If Lou Reed’s the godfather of punk, Thurston Moore tenuously remains heir apparent to the same over-lording presence for all things American post-punk. Likewise, the old adage about bands sprouting in the wake of Velvet Underground shows seemed prescient last night during Moore’s performance at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. I personally couldn’t write a review after the haunting solo guitar and drums rendition of “Psychic Hearts” he played as a second encore with its two chord drone humming under (or over?) his mutterings, “I know you’ve had a fucked up life / Growing up in a stupid town.” It’s one of his subtle powers to perform songs of technical simplicity that are heavy with his jagged, signature virtuosity. It’s like watching a figure skater effortlessly gliding backwards. Looks like you could do it. Don’t know if you should try it at home. The best rock music in our post-punk to indie era is made of this sort of intuitive prowess. That, and a lot of roughing up along the edges.
To that end, the night was suitably scrappy, sort of a fireside chat to Sonic Youth’s fiery tirade. Moore referred to a music stand for his set lists, and sometimes lyrics and what appeared to be song structures were set to paper there as well. When Christina Carter came out to vocally accompany Moore for “Honest James,” her eyes didn’t leave her large-spiral notebook on which the lyrics looked hurriedly scrawled.
Live, the songs off of Thurston Moore’s new album, Trees Outside the Academy take on an organic layer of fuzz, and a bit of Moore’s go-to dissonance, one that was largely restrained in the studio. It’s completely to the benefit of the full band (of two acoustic guitars, bass, drummer Steve Shelley and violins), since while these new, quiet pop songs are pleasant headphone fare, it would be a somewhat cruel trick to deny both Moore and his audience the visceral thrill of pounding the numbers out a bit more instinctively on stage.
Unfortunately, their surroundings didn’t really compliment this whole shaggy legend evening. Music Hall of Williamsburg sort of updates the old North Six venue space it occupies the way the new 40-story condos along the East River a hundred feet away update the once accessible, scrappy open spaces that afforded a pristine, distanced view of Manhattan. Likewise, the venue accommodated a crowd slightly alien to the crowds of yore (if yore can refer to about a year ago). Salmon-colored button up shirts, shouts of “Cut your hair!” to the performer in question, general yammering over the performance (but not spitting or throwing beer at it), it was like the frat had finally come home, because really, with its current progression, what else can this little corner of Brooklyn become?