Thurston Moore came on stage joined by the members of Hush Arbors, one of the opening acts, and violin player Samara Lubelski. On the mike, Moore joked, "We just flew in from Boulder," to which some wag in the audience said, "You sure did," eliciting a laugh from Moore, who maintained a healthy sense of humor the rest of the show. After announcing that they were called "Chelsea Light Moving," the band went straight into "Orchard Street," which Moore dedicated to the other opening performer, Anne Waldman, whom he described as one of the most significant voices in American poetry since Moore was a kid.
The song's introductory melody struck a reflective tone like "Fearless" by Pink Floyd. But then the song began its slow ascent into emotional plateaus until the sounds blurred together into something indistinguishable from the earlier part of the song yet made from its sonic components. And just as quickly as the dense cloud of sounds formed, it dissolved into silence.
"Ono Soul" sounded like a long-lost Sonic Youth song circa Goo, and when Moore and Keith Wood of Hush Arbors came together to sculpt feedback with masterful skill and intensity with their guitars, at times it sounded like a live sample of a section of the intro to "Titanium Exposé." The rest of the time, the two men created a gyrating squall that definitely went off the deep end, but everyone came right back into the song's refrain in an instant.
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After the haunted, flamenco-inflected "Mina Loy," Moore and company performed "Circulation," during which Moore seemed to employ sounds from across much of his repertoire as a guitar wizard but with a subtlety and grace not often attributed to Moore, who can be a wild and bombastic a player. In fact this whole set was an excellent cross-section of the kinds of sounds Moore has made in his long career and a testament to his ability to not just write a solid pop song but also to bring in avant-garde ideas and sounds and make them all accessible within the overall logic of a song.
After "Burroughs" and its spiral accents, it turned out that Wood had broken a string, so Moore introduced us to Lubelski and drummer John Moloney, who, we were told, might be a little dangerous. He also told us that he had been working on a book with Michael Levine, with ties to Colorado, called Grunge. Moore emphasized this was not his title and that he had suggested Do Not Become Famous, which is a much more apt title.
He mentioned that Levine had lived in Denver in the early '80s or so, during the time when the Fluid was around, and then he solicited from the audience the name of the band that had lead into the Fluid with the song, "My Dad is a Fucking Alcoholic." Some of us yelled out, "Frantix." Apparently the band had been talking about hardcore 7-inches on the road.
Moore also made an observation about the silliness of micro-nationalism even within states, and when someone booed his mention of Boulder, he quipped, "You put the 'B.O.' in Boulder." People were a little spicy tonight, and Moore handled it well and with great humor. The set proper ended with "Psychic Hearts," but the enthusiasm in the crowd was high enough that the quartet came back out for an encore consisting of "See-Through Playmate" and the almost garage rock "Staring Statues."
Earlier in the night, the show started off with the duo of Hush Arbors. Keith Woods' guitar sounded like there had to be reverb on while he played, but it may have been the on board variety and tastefully subtle. His expert falsetto gave him a sound reminiscent of Neil Young, as did some of his countrified melodies. John Moloney kept mostly simple rhythms, but when he ventured into the more complex, he accented well Woods' own rhythms. Midset, there were shades of Codeine's introspective shimmer. Woods' ability to finger pick rhythms and leads at once looked easy in his hands, but the intricate guitar work somehow also sounded spare and lonely.
Anne Waldman, the renowned performance poet and cultural treasure, went on second to treat us to a rare opportunity to see her perform live. She began with the amusingly pointed "Did Not Serve," in which she outlined a number of the warhawks in American politics, who, in fact, did not serve but seem to have no problem sending Americans off to war. In the end, she also pointed out how she didn't serve either. For the second half of her set, Waldman brought on Hush Arbors who sat in with her keyboard player who also played guitar at the end.
Of course the material was political, but Waldman has never been one to shirk her responsibility as an artist in troubled times nor has she been one to point the finger. In her usual fashion, she moved about and gestured broadly in perfect illustration of the movement of emotion as expressed through the body. After "Prisons of Egypt," about the Egyptian Spring and how it inspired the Occupy movement, someone cried out, "You're terrible." And there were others who had other uncharitable comments.
Thurston Moore's praise of Waldman later was a good way of putting her in context for people who don't know who she is, but that moment made it embarrassing to be from here. And yet, Waldman handled it with the poise of years of hearing such unimaginative criticism and far worse and said nothing but kept the show going, finishing with the poem "Oracle Eros," which she dedicated to Moore.
Thurston Moore Larimer Lounge - Denver, CO 6/19/12
01. Orchard Street 02. Pretty Bad 03. Ono Soul 04. Cindy 05. Mina Loy 06. Circulation 07. Burroughs 08. Frank O'Hara Hot 09. Groovy & Linda 10. [Empires of Time - ?] 11. Psychic Hearts
12. See-Through Playmate 13. Staring Statues
Bias: I've been a fan of Thurston Moore's guitar work and songwriting since the '80s and Anne Waldman's poetry and performances since the '90s.
Random Detail: Ran into Janet Feder at the show.
By the Way: I was visiting with Noah Van Sciver at a used book store today, and Thurston Moore walked in. I didn't want to bother a guy while he's just looking for books, even if his band is one of the main bands that woke me up from being into entirely conventional music.
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