Turf Club, St. Paul
November 11, 2013
Sebadoh brought their righteously shambolic stoner garage rock to St. Paul for the first time last night. Appropriately enough, Lou Barlow couldn't quite remember if the band had ever played on that side of the river before. Either way, it was time for a change after their regular haunt, the 400 Bar, closed down.
For the first part of the veteran trio's 100-minute set, the songs were certainly more shambolic than righteous, causing Lou Barlow to mutter the dreadful phrase, "Shitting the bed." Eventually, they found a spark and delivered a wide array of songs from their prodigious back catalog as well as their new record, Defend Yourself.
The night started with a casual, muted introduction over the PA, "Turf Club, please welcome Sebadoh." Barlow quickly lead the group through two new songs, "I Will," and "Oxygen," with Lou introducing the second number by warmly greeting the crowd, "It's nice to be at the Turf Club. It's my first time here. This is another song from our new record -- Hold on, there's a hair in my mouth," which wasn't all that surprising, since his unruly mop of curly hair covered his face the entire set. Barlow and Jason Loewenstein switched instruments and vocal duties after only the second song, with Jason taking an exorbitant amount of time to tune his guitar.
Now, anyone who came to a Sebadoh show expecting flawless execution and a perfectly paced set had found themselves at the wrong gig. But even Loewenstein found himself apologizing for the delays early on, saying that "the show has taken a weird, tuneless turn." It was at this point that Barlow brought some levity to the situation while also addressing the show's unsteady start, "There's this timeless term called 'Shitting the bed,' and it means, well, it's like shitting the bed. It's kind of a last stop." Even raucous takes on "Dramamine" and "Shit Soup" couldn't quite give the performance the kick it needed, but once Lou returned to vocals and guitar things smoothed out a bit, with "Magnet's Coil" and an evocative, spirited run through of "Skulls" getting the night headed in the right direction.
But a false start on "Arbitrary High," with Lou stopping things a half-minute into the song by saying, "Hold on for one second. We're going to do this right," momentarily derailed things once again, but they eventually got it together and the song and the set took off. A hazy, infectious version of "Rebound" blended fluidly into a wistful, broken version of "On Fire," with Lou nonchalantly delivering the lyrics that so many of his fans have taken to heart over the years. Loewenstein took over on vocals once again, and even his songs took on an urgency and bite that they were lacking earlier, with "Not Too Amused," "Final Days," and an appropriately rowdy run through of "My Drugs" dissolving into a funky, drum-driven coda lead by Bob D'Amico.
The Barlow-led four-song run that closed out the main set really found the band catching fire. An extended drum jam by D'Amico passed a bit of time while Jason and Lou were tuning, but that beat eventually morphed into the fractured start of "Keep the Boy Alive," which gradually swelled into one of the best songs of the night. A fuzzed-out, blissful take on "Beauty of the Ride" kept the strong finish going, before the heartbreaking double-dose of "Forced Love" and "Soul and Fire" disconsolately ended the main set.
Lou came back on stage alone for the encore, and joked with the crowd a bit before the rest of the band joined him. "See, I move my eyebrows a lot while I sing, and that's a proven sign of insincerity. So, in an effort to appear to be a more sincere person, I just cover my whole fucking face." The encore launched with a lively take on "State of Mine," which Barlow said he forgot to play earlier, before he told the crowd about his lunch. "I ate at Chipotle at 11 o'clock today, and I feel like I don't ever have to eat again. It's like I've got a bowling ball in my stomach." After asking us if we'd like to hear an "old, old song, or a not so old song," the band gave us a pair of classics from their early days, "Ride the Darker Wave," and "New Worship," which both took on a modern pulse.
But it was a sublime version of "Brand New Love" which brought the night to an untamed, elegant end, with Barlow stretching out the coda of the song with a blistering solo that caused everyone to forget the struggles from earlier in the show. Sebadoh will never be perfect, and no one should ever expect them to be, but they've got a bunch of songs that will hit you right in the heart, and that is ultimately what keeps us all coming back for more.
Personal Bias: I first discovered Sebadoh by buying Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock based solely on the awesome album name (and that it was released on Sub Pop), and have been a fan ever since, seeing them each time they roll through town.
The Crowd: Full of plenty of longtime fans who have supported the band for years as well as a large amount of younger listeners who were seeing them live for the first time.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Oh, what do you know. The opening band for Sebadoh [Octa#Grape] is loud as fuck." They were actually a lot better than their horrible band name suggests.
Random Notebook Dump: I'm really regretting not picking up the band's tour-only EP on vinyl. That looked pretty sweet.
Not Too Amused
Bird In The Hand
Keep The Boy Alive
Beauty Of The Ride
Soul And Fire
State Of Mine
Ride The Darker Wave
Brand New Love