Tag Archives: Sonic Youth


Chad VanGaalen’s Unique Voice Is in Fine Form at Rough Trade NYC

December 7th, 2017

Chad VanGaalen – Rough Trade NYC – December 6, 2017

Since 2004, Canadian singer-songwriter Chad VanGaalen has been churning out records on his own terms. He generally plays all of the instruments, records the songs and even does the artwork for his albums. In fact, he may be more well known for his art as he is an award-winning illustrator and has animated all of his own music videos, plus some for other bands like J Mascis, Timber Timbre and Love as Laughter. Both VanGaalen’s music and his artwork take on a morbid sensibility as you can spot one of his songs right away from its detuned guitars, homespun recording quality and his high voice that often quivers like Neil Young’s ghost haunting an off season waterpark. He is truly a unique voice in today’s indie-rock scene and has put out a tremendous body of work that deserves more recognition. Playing New York City is generally pretty rare for VanGaalen, so his sold-out stop at Rough Trade NYC last night seemed all the more special.

The soul and post-punk fusion group Un Blonde opened the show, led by the eccentric guitarist and singer Jean-Sebastien Audet, who would stop his band at the drop of a dime with a single gesture and could ring out every ounce of soul from each song’s melody. They were extremely tight and VanGaalen even joined them toward the end of their set on flute for an extended free-jazz jam. And as soon as he returned for the headlining set, you could tell VanGaalen and his band were there to have fun. “We went to an arcade and got fucking wasted,” he joked with a playful smirk on his face. “We didn’t even play pinball! So is it cool if we just chill out?” From that declaration, it would be safe to think that this might be an off night for VanGaalen and Co. As It turned out, it was anything but.

The band played loose and heavy giving his bedroom DIY songs Sonic Youth–styled makeovers. VanGaalen’s voice was also in tremendous form, eliciting chills when he hit the height of his register. The singer-songwriter treated the crowd to much of his new album, Light Information, as well as career-spanning hits like “Clinically Dead” and “Heavy Stones.” VanGaalen’s main set ended with an extended noise jam during the Diaper Island track “Peace on the Rise,” which felt transcendent and inspired. For the encore, he played two numbers off his 2008 album, Soft Airplane, “City of Electric Light” and “Rabid Bits of Time.” The latter’s chorus, “No one knows where we go/ When we’re dead or when we’re dreaming,” sounded more triumphant than on record and was a truly powerful way to end the night. —Pat King | @MrPatKing


Thurston Moore Comes Home to Play The Bowery Ballroom on Friday

July 19th, 2017

When New York City music icons Sonic Youth broke up—or at least went on hiatus—in 2011, no one really knew what to expect of the group’s members. But, fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long to find out that vocalist-guitarist Thurston Moore would remain busy, musically speaking. He’s worked with Yoko Ono and he’s done his own thing with a pair of bands, with Chelsea Light Moving and the Thurston Moore Group, alongside Deb Googe on bass, Steve Shelley on drums and James Sedwards on guitar. Moore (above, recording “Transcendent Transaction”) released Rock n Roll (stream it below) earlier this year to some considerable acclaim. The “new solo LP evokes the hippie leanings that were always at the heart of Sonic Youth,” says Pitchfork. “With some of his most joyous lyrics to date, Moore uses outer aggression to achieve inner bliss,” while Spin calls it: “His most transportive solo record yet.” Now based in London, Moore comes back home to NYC to play The Bowery Ballroom on Friday night.


Catch Blonde Readhead at Warsaw on Saturday Night

June 11th, 2015

Blonde Redhead have a unique backstory with an international bent: Start with twin brothers Amedeo and Simone Pace, who were born in Italy, raised in Montreal and studied jazz in Boston. Then add a chance encounter with Japanese art students Kazu Makino and Maki Takahashi at a New York City restaurant. Next, cut to Amedeo and Makino on guitars and vocals, Takahashi on bass and Simone on drums. Their sound caught the attention of Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, who produced and released the band’s self-titled debut on his own label in ’95. Takahashi left a short while later, and despite cycling through several different bassists, Blonde Readhead (above, playing “Here Sometimes” live for 4AD Sessions) put out four more albums over the next five years, often changing their sound on each one. The only thing that’s really slowed down this group is when Makino sustained serious injuries after getting tossed from and then stepped on by a horse. But they’ve been back on the grind ever since. Their ninth studio album, Barragán (stream it below) was released last year to some considerable plaudits. “Just as poetic, mysterious and bewitching as Blonde Redhead’s more baroque albums,” wrote AllMusic, “Barragán is a quietly audacious set of songs that ranks among the band’s finest music.” See them play Warsaw on Saturday night. Performing as a duo, Grizzly Bear’s drummer Chris Bear and keyboardist Aaron Arntz open the show.


Catch the LAMC Indie Showcase Tonight at Mercury Lounge

July 9th, 2014

The 2014 Latin Alternative Music Conference, which brings Latin music to a wider audience, kicked off yesterday, and it continues tonight at Mercury Lounge in full effect with a deep lineup. The psychedelic five-piece El Mató a un Policía (above, performing Mas o Menos Bien), out of La Plata, Argentina, combine raw punk with experimental noise rock, like the Ramones crossed with Sonic Youth. Uruguayan electronic band Santé Les Amis make bouncy music with catchy melodies—and they make their U.S. debut here. Singer-songwriter Caloncho is a study in folk music, and he employs nontraditional instruments. Danay Suarez, straight out of Havana, proves that hip-hop is worldwide, and it goes even where American diplomatic relations do not. Venezuelan trio Los Crema Paraiso mash up their country’s traditional music with funk, jazz, rock and electronica. And the Chilean singer-songwriter Me Llamo (Sebastián) is known for his melodious voice. All in all, it’s a show not to miss.




Cosmonauts Play the Late Show Tonight at Mercury Lounge

April 3rd, 2014

Guitarists Alexander Ahmadi and Derek Cowart first met through a mutual friend in Orange County, California. They began jamming together before adding drummer Cole Devine and James Sanderson to form Cosmonauts. Inspired by the likes of the Velvet Underground and Sonic Youth, the four-piece began making loud, droning guitar jams with a healthy dose of reverb. They’ve released three albums since 2011, New Psychic Denim (stream it below), then If You Wanna Die Then I Wanna Die (stream it below), followed last year by Persona Non Grata (stream it below), about which AllMusic reports: “fans of the current garage-psych scene will want to check it out.” They appeared on Last Call with Carson Daly on Tuesday, but tonight, Cosmonauts (above, performing “What Me Worry” for the HoC) hit the Lower East Side to play the late show at Mercury Lounge.


Yuck Headline The Bowery Ballroom Tomorrow Night

February 14th, 2014

Yuck are an international band: Singer-guitarist Max Bloom is a Londoner, bassist Mariko Doi hails from Hiroshima and drummer Jonny Rogoff is straight out of Jersey. (Guitarist Ed Hayes recently replaced original member David Blumberg, while Bloom took over Blumberg’s vocal duties.) Yuck (above, performing “Operation”) have put out a pair of albums, a self-titled affair (stream it below) in 2011—which “recalls the aesthetic of some of the forefathers of indie rock,” according to Consequence of Sound, which also glowingly makes comparisons to Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth and the Jesus and Mary Chain—and
last year’s Glow & Behold (stream it below)—about which PopMatters says “it’s a real pleasure to hear their take on the past.” But in the very near future, you can see Yuck play The Bowery Ballroom tomorrow night.


Thurston Moore’s Chelsea Light Moving Play The Bowery Ballroom

April 3rd, 2013

When NYC music icons Sonic Youth broke up—or at least went on hiatus—in 2011, no one really knew what to expect of the group’s members. But, fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long to find out what vocalist-guitarist Thurston Moore would do. Which, in this case, was start another band, Chelsea Light Moving, with bassist Samara Lubelski, drummer John Moloney and guitarist Keith Wood. Their acclaimed self-titled debut album (stream it below), filled with thrashing guitars and counterculture references aplenty, came out last month on Matador Records. And Chelsea Light Moving (above, playing “Burroughs” for KEXP FM last month at SXSW) are now winding down their tour, but you can still see them this Friday at The Bowery Ballroom.


Five Questions with … Roger Miller of Mission of Burma

January 16th, 2013

All Boston’s Mission of Burma did in their original early-’80s incarnation was put out two albums, Signals, Calls, and Marches and the seminal Vs., and essentially give birth to the post-punk movement. The quartet—Roger Miller (vocals and guitar), Clint Conley (bass), Peter Prescott (drums) and Martin Swope (tape manipulations and sound engineer)— quickly became known for solid songwriting, a unique punk-tinged sound and extremely loud live shows. But after Miller developed tinnitus, Mission of Burma (above, playing “1, 2, 3, Party!!” for KEXP FM) broke up in 1983. However the band’s legacy carried on, influencing the likes of Fugazi, Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Pearl Jam (who even named their second LP Vs.). And that’s where this story would end, but, seemingly out of nowhere, Mission of Burma reunited in 2002—with Bob Weston replacing Swope—and went on to release four more critically acclaimed albums, including last year’s Unsound. Now they’re back in town to play The Bowery Ballroom on Friday, and last week Roger Miller answered Five Questions for The House List.

What’s the last band you paid to see live?
Do DJs count? DJ Jonathan Toubin was spinning amazing unknown soul and R&B in Boston for a dance-party vibe a few days ago. Went dancing there with my gal. As far as non-DJs, Boston’s Callithumpian Consort performing a John Cage piece (and pieces by some of his cohorts) just before New Year’s Eve.

Where do you like to hang out in NYC? And do you ever feel like you could live here?
I hang near the clubs (The Bowery Ballroom; Lincoln Center) I play, or else at friends’ places I stay, in Tribeca, the East Village and Williamsburg. When I first went to NYC with Burma in 1979, I thought I’d live there eventually. Gradually this wore off as I get to visit NYC all the time (mostly playing shows) and hence have no need for the intense compression of NYC life.

Do you have any crutches when writing a song—are there certain words or styles you feel you lean on too much?
I’ve been told I write about water too much, and that I use the word forget too often. I believe this critique is accurate. If I’m having no inspiration for lyrics, I go to my dream journal. While this is definitely a form of a crutch, it’s not negative in my opinion. It’s always surprising and refreshing.

Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you?
All my songs are, to some degree, first person—even the ones that don’t make sense (or especially those).

After all these years on the road, what have you learned to make touring easier?
In the last five years I started using my laptop (with headphones) for composing scores, and the scoring program plays the scores (rather crassly) to the score I’m writing. This takes me away from my immediate environment, putting me in more of a “head” space than a “van” space. Books are good, too. —R. Zizmor


This Double Bill at Webster Hall Might Get Loud

July 31st, 2012

From the beginning Toadies had a revolving lineup anchored by Todd Lewis (vocals and guitar) and Mark Reznicek (drums). The Fort Worth, Texas, band’s post-grunge sound is influenced by the Pixies and pychedelic-tinged Southern rock. And their “Possum Kingdom” was undoubtedly one of the biggest songs to erupt from the grunge explosion left in Nirvana’s wake. Despite lasting so long, Toadies (above, doing “No Deliverance”) don’t just mine their past. In fact the group’s fifth album, Play.Rock.Music, is out today.

Page Hamilton moved from Oregon to New York City to learn jazz guitar in the ’80s. But upon discovering distortion through the likes of Sonic Youth, he moved in a different direction, founding Helmet in 1989. With a raw sound and Hamilton’s snarling vocals, Helmet (below, performing “See You Dead”), in earning comparisons to Soundgarden, was the only East Coast band playing what would soon be labeled grunge. The group’s fierce sound remains to this day, and, along with Toadies, they play Webster Hall on Thursday.


Sonic Youth – Music Hall of Williamsburg – November 24, 2009

November 25th, 2009

Sonic Youth - Music Hall of Williamsburg - November 24, 2009

Photos courtesy of Mina K


Grow a Pair: Win Free Tickets to See Sonic Youth on 11/21

November 17th, 2009


Sonic Youth is a band that keeps moving forward. Sure, they put out their first album, Sonic Youth, way back in 1982. But their most recent effort—their 16th(!) studio disc—the aptly named The Eternal, was released this past June. Not resting on their laurels, they’re playing three local shows over the next eight days. Bad news: They’re all sold out. Good news: You can try to Grow a Pair of tickets to this Saturday’s Terminal 5 show from The House List. Just fill out the form below. List your name, e-mail address, which show you’re trying to win tickets to (Sonic Youth, 11/21) and a brief message telling us your best technique to cope with it getting dark so damn early. Eddie Bruiser, who’s basically nocturnal and doesn’t mind the encroaching darkness, will notify the winner by noon on Friday, November 20th. Good luck.

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Downtown Band Rocks Uptown Theater

July 6th, 2009

Sonic Youth – United Palace – July 3, 2009

Sonic Youth
United Palace Theater is an impressive venue with ornately carved, vaulted ceilings, elaborate hanging fixtures and gold as far as you can see. Plus, it’s a novel experience to sit in seats and watch Sonic Youth play on a theatrical stage. The acoustics of this space were painstakingly designed for live sound, but of course that’s lost when the amps are turned up to 11.

Friday night, this majestic palace hosted rock royalty. Just offstage sat a double custom rack holding rows of guitars that would make any 16-year-old boy cry. This resulted in a lot of guitar choreography between songs—roadies handed over the next prepared guitar to Thurston Moore, who proceeded to grind the neck against an amp, throw it on the stage and step on the strings. After almost 30 years, it’s impressive to continuously put on a show like this. Sonic Youth is a band driven by their passion for exploring dissonant sound in a pop structure and it’s evident on their latest album, the appropriately titled The Eternal.

When the band returned to the stage for the encore, Moore beckoned to the audience: “Come closer, closer to us.” Those in the crowd abandoned their seats to get up close and personal. “That’s better.” This is where the show went from passive observation to a sea of bouncing mayhem, which encouraged the band to come out for yet another encore and play two obscure tracks from their early catalog, “Brother James” and “Death Valley ’69.” Sonic Youth doesn’t rely on playing their groundbreaking early work, so these songs won’t be repeated live anytime soon. They continue to innovate and remain one of the most challenging and influential bands in experimental rock. —Jason Dean

You Can’t Blame the Youth

July 2nd, 2009

Thurston Moore met Kim Gordon in 1980. Nearly 30 years—and one marriage later—the iconic group they formed, Sonic Youth, is still going as strong as ever, touring in support of their 16th studio album, the fittingly titled The Eternal, out last month. Tomorrow this dowtown band brings their sprawling, avant-garde sound uptown to the United Palace Theater. Check out Sonic Youth here playing “Teenage Riot” on the BBC music show Later…With Jools Holland and then start your three-day weekend off hot by seeing them play live.