini-cover of the Feederz' classic, "Jesus" before wrapping up a solid set of more than 20 songs with "Junk Bonds," "Two Years Two Days," and "New Worship." Ears still ringing.
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Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Sebadoh at Crescent Ballroom. Personal Bias: I so dig Lou Barlow and his many moods; confirmed officially when I told my friend, "I love that moody motherfucker." The Crowd: Wide age range, lots of super fans. Overheard in the Crowd: During a long period of tuning someone yelled out, "It's not that fucking hard, let's go!" which I heard as "It's not a fucking harp, let's go!" My friend says I'm wrong but what I think I heard is funnier. Better Than: Paying $50+ to see the Cult at Celebrity Theater. $50+ guys, seriously?