Monday, September 1, 2008

Live: Converse presents Sonic Youth and The Hold Steady @ TLA Philadelphia 8.29.8

I heard about this show at the last minute, well after the $6 tickets were sold out, and lapsed into my normal routine of phone and e-grovelling. I normally wouldn't go to such lengths, but it was on a Friday, and I had vacation time to burn, plus what the hell else was I going to do. A man can't blog all the time and feel in any way good about himself.

I put feelers out to my boy Drew, who hooked me up with his girl Sarah, who wields some juice in this regard. In the meantime, I ended up getting a released ticket from Ticketmaster, so it was on regardless.

I had seen the Sonic Youth at Battery Park on the 4th and enjoyed them, but was more intrigued that I was much more taken with the 'hits' ala 100% and Schizophrenia, than I was with the noise skonk out. This was quite a departure. There was a period of time that I would only watch the 100% video for the Watt cameo and bitch and moan how they fell off after Sister. All historical revisionism aside, I was a little more fond of the Jim O'Rourke sideman era than the Mark Ibold, but that may be residual loathing for the profoundly overrated Pavement. Either way, without the benefit of a gig behind it, I could get my old guy on and not have to take the 2am drunk Greyhound back. Plus the last time I had seen SY, it was my 20th show, in a Polish Union Hall in Chicago with Fugazi opening and I got to smoke weed with John Cusack and his dog. I was more than willing to let that be my SY swan song, but the siren call of The Hold Steady is a little hard to resist. Cue a couple hours of public transport and a fair amount of legwork and I was bellied up at Tattooed Mom quaffing a Guinness or two.

So there was the small matter of the lovely Sarah and her boy Derek at Tripwire coming through with a guest list plus one for the show the day before, which caught me with my highwater pants down, as I was going to have shoot photos as well, but I had managed to snag a new SD card on my way to the train in NYC and was ready to rumble. After exchanging pleasantries with Phils Fan and Christine from Milwaukee, I sallied forth TLAward. TLA is not my favorite room in Philly, but it works. There were a fair amount of the Unified Scene kids in attendance, causing no end of brow wrinkling by the surprisingly staid Sonic Youth fans.

It's worth pointing out that Sonic Youth seem to be filling the role for my generation of the band that you loved in college and could still get cred for liking when you're older, much like Radiohead does for the late twenty-somethings. You can make them one of the two or three bands you see in a given year, maybe with another trendy band like Franz Ferdinand or Arcade Fire and still be able to feel comfortable and edgy writing that check to NPR. Long gone are the days at CBs where if you were a dick at the Sonic Youth show, a nice skinhead would step on your neck and ask you to calm down. Now there's lots of clucking and general derision for people singing along and an insufferable arty affectation that would be irritating in New York, but just plain silly for Philly. Save it for your Stinking Lizaveta shows, kids.

So the Hold Steady were only afforded a 40 minute slot, but they came out the gate with guns blazing. It had been a couple months since they had been in the area and the tri-state Unified Scene was chomping at the bit for the boys. The herculean amount of $1 PBRs consumed at Tattooed Mom's may have accounted for the added exuberance. Most of the stuff was off the new record and up-tempo. Craig proved to be his usual stage dynamo self and the band was tight as ever. It was over far too quickly and save for a spate of shoving and general asshattery by some cranky Sonic Adults that resulted in the tromping of my camera, it was a good, albeit far too short, time. I'm pretty damn eager for the dual headline shows with Drive By Truckers in November. My liver hurts already.

Sonic Youth are celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the release of Daydream Nation and have played the record in its entirety at a couple events around the world. Consequently, there's a lot more of that record and its deep cuts in the set. That's always a good time, plus they opened up with two solid new tunes Thurston claimed had just coalesced the day before. I understand they are currently free of any Geffen attachment, which should make for some interesting affiliations in the coming months. They encored with 100% and Expressway to Yr Skull, garnering ecstatic adualtion from the converted masses. I'm not sure there was a lot of winning over of new fans by either party, but for a $6 door charge, it was more than worthwhile.

Thanks again to Sarah and Derek @ The Tripwire for making it happen!
Look for a more expansive, less partisan review there soon.


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