Sonic Youth versus the sun

Sonic Youth at the Roseland

Sonic Youth have been melting faces with mind-bending riffs since 1981, but perhaps never as literally as they did last evening at the Roseland in Portland.

As temperatures soared to 106 degrees Fahrenheit, Mallory and I were pleased to find the interior of the Roseland (while far from chilly) surprisingly comfortable. Diet Cokes in hand (we are such party animals), we took our comfortable post in the balcony to enjoy the show.

Amazing Color opened to a fidgety but respectful crowd. They passionately played a series of heavily Detroit-entrenched power guitar songs. The performance was ultimately forgettable for lack of an audible focal point, but the set was entertaining and by no means boring to sit through.

Unfortunately for Sonic Youth, the air conditioning gave out just prior to their arrival as dozens more warm bodies began to pant and sweat their way into an already stuffy theater. Thurston Moore was quick to impress, performing with a level of mastery, confidence and exuberance that was a joy to witness. The rest of the band (including the stunning Kim Gordon and bassist Mark Ibold, formerly of Pavement), while unable to exactly mimic Moore’s enthusiasm, played with a level of experience and fervor that matched the mystique of this now-legendary band.

In spite of Thurston’s wisecracks (including how good a “tall, warm glass of buttermilk” would sound), the unbearable heat coupled with punishing stage lights was clearly taking a toll on the band. Thurston’s leaps quickly turned to hops, then to rolling on the balls of his feet, then to a vertical, almost immovable stance.

Mal and I rarely leave a concert, much less a good one. But as we watched the lead guitarist’s gear cease to function 45 minutes into the set, saw the roadie try desperately to fix it as sweat dripped down our faces, we couldn’t help but become overwhelmingly aware of our thriving levels of discomfort.

Tapping into our most primal survival instincts, we did what any creature seeking refuge from the elements would do. We left, and picked up milkshakes from Burgerville. Mm, mm!

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