Thursday, August 23, 2012

There Are No Sebadoh Songs

Sebadoh at The Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY, August 22nd, 2012

"There are Pavement songs.  There are Guided By Voices songs.  But there are no Sebadoh songs."  That was Lou Barlow, responding to an audience member's shouted comment that a new song didn't "sound like a Sebadoh song."

It was funny.  I'd said just about the same thing to the guy standing next to me in the crowd at Bowery Ballroom before the show even started.  My new friend was about the same age as I am, but neither of us had ever seen Sebadoh live before.  I told him that I'd seen Lou Barlow with Dinosaur Jr. the last time the reunited version of that band came through the area.  He told me that he'd been listening to Sebadoh since his early twenties.  Then I told him how I thought it was interesting that Dinosaur Jr. do pretty much one thing and have honed that thing to perfection over the last twenty-five or so years.  Sebadoh, on the other hand, have relied on multiple songwriters and have produced a catalog that covers almost every style of guitar-based indie rock, from acoustic singer-songwriter to fuzzed out noise.  I'm not sure if Lou Barlow feels this way, but in retrospect, getting kicked out of Dinosaur Jr. in 1989 may not have been a bad thing for him.  It definitely gave us a slew of great and varied songs.

I came to be at last night's show because CoolMom worried over the weekend about what I'd do with myself after she took the girls up to visit with their aunt at the end of this week.  She looked through the week's offerings and found out that Sebadoh were playing the Bowery Ballroom last night and encouraged me to go.  It was a great idea.

The show was all-ages.  There were folks my age and older.  There were also kids, basically.  Some appeared to be the children of some of those older fans from the 1990's; while others were (almost) on their own, like a young woman in the front row who, embarrassed, tried to shove her mother away as the older woman tried to solidify plans for how they'd reunite when the show was done.  There was also Underage Drunk Idiot, but that's the last mention I'll make of him.

Sebadoh, who last night consisted of Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein tag-teaming on guitar and bass along with Bob D'Amico on drums, split up into their constituent parts and served as their own opening acts.

First up were Circle of Buzzards -- Loewenstein and D'Amico -- they played a short set of heavy, face-melting rock.  Loewenstein, disguised in hoodie and sunglasses, graciously thanked us several times for "standing in the circle."

Next, Lou Barlow came out and did a set of acoustic songs, many from his pre-Sebadoh Sentridoh home recording project.  The songs from Weed Forestin' like "Temporary Dream," "Jealous of Jesus," and "I Can't See," written when Barlow was still in his teens, got wonderful reactions from the crowd around me.  My new friend commented on how he'd gotten over losing his first love with these songs, and a twenty-something girl standing near us threw her head back and clutched her temples in delight with the opening chords of almost every song.  Barlow also did a new song about feeling like a failure every time he saw the other parents picking up their children at his daughter's tony, public LA elementary school.  "Trust me.  Some of you in the audience will be able to identify with this."

Finally, at around 10:30, Sebadoh came out for their full band set.  Barlow and Loewenstein traded off on guitar and bass doing songs like "Careful," "Skull," "Ocean," "License to Confuse," and "Beauty of the Ride,"  They also did several new songs, at least one of which is available on their new, five-song, Secret EP.

Unlike certain other bands that are ruled by a single personality, Sebadoh look a lot more like a democracy.  I'd come to see Barlow really, but every time Loewenstein took over lead guitar and vocal duties the band became his.  And I've always loved watching Barlow play bass.  He's the opposite of the typical, straight-standing, stoic bass player.  He's all loose-limbs and shambling movements.  At one point, though, Barlow swung the bass -- a twenty-plus year old Squier that Loewenstein had purchased to be able to play in the band back in the day -- and broke one of the tuning machines.  Loewenstein, who didn't love the "be our own openers" idea as much as Barlow, mentioned that this would have been a nice time to have had an opening act with a bass.

They soldiered through the equipment malfunction, though, and Barlow announced, "This is our encore," just before the last song.  It was the last night of the tour, just about midnight, and they were all tired.  I could identify.  Barlow mentioned that Sebadoh have a new record coming out and invited us all to come see them again.  I, for one, can't wait.

As the lights came up and I headed out, I grabbed one of the tour-only Secret EP CD's.  Songwriting duties on the EP are, unsurprisingly, split between Barlow and Loewenstein.  It's a little taste that makes me look forward to the new Sebadoh record, which I'm sure will be full of songs that aren't Sebadoh songs.


  1. i like your comments about lou on bass. I thought the same thing...he seemed so different than most the way he played fun to see them...i just saw them in chicago a couple of nights ago...he did the same thing there announcing the encore without going off stage...I guess there's really no point in spending the energy to go off when you know you're just going to come back again...because who wouldn't want to hear more...our encore featured brand new love, a great surprise.

    1. NYC was a great show, beginning to end. It was fun getting reacquainted with all of those songs and hearing/seeing them live for the first time.

      Thanks a lot for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts.

  2. great review, saw 'em in chicago for the 3rd time in the last two years and they didn't disappoint. Great to hear those old 4 string classics like homemade, vampire, new worship, forced love etc mixed in with the new stuff. Cheers

    1. Thanks.

      It's cool that they're still making new music. So many bands from that time tour just old stuff now. Like you said, great to hear the old mixed in with the new. Soon they'll be touring for a whole new album, I guess. Looking forward to it.

  3. Corrected a glaring mis-spelling that peppered this whole post. Apologies.

  4. I saw them in NYC, can't remember where. I always think if "Sebadoh songs" as split between Lou songs and Jake songs. I skip most of the Lou songs. Jason is a god.

    At Sixes And Sevens is on my top something something list - it's a masterpiece.

    1. I'm a Lou guy myself. I even like the songs he's contributed to the last couple of Dino Jr. records. No problems at all with Jason. And it's like the whole point of the band is that they all contribute more or less equally. The Anti-Dinosaur Jr.

    2. ...oh, and I'm gonna go check out At Sixes and Sevens right now.