I trekked down to Justin’s place in Iowa City, met up with he and his roommate Greg and we trekked yet again to pick up J-Briz (he has expressed some displeasure at my using his full name online before) at his dad’s place in Ankeny, along with another fellow in need of a ride back to his home in Minneapolis, and five to a car we headed up I-35.
It was cool to see J-Briz again; we’d gotten along really well when I first met him in person at the Tyondai Braxton/Parts and Labor gig at the FUK house, and we got along really well again. At one point, having dinner at a bar down the street from the 400 before the show, I started to worry a little about coming off as a J-Briz wannabe – we had coincidentally worn rather similar jackets, ordered the same thing to eat, and were agreeing on a lot of things in conversation, and while he is a few years younger than I, he is also taller, has a more imposing persona, and is generally a more well-known scenester, if you will. But whatever. Overall this was one of the most fun road trips I’ve had in quite some time. But you don’t want to hear about the trip, you want to hear about the show.
The Bent Moustache, opening the show, were appealingly ramshackle, and the lead singer reminded me of this Arash kid that used to hang around the Ragman crowd back in the day and who fronted the poetry-band Suave Frog. I do believe that they are accompanying Sebadoh on the tour, the lucky bastards, but I didn’t end up finding them especially memorable.
You Am I were very garage and very British and they kicked the jams out. First I’ve heard them, but I’d recommend them. Maybe a shade or two too rock-out-with-your-cock-out for many in the stateside self-deprecation indie rock scene, but in this live setting they were much fun.
I knew that Sebadoh was touring with the reunited Barlow-Gaffney-Lowenstein lineup, but it hadn’t occurred to me that they would play such a predominantly Gaffney-era set. Turns out that they’re touring behind the “deluxe” reissue of III, and as Barlow put it from the stage, were celebrating the band they were back in the day. Or at least that’s the gist of it, definitely not verbatim. The great majority of the set was drawn from pre-Bakesale. Despite song requests shouted from the crowd, there were only a couple well-chosen tunes from Bakesale and Harmacy, and in any case, Sebadoh have so many memorable songs that it would be impossible for them to work in everyone’s favorites. I would have loved to have heard them do “Beauty Of The Ride” or “Careful,” and indeed, after the show there was a small crowd of guys on the sidewalk outside shouting out “Careful” and Bakesale could be heard blasting from a car. I was excited when they played “Brand New Love,” though, even if it wasn’t quite as transcendent as the recorded version. But you know, Gaffney’s songs are cool too, and I think this tour is kind of him getting his due. Of course, they wrapped up the encore with “Gimme Indie Rock.”
All in all, I really enjoyed their whole set. J-Briz seemed less impressed, said it was a mixed bag and that certain songs were terrible, but I didn’t notice so much; I think Sebadoh is the kind of band that you want to be a bit rough around the edges, or else you’d worry they were losing their edges. It was also great to hang out with Judah and talk a bit with BCox.
What really hit me about Sebadoh’s whole set though, was that I started to understand the incongruous creative dynamic that made them so interesting in their earlier years. I get that a lot, where even if I’ve heard lots of a band’s recorded songs, I don’t fully understand them until I see them live. It was suddenly clear to me how Sebadoh never really set out to be a rock band in the normal sense, and how that fact is what caused this classic Sebadoh lineup to be the interesting and idiosyncratic band that they were, and also what ultimately drove Barlow and Gaffney apart as their early success pushed them to try to be more of a normal rock band than they had originally figured on. In this reunited form, I think that they have realized all this themselves, and know now how to make it work, and that they can now get away with operating on their own terms.
I went ahead and picked up the III reissue while I was there too, as I’d yet to hear the album in its entirety. There’s not much I can say about it that hasn’t been said before, but the combination of the show, the CD, and its liner notes, actually inspired some ideas for me, that I may share here later on, or maybe just the results of them.