Sonic Youth

Avalon Ballroom

Boston, MA

Saturday August 14, 2004

I don't think the show sold out. At least, they were still selling tix at the door when I went in. Curiously, Modest Mouse played the same venue last week, and they sold out well in advance (kids these days).

I'm told that the capacity of the Avalon Ballroom is around 3,000; it didn't seem that big, but it's tough to tell because there was a balcony and it looked like there were some rooms off to the side. It's kind of a strange place for a rock show; it's principally a dance club (in the words of Thurston Moore, "at 10 o'clock this place turns into some kind of weird disco club"). Plus, it's right across the street from Fenway, and there was a game going on concurrently with the concert. They had an elaborate bar, with all sorts of top-shelf liquor, but no beer on tap; I paid $5 plus tip for a bottle of Sam Adams.

They mostly played stuff from Sonic Nurse, though I recognized some songs from Daydream Nation and Murray Street as well. There were lots of noise/feedback segues between songs, including a couple where the Sox broadcast was featured.

In a Julian Casablancas-like moment, Thurston climbed the speaker stack; in contrast to Julian, his motive was to experiment with feedback from the top speaker. I guess maybe it sounds different than feedback with the bottom speaker, but I couldn't really tell. In addition to the orgys of feedback, they generated all sorts of strange guitar noises with drum sticks and slides (even using a slide on the bass); they'd also "play" their guitars with their feet, with their guitar straps, with microphones (must be tough on the mic), and by rubbing guitars against themselves or inanimate objects.

It seemed like a fairly eclectic crowd. It was an all-ages show, and there were some younguns there, but there were also guys who looked like they could've been fans in the early 80s, or maybe they were there with their kids. An older guy in front of me seemed to be recording the show with some mics on his hat and a small, possibly mini-disc based, recorder in his pocket. I wanted to ask him about stealth recording, but I didn't because I didn't want to fuck up his recording. The crowd kept calling out requests, which the band ignored of course. Actually, most of the requests were from stuff off of Daydream Nation, which is kind of unfortunate because they seem to be trying to do new stuff. At some point people started yelling stupid shit like "play the next song on your playlist". Some guy yelled "tell us about your family", which got a response. Thurston (who was point-man for all of the audience banter) seemed a little surprised, and repeated the question, incredulously, before telling us how his older brother went to see Peter Frampton instead of Sonic Youth when they played NYC. Of course, this induced a bunch of Simpson-related shoutouts from the audience.

-- Lou Thompson <lou at louthompson dot com>

lou at louthompson dot com