Chelsea Light Moving at Triple Rock, 3/27/13
Photo By Steve Cohen
Chelsea Light Moving
With Cave and Cyrus Vance
Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
March 27, 2013
In the cover story of this week's New York Times Magazine, Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, divulges a popular Italian saying amongst performers in the moment before the curtain rises: In bocca al lupo, which translates to 'Into the mouth of the wolf.'
Last night at the Triple Rock, Thurston Moore and his cracking new band, Chelsea Light Moving, took local music fans directly into the mouth of the wolf with a strident and stunning 75-minute set that found Moore in fine spirits, brazenly leading the group through a tempestuous series of songs from their self-titled debut -- as well as a couple of brand new songs -- that boldly proved that while Sonic Youth will always be missed, Thurston really hasn't slowed down one bit.
After spending a few minutes getting their sound sorted and dialed in, Moore announced sheepishly, "We're ready" before he eventually introduced his band (Keith Wood/guitars, Samara Lubelski/bass & violin, John Moloney/drums), playfully and affectionately saying, "We're Chelsea Light Moving and we're from Minneapolis." The set then started with the slow-burning squall of "Sleeping Where I Fall," which Moore dedicated to Peter Coyote. It was sludgy and riotous, churning with a raw, breathless energy that the band kept up throughout the entire performance. An extended SY-like coda eventually morphed into the discordant, fury-filled riffs of "Alighted," which really set the performance on fire.
"Groovy and Linda" was a dark, doomy number that Thurston acerbically described as "a song about two hippie lovers who went down to the basement and never came back." And, no matter the prodigious talents of the band behind him, this was definitely Thurston's show, as he repeatedly counted off breakdowns in the midst of the wall of noise the group was generating like a plaid-clad indie rock conductor, with the lone microphone set on stage in front of him accentuating the point that he was certainly the main force leading this turbulent charge.
After a particularly raucous take on "Lip," Thurston asked a fan for a sip of their beer, and when he found out it was empty he graciously went backstage and got a beer for each of them, furthering the bond Moore had with the longtime Sonic Youth fans who filled the club. "This is a song written for Roky Erickson called 'Empires of Time,'" Moore then announced before the band tore through a booming rendition of the track written in honor of the legendary founder of 13th Floor Elevators. Throughout the set, Thurston and Co. repeatedly demonstrated that this wasn't the typical tentative first Minneapolis performance that you see from so many new bands -- Chelsea Light Moving were in high gear straight from the start and were there to steamroll the crowd into submission with their explosive new songs.
Photos By Steve Cohen
The blistering, junk-fueled love letter to the legendary William Burroughs, "Burroughs," kept the set churning, as did the experimental East Village hum of "Frank O'Hara Hit," as the two songs formed the most volatile, incendiary odes to writers that I've ever heard a band perform. In fact, the creative ghosts of New York color much of these new songs, as Moore gives an affectionate nod to the city's illustrious, infamous artistic past while also taking that tradition charging headfirst into the future with his frenetic new sonic creations.
"Hold on, I've got to get something -- anyone want a beer?" Moore asked to an apparently thirsty audience. Seriously though, who would ever really turn down a beer from Thurston Moore? "C'mon, I've only got a couple," Moore joked, as he went backstage and dragged out a three foot high Red Bull can/cooler, and the group proceeded to pass out all the beers they had in there to their receptive fans. It was a thoroughly generous moment -- not sure how the Triple Rock felt about it, though -- that again forged a deeper connection between the band and their boisterous fans.
Moore even brought out his backpack during all of this, perhaps digging in there for his own personal stash. But it turns out he had a lyric sheet folded into an old shirt, which he then taped to the mic stand as he lead the band through a spirited version of their new song, "Ecstasy," which Thurston teased during his intro, "We wrote a song a couple days ago, and we're going to try and play it now. We're obviously a little short on material." The lyrics to the track were inspired by a John Donne-related chocolate bar (?!), which continued Thurston's awesome trend of writing songs about authors.
Photos By Steve Cohen
After some banter with the crowd where someone dismissed Donne because "he's been dead forever," Moore cheekily replied, "No one's dead forever. I can't believe that someone is John Donne-heckling me right now." Another hard-charging new song, "Sunday Stage," followed, as the band showed that they have more hits in their arsenal and that Chelsea Light Moving should be around for a while. At the end of the main set, Moore mockingly introduced another new song by saying, "For our last little number in tonight's recital, we'd like to play a song -- it's not exactly an instructional piece." And with that, the band closed things down with a fiery take on the last new song of the evening, "No Go," which again found the band churning out a blissful wall of discord that saw them off to ringing speakers and a roaring crowd.
After a brief encore break, Lubelski picked up her violin and joined in on a dissonant take of the Psychic Hearts standout, "Staring Statues," which Moore said was written about Richard Hell. "He's going to be doing a reading in Minneapolis in the next couple of days," Thurston said affectionately. "I recommend that you go if you can." When someone mentioned it might be sold-out (but didn't actually have any clear idea if it was or not), Moore led the group into the last song of the night by saying, "We're going to sell this next song out." And indeed, the 10-minute version of "Ono Soul" (also from Psychic Hearts) was definitely a shop-stopper, featuring a few fake-outros before Thurston recharged the raucous riffs once again, even after he broke a string on his guitar.
Minneapolis may still be in mourning over the breakup of Sonic Youth, but on Wednesday night at the Triple Rock, Thurston Moore and Chelsea Light Moving emphatically proved that there is no reason to lament the loss as long as he's still around making music as riveting as this.
Photo By Steve Cohen
Personal Bias: I haven't missed too many local Sonic Youth gigs over the past twenty+ years, and will never tire of witnessing the sounds Moore generates with his guitar. This was a FAR better set than Moore's uneven 2011 Varsity Theater performance with Kurt Vile.
The Crowd: Definitely skewed older, with a lot of old-school Sonic Youth fans wanting to hear where Thurston is going to take his sound in the future.
Overheard In The Crowd: Not too much over the squall of guitars and feedback.
Random Notebook Dump: I'm still trying to get over the disappointment of not getting a beer handed to me by Thurston Moore.
Sleeping Where I Fall
Groovy & Linda
Empires Of Time
Frank O'Hara Hit
Staring Statues (Encore)
Ono Soul (Encore)
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.