Sonic Youth

Urban Outfitters, Santa Monica

July 21, 2007

By Jonah Flicker

Better Than: Dinosaur Jr. playing at Anthropologie

Download: Sonic Youth Archives

Walking through Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade mall, on my way to see Sonic Youth perform at Urban Outfitters , sponsored by Toyota’s Free Yr Radio campaign in support of KXLU… this shit’s enough to make your head spin. Corporate American commercialism shoring up LA’s bastion of indie/college radio and one of the best bands ever to arise from the NYC post-punk/no-wave/art scene undoubtedly equals big bucks for SY. As Henry Rollins recently expounded upon on his IFC show, bands like this deserve the cash and the exposure they’re getting by placing songs in ads, but it’s more than a little disconcerting to hear the KXLU program director shilling for Yaris while introducing the show (“Sign up for the giveaway! They’re really cool!”) Anyway, it’s Sonic Youth, I’m pissed because I missed their performance of Daydream Nation at the Greek the night before, and it’s a free concert for the kids lucky to show up early enough to snag wristbands.

Photos by Carlos Reyes. For more photos of the concert by Timothy Norris, click here.

After a typically head-scratch-inducing and hip-shaking DJ set from Dntel, who believes that Afrobeat, blip-hop, skronk-noise, and frenetic techno can be seamlessly blended together, Sonic Youth bounded out on stage, lead by mop-topped Thurston Moore (decked out in a nice, very adult, very Urban Outfitters pale blue button-up shirt, by the way). Though the set was supposed to draw from the band’s entire catalogue, the band’s version of adult contemporary, Rather Ripped, provided most of the material. Confusion is Sex’s tribal “The World Looks Red” started things off, though, as the band, augmented by Mark Ibold (ex-Pavement) on bass, made the “Frankie Says Relax” T-shirt rack quake. Thurston employed a drumstick as a weapon of noisy destruction on one of his many guitars for this tune, perfectly chaotic and discordant. The Youth’s ‘90s semi-hit, “Bull in the Heather,” followed, a perfect choice for this crowd – some of whom were probably born around the time Daydream Nation came out, some of whom were probably drinking legally around that time. From there, Rather Ripped reigned, with choice cuts like “Do You Believe in Rapture?” “Reena,” “What a Waste,” and “Incinerate” blasting the crowd. Kim Gordon, still a Nico-esque punk-rock goddess, practically stole the show, shimmying like a bizarro-world go-go dancer. And Steve Shelley, one of rock’s most underrated drummers, once again laid down his hyper-competent beats, the glue that holds the whole noisy mess together.

After a brief encore, demanded by the spirited but well-behaved crowd, Sonic Youth faded back into the nether regions of the store. People like me need to just get over it and realize that it’s people like me that now work for Toyota, VW, and Target and their intentions are mostly good in trying to get our indie heroes some well-deserved cash. Guess I’ll just keep pumping Sister in my Subaru as I head off to buy another franchise-approved latte.

Photo by Timothy Norris. Click here for more.

Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: My love affair with Sonic Youth began as a pre-teen listening to the soundtrack for Pump Up the Volume.

Random Detail: A stack of Daydream Nation reissue CD lay out by the register until an employee noticed that some in the crowd thought they were freebies.

By the Way: Sonic Youth recently recorded a version of Bob Dylan’s “I’m Not There” for the upcoming Todd Haynes film of the same name.

Photo by Timothy Norris. Click here for more.

LA Weekly