Everyone has “that band” in their life. The band that neither rain nor snow nor heat nor any possible weather disturbance will keep them away. People travel miles to see that band, pay inordinate sums of cash, and do things they normally wouldn’t do, like cut in extremely long lines.
For me, that band is Sonic Youth. I woke up early last Saturday and hopped on the MegaBus for a (supposedly) three-hour jaunt to New York City (actually about four) to see the rock legends play a free show in Prospect Park in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn for Celebrate Brooklyn along with Talk Normal and Grass Widow.
When I finally got up to the city, I met up with Anna, who had gone up Friday for the New Jersey festivities at Glasslands, and then we met up with Marc for what we planned to be an evening filled with thrashing.
As we made our way over to Prospect Park, we had this realization that, “Oh man, we could be a little late…” And when we arrived in Prospect Park, we were right. The line was at least a mile long, winding throughout the park in every which away, around and through birthday parties for little kids that had probably never even heard of indie rock music.
Needless to say, we made it in and we didn’t wait in line for that long. Not that I’m proud of it, but you gotta do what you gotta do if you want to get what you want to get. Which in this case was Sonic Youth. We went in, staked out our spot with a blanket, and sat, and waited.
Talk Normal opened up first and greatly resembled the early Sonic Youth sound with pounding toms and rough female vocals. From where I was sitting during Talk Normal, I couldn’t really see, but all I really felt like doing was hearing. And I liked what I heard. It was another case of going to see a band that I had absolutely no prior knowledge of and being impressed immensely. But I still haven’t gotten around to downloading any of the band’s catalog. On my to-do list.
The same holds true for Grass Widow, except for the fact that I was standing while watching the three-piece play. Another band with the Best Coast (sans beach aesthetic) and Vivian Girls feel, Grass Widow fit right in with Kevin calls “girlo-fi.” Dum Dum Girls comparisons were made, but I felt like Grass Widow aligned the most with Vivian Girls, due to the prominence of the bass lines.
Again, I can’t tell you what songs Grass Widow played and songs weren’t played and I still haven’t gotten around to downloading any of the songs. But what I can tell you is that I enjoyed Grass Widow and they were good. Is there any more you can ask from me?
Finally, it was time for what we were all waiting for. Sonic Youth. Thurston Moore. Kim Gordon. Lee Ranaldo. Steve Shelley. No Mark Ibold (Pavement was playing Montreal’s Osheaga Festival). Classic lineup. And what we got were classic tracks.
The band came right out with “Candle” off of Daydream Nation. It was immediately apparent that the band has not lost anything close to resembling a step with age, as everything was spot on. “Candle” was followed up with “Brother James.” At this point, I got goosebumps that didn’t leave for the whole show. Well, it was either the music or the fact that it was a little chilly for a July evening in New York City, but I’m just going to go with the music.
The crowd was already into the music, but things really took off during “Catholic Block,” the third song of the set. To give you an idea of the kind of set fans at Prospect Park were treated to, Anna, Marc, and I saw the band last year at the United Palace Theater supporting The Eternal, and “Catholic Block” and “Brother James” were the only songs that were in both sets.
But the crowd lost it during “Catholic Block,” myself among them. Thurston was thrashing. Kim was thrashing. Lee and Steve were thrashing. I was thrashing. Everyone was thrashing.
The greatest part of the show was the fact that the band never lost energy and neither did the crowd. The beginning of every song encompassed a “Holy crap! Are they actually playing this?!” reaction that held truer and truer as the night went on (see: “The Sprawl”; “The Wonder”; “Hyperstation”; “Cross The Breeze”; “Mote”).
The best song of the night may have been “Silver Rocket.” Check out Big Ass Lens’s video from the show here. You’ll see the precise execution of Ranaldo on the guitar while Thurston still has the same high energy level that he’s displayed every other time I’ve seen him, both in person or in videos. Big Ass Lens also has a video of “Expressway To Yr Skull” here, which was the closer to the set, a devolution into classic Sonic Youth noise.
One of the coolest parts of the evening was Shelley’s drumming. I think I have to put down his performance as the best live drumming exhibition I have ever seen. The intensity was unmatched. He was hitting the drums as hard as I had every seen, and he was on in everything he did. This band has not slowed down with age at all.
This show immediately becomes the best performance I have seen all year. The band was so tight, and the collection of old favorites off of Daydream Nation, Sister, and EVOL (plus a song from Goo) really made the night special.
It’s the best I’ve seen Sonic Youth. Next time they’re in the area, I’m there. Maybe they’ll be even better.