Photos and words by Rez Avissar
Frustrating night for photos. Bad/static lighting job for most of the night, overpowering red lights for entire sets (the bane of a live photographer's existence), Sonic Youth not playing for long enough for me to catch a killer close-up of Thurston Moore thrashing. I was forced to do some Photoshopping to try and repair the pics, and meanwhile saving up for a better low-light lens. As consolation for going through all these, I snapped some candids of the band right as they walked off stage, discussing with No Fun organizer/curator Carlos Giffoni whether or not to go back out for a second encore (All friends: "That ending was perfect! Leave it at that!").
Each band played for twenty minutes. Yellow Tears was the unexpected surprise of the night, winning over everyone in the room with their meticulosuly warped sample manipulations and sounds. Out of all the bands, here's one that took the twenty minute time slot and really found inspiration, breaking into sweat and taking off their shirts, and getting genuinely into it. The stage was illuminated by a single bright red light bulb. The best part of the set was the member who kept striking a large scrap of metal and sending it through various effects processors, throwing it onto the ground and making a spectacle yet wrenching some pretty freaking insane and wicked sounds from it. Their energy was welcome and the crowd response was thunderously approving from the sold-out crowd. A dude on the L train was raving about them on the way back, displaying the record he bought of theirs; I have a feeling he's not the only one.
Also in tow were Blank Dogs, who played a full-band, fleshed out and developed indie set, far more song-based than anything else that night. Sons of God: wow, check out the shots of those guys. They had two very whacked stage performers/contorters who kind of dominated the show. The music itself (and the show, too, a little) reminded me of Excepter, with their unpolished, spontaneous, often random but distinctive sound. Mattis was a fucking MADMAN. Bardo Pond killed, in a quiet way. I felt as if I only got a taste of them, though. They need much more space, much more time. I wonder if they usually get heavy? Not tonight.
The chatter before the show was that Sonic Youth were playing seated and unconventionally. This caused understandable groans among the attendees. Instead of playing the faves or any Sonic Youth material at all, tonight they joined the pack of rattly, rough-edged noiseniks, almost blending into the pack. Thing is, Thurston and co. do these kind of gigs all the time. In a past write-up I wrote "I’d pay ten bucks to watch [Thurston Moore] assault the fuck out of a guitar for a half hour any day of the week." This rings true, but.... this set was twice the $$, and they played for even less time. With Lee Ranaldo absent (no, sorely missing), Kim's vocals were a welcome addition to the guitar mangling. Several times, including the powerful encore, it came together perfectly. However, we all would have been happy if they treated us to a gritty rarity for an encore, or at least played to us for more than twenty minutes (incl. encore)? These gripes are valid, right?
I should add, however, that I haven't been to a proper Sonic Youth gig yet, so take that into account. Can't wait to see them play a full real set later this summer at United Palace. I promise better photos then. Also look out for their new record, due soon.
[Sons of God]
[Toral Yeh Tremaine]