Thurston Moore @ Other Music, May 23rd, 2011
Photos: Chris; Review: Michael Koene
For three decades, mop-headed noise guitar god and Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore has laid waste to pop’s status quo, questioning what rock guitar can and should be and pushing past the limitations of his instrument’s voice into heretofore undiscovered realms of sound. Arguably the most tuneful of the group of bands associated with the magnesium flash that was NO WAVE, Sonic Youth’s noisy experiments in chaotic ambience and song structure have proven profoundly influential, to an extent that was probably unimaginable when they first exploded onto the New York underground post-punk scene in the mid 80’s. Against all odds, their jagged aesthetic gained ground and it’s echoes were soon heard in the early alternative and grunge scenes of the 90’s, effectively setting the stylistic tone of the era. Where before, glistening production and the illusion of flawless performance were the industry standard, suddenly dissonance, low fidelity and raw emotion ruled the day.
On Monday night, Fucking Nostalgic had the pleasure of seeing Moore outside of his natural habitat, namely at a free in-store performance in support of the album release at New York City mainstay, Other Music. The store is small (it held about 100 of us, almost comfortably) and as we were ushered in by the store’s courteous staff, we made our way to the front row. There was a music stand full of lyric sheets directly in front of me (less than a foot away) and a microphone stand that was taller than I am (Moore is well over six feet tall). I suddenly realized just how intimate of a performance was in store.
The mood in the room was one of subdued anticipation as Moore waded through the small crowd to get to the performance space. He was joined by John Moloney and Hush Arbors (an artist on the Moore-run Ecstatic Peace! label) on drums and guitar respectively, as well as album alumni Mary Lattimore on harp and Samara Lubelski on electric violin (all of whom played at Moore’s show at Music Hall of Williamsburg on 5/20). After a couple of self-deprecating wisecracks from Moore, the band opened with a lilting rendition of “January,” a folky pastoral vaguely reminiscent of Neil Young’s “Old Man” and the final song on Demolished Thoughts. Over the course of the next hour, Moore and friends managed to perform the album in its entirety, with Moore’s lush twelve-string acoustic guitar work near the end of the set sounding somehow like spring and fall all at the same time. Highlights of the set included “Benediction,” a cautiously hopeful testament to the power of love (with Hush Arbors lending a bit of tasteful twang to the mix) as well as the extended eastern-flavored instrumental passages of “Space” and the brooding “Blood Never Lies.” As the performance neared it’s conclusion, Moore suggested with a smirk that the audience should “go out and see a movie or something” before introducing the Sonic-esque closer “Circulation” with a quasi-metaphysical near-rant about 2012 and the dawn of a new matriarchal society.
After the set, Moore graciously signed albums and memorabilia for the assembled masses and soon the Fucking Nostalgic crew was back outside in the balmy dusk of NYC, each of us pretty amazed and dumbstruck by the fact that regardless of what the other 95 odd attendees that were standing behind us thought, the legendary Thurston Moore had just performed his newest release for us. All in all, an unforgettable evening.