Sebadoh Doesn’t Miss a Note

November 14th, 2011

Sebadoh – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 12, 2011

The best thing that happened to Lou Barlow was getting kicked out of Dinosaur Jr. If he had stayed with J. Mascis back in 1988 no one ever would have heard his four-track collage experiments that began with collaborator Eric Gaffney and ended up passed around on cassettes. We’d be missing someone, who as a pioneer of lo-fi indie rock, legitimized a new genre of bedroom recordings. We also might not have heard Jason Lowenstein, who, beginning in 1989, added his bass and a dissonant hardcore style of songwriting, making Sebadoh officially a band to be reckoned with and, fortunately, one we could see on Saturday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg.

It all started for a lot of people with the first track off Sebadoh III, “The Freed Pig,” Barlow’s attack on Mascis, which has become an anthem of frustration. The audience had plenty of songs from the back catalog to request, but this was high on the list. “Don’t worry, we’re getting to it,” replied Barlow a few songs into an epic two-hour set, the final show of a lengthy tour in support of the rerelease of Bakesale. While swapping instruments during the informal show, Lowenstein and Barlow bantered back and forth about ordering too many T-shirts, driving around the country in a minivan again and how Pavement would have filled that venue in Detroit.

It’s clear, especially live, that the balance between Barlow’s catchy, more personal mellow pop sound and Lowenstein’s aggressive punk speed is what kept everyone happy on those records. Unpredictably they played nearly all of Bakesale, often reworking a track entirely like on “Give Up,” where the huge Sabbath-chord-progression breakdown was expanded into an eternity of distortion while the melody was delivered almost unrecognizably fast. After “The Freed Pig,” Barlow, referencing Mascis’ guitar style, said to Lowenstein, “I always get self-conscious when I get to the lead part of that song, you know … the solo? Like someone is waiting for me to miss a note.” —Jason Dean