Melody of discord:
I stumbled into the ANU wanting to come out hours later with my ears ringing. Four hours of interviewing potential bosses and talking about folk music had taken its' toll. I wanted the noise.
J. Mascis, former frontman of Dinosaur Jr, was just finishing his solo thing on stage. Seated and plucking away at the guitar in his lap was certainly not how i expected to see him, but there he was, seemingly blissfully ignorant of the people in front of him and playing like he was in his bedroom. It was quiet, sedate and i was having real difficulty combining this image with the one of the band who used to make guitars growl like beasts. The growls did eventually come but they were more of a purr. Has Mr Mascis slowed down? I don't know but it would have been interesting to have seen the whole set. He eventually shambled off the stage leaving a bemused but very happy audience behind.
Any show that starts with a single guitarist facing the amp and gently coaxing sounds from the instrument is either genius or stupidity. Jim O'Rourke's cardiganed figure had most of the crowd thinking he was a guitar tech. It wasn't until he was joined in guitar machinations by Lee Ranaldo that the punters worked out was going on. Drummer Steve Shelly appeared followed by the praying mantis figure of Thurston Moore and the petite Kim Deal. The five blended together perfectly, creating delicate fragments of music before descending into the aural onslaught that is Sonic Youth in full flight.
After the intro Thurston told the crowd that he hoped everything sounded okay 'cos these were borrowed instruments and theirs were still in L.A. Not that anyone would have noticed. How good is Sonic Youth? Four guitarists (Kim had swapped from her normal bass) on stage torturing, cajoling and threatening their guitars to make sounds Mr Fender never dreamed of and it all blends together seamlessly. Over the course of the two hour show there were songs of beauty, feedback that would make Lou Reed weep, guitars played with drum sticks and a whole lot of noodling.
And when i walked out into the cold and rain of a Canberra night in June there was the soft buzz in my ears that I'd been in search of.