The night began at Zulu Records with a solo acoustic performance from Sebadoh leader Lou Barlow. He played some simple three-chord songs, cracked a few self-deprecating jokes and looked like he had just rolled out of bed – basically what you would expect from Lou. Barlow was admittedly unprepared and took suggestions from the audience for what to play, but then proceeded to deny the majority of them because he had forgotten how those songs went. It was an intimate and open start to a satisfying night.
After Zulu, my journey took me to the Rickshaw. The intimacy continued here, with Barlow turning up pre-show to sell t-shirts and sign autographs. He willingly posed for photos with fans while dealing with stupid comments like my, “Awesome show at Zulu, man.” I’m sure he hadn’t heard that one yet.
Quasi opened the evening. They seemed strangely familiar and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, until I realized that they had opened for Pavement way back in September. They are a solid opening act, I suppose. Nothing spectacular, but they had energy and a few standout moments, such as when singer Sam Coomes had to fix his keyboards in the middle of a song while band mates Joanna Bolme and Janet Weiss supported him with a fantastic build-up of driving bass and drums. Some of the luster of this moment was lost, however, when I remembered that the same gimmick was pulled back in September – except that time he was fixing a guitar string.
Sebadoh didn’t exactly arrive in style. They simply walked onstage and set up most of their equipment themselves. This, of course, fit perfectly; Any other entrance would have seemed pretentious and out of place. They introduced themselves with some goofy chants and then proceeded to blast through what must have been thirty songs. At the Zulu show, Barlow had mentioned that they planned on playing thirty. The thought of such an ambitious set seemed daunting, but once the show began, things really started rolling. The constant barrage of hits included “Sister”, “Rebound” and “Skull,” with only the briefest of interludes allowing Barlow and Jason Loewenstein to switch up their instruments between songs.
The somewhat straightforward alternative rock of their classic Bakesale album was turned into a whole new monster live. The performance opened my eyes to what the essence of their music was. What at first would have seemed to me a great disappointment – the complete absence of any tracks from their album III – turned out to be a negligible omission, as I learned the beauty of the raw lo-fi of Bakesale and Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock. Particularly impressive was “License to Confuse”, which is very simplistic and lacks creativity on record, but became a vital, fast-paced piece in concert. Another standout was the fantastic “New Worship,” which shifted from quiet, toe-tapping rhythms to insane thrashing. I came out of the Rickshaw with a much greater appreciation for the group. They are no longer just Lou Barlow’s Dinosaur Jr. side project. They are no longer even just Lou Barlow’s band – Loewenstein was fantastic and, perhaps, even better that night than Lou. I’ll conclude the same way Barlow announced their performance: “Way to go, Sebadoh!”