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Archive for the ‘Sonic Youth’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-Live At Brixton Academy (December 14, 1992).

Sonic Youth (well, more accurately, Steve Shelley) has been releasing all kinds of old Sonic Youth releases on bandcamp.  I used to collect a lot of Sonic Youth stuff, so this should scratch all kinds of itches.

However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been less “gotta-catch-’em-all” about stuff like this.  Plus, there’s something so impermanent about digital releases, that it sort of doesn’t count.

Nevertheless, I was pleased to see this live recording because this is my favorite era of Sonic Youth.  I first really got into them with Goo and Dirty so this show really pushes all the buttons for me.  Sonic Youth is the one band I really regret never seeing live (especially after having seen Thurston Moore solo–his show was fantastic, so I can’t imagine how good a full band show would have been).  This era would have been the one I would have most wanted to see.

Recorded live on the first of two December nights in 1992 at the Brixton Academy in London, near the end of Sonic Youth’s European tour with Pavement and Cell. This concert was recorded and broadcast by the BBC, and then subsequently widely-bootlegged. This sound-recording is from the band’s own audio master of the December 14th concert and includes performances not broadcast by the BBC or on bootlegs.

The set opens with a little jazzy sax intro music.  The band starts playing some feedback noise and then after a minute and a half Steve Shelley starts the nifty drum pattern for “Shoot.”  Then comes the recognizable bass line and guitar noises before Kim starts whispering the lyrics.  Her voice sound rough and whispery.  It segues into “100%” with a wall of noise and scraping guitars.  I always enjoyed the noises that this song throws around the simple riff.  It’s not as controlled as on the record, but it’s all there–I’d have loved to see this live.

This set feel like a greatest hits to me, perhaps because of how much I like these albums.  To segue from “100%” to “Dirty Boots” is terrific. This song sounds fantastic live–some wild guitar noises from both Thurston and Lee and some really intense drumming from Steve in the middle.  This basically means that Kim is holding the whole song together.

“Kool Thing” starts up–once again the guitars duplicate the record remarkably well for a sound that I don’t understand how its made.  Kim’s delivery is unusual here–she seems strained and like she’s improving things (unless that’s just how she sings).

Thurston sends “Swimsuit Issue” out to Cass from the Senseless fucking Things.  The noisy guitars coordinate with the rumbling drums as Kim growls through the song.

“I Love Her all the Time” has what I assume is a loop of guitar noise that is a sort of the bedroock for Kim and Steve’s rhythm. The song is slowly sung until the middle freakout–another thing I wish I’d seen live.  During the end part as Thurston whisper-sings the lyrics, someone (Lee?) is making terrific waves of noise and feedback.

Lee sings “Genetic” and his song adds such a nice distinction–a catchy song with a great melody.  It’s a shame this is his only song of the show.

“There’s a Sound World” is a another slower Thurston song.  It’s followed by “Tom Violence” which is dedicated to Richard Hell (who I assume was not there).

Then Thurston says “I’m pretty happy for the freedom and liberation of Princess Diana.  [I had to do a little historical digging, because i thought he was talking about her death, which seemed really harsh.  But she made news in 1992 when she divorced Prince Charles.]  “She should never have married that fucking asshole.  But her baby is the king.  And this is for her, this is called “Sugar Cane.” It’s catchy and smooth with some great noises.   There’s a quiet jamming session in the middle with them quietly getting their guitars to ring out.  At the end of the song it sounds liek Thurston says “you’re way out of tune there.”  This is fascinating given the noise that just came out.

They follow it with a bunch of guitar gibberish as a way of introduction to the simple and catchy “Shizophrenia.”  The middle has a fun juxtaposition of gentle harmonics and noises.   The end of the song sounds like a manic saxophone solo and drums–presumably prerecorded.

Thurston thanks Pavement and Cell [what a bill!].  He says they’ll be back tomorrow if any of you have enough money to afford it. Huggy Bear are playing tomorrow.

Then he introduces the next song: “This is an anti police song called “Drunken Butterlfy.”  It starts off but immediately crashes Thurston says “I’m not drunk” and Kim says “You mentioned that world police and it put total bad juju all over the fucking song.”  I always enjoyed the presumably Doors-mocking chorus of “I love you. I love you. I love you.  What’s your name.”  I also absolutely love the short feedback noise that separates the chorus from the verses.  I’m so glad its duplicated here. Sometimes you never know if the noises are purposeful or just happy accidents.

The song is fairly short and the band leaves for an encore break with a wall of low end feedback and crashing sounds–I assume it was deafening.

The band comes back to start “JC.”  This slow song features Kim singing and a lot of scraping and noisy elements especially during the stretched-out middle section.

Up next is the anti-white power song “Youth Against Fascism.”  He says it’s an anti-Skrewdriver song.  I’ve never met the guys from Skrewdriver.  They might be nice guys but they sound like fucking assholes.”  Skrewdriver is  neo-Nazi band I’m glad I’ve never heard of before.  “Y.A.F.” has the most explicitly political and clear lyrics of all of them.

Then he says he’d like to send this song out to Sinead–I believe you.  I can’t recall what was happening with her at the time.  “Expressway to yr Skull” is the final song.  It starts slowly and turns into glorious noise fest.  The first part of the is loud and brash.  The second half slows things down with the guys manipulating feedback and Steve hitting the occasional cymbal.  I’m sure Kim is creating feedback, but she’s still adding some low end rumble to the noise.  This song is listed as 14 minutes but the noise ends around 11.  It’s replaced by a really beautiful acoustic guitar piece.  No credit is given to the creator. I wonder who it is.

This is a great live concert document.  It sounds great and is like a greatest hits for me.

[READ: September 7, 2020] “Flashlight”

This story concerns Louisa.  She is a young girl who is suddenly afraid of the dark.

Her mother is in a wheelchair and Louisa been punishing her in subtle ways.  Mostly by being distant.  The first time, when her mother came to say goodnight “she couldn’t stand another second of her mother being there,” peering in through the cracked door.  From that moment on she has said every night, “close it all the way please.”  It was satisfyingly hurtful without being wrong.

Then she would lie in bed listening to her mother wheel away.  When she was safely far enough away, she would get out of bed and reopen the door a crack.

On this night she overheard voices talking about sending her to a child psychologist.

The therapist was nice, the room was friendly, but Louisa wasn’t having any of it. (more…)

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[POSTPONED: July 24, 2020] Kim Gordon

indexKim Gordon was a founding member of Sonic Youth (duh).  I never got to see Sonic Youth while they were together (how could I have missed them??).

I recently saw Thurston Moore solo and it was fantastic.  Kim Gordon’s solo output is a bit more esoteric, but I’d love to be able to see her live at least once.

I was really looking forward to this show.  But then on May 6, Kim Gordon announced

Due to the ongoing desire to keep everyone safe, my US shows have now also been cancelled. Tickets will be automatically refunded at point of purchase. I look forward to seeing you all in the near future.

I hope she can come back around when things are better.

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oct30SOUNDTRACK: NEIL YOUNG-Arc (1991).

arcArc came with Neil Young’s outstanding live album Weld (and then later on its own).  It contains one 35 minute track called “Arc (A Compilation Composition).”

This album was recorded during Neil Young’s tour with Sonic Youth opening (MAN, I wish I had seen that tour).

Because it was 1991 and you couldn’t really look up this kind of information, I just assumed that Neil and Crazy Horse had created some kind of 35 minute jam (even though it doesn’t really sound like all one song, but how closely does one listen to Arc?).

Of course, listening to it now, it is pretty obvious that it’s pieces of shows strung together.  (the subtitle also gives it away, although I don’t think that the subtitle was on the actual disc).

Wikipedia talks about an interview that Neil Young gave in which he says he recorded a film in 1987 called Muddy Track

 which consisted of the beginnings and endings of various songs from his 1987 European tour. Young placed a video camera on his amplifier during the 1987 tour and recorded the beginnings and endings of various songs, and later edited them down into the film’s soundtrack. “It was the sound of the entire band being sucked into this little limiter, being compressed and fuckin’ distorted to hell,”

And in what makes 100% sense, on this 1991 tour,

Young then showed the video to Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, who suggested that he record an entire album in a similar manner. However, Arc was not recorded through video camera microphones, as was the case with Muddy Track, but instead was compiled from various professional multi-track recordings made throughout the tour.

So what you get is 35 minutes of noise (not so much feedback, as guitar rumblings that a band might do as a song slowly grinds to a rumbling halt).

You can hear snippets of vocals.  In particular, you can hear him singing “Like a Hurricane” and “Love and Only Love” in what definitely sounds like the end of a take–as the band’s instruments ring out.

There’s occasional moments where the rumble is interrupted by a burst of drums from Ralph Molina or you can clearly hear some of Frank “Poncho” Sampedro’s guitar and univox stringman.

There’s a little bit of audience response.  At the opening of the disc but especially at the 25 minute mark as a song feedbacks out and the crowd cheers before the band puts out  rocking drum-filled cacophonous ending.

At 28 minutes the “song” actually sort of turns into an actual song with Billy Talbot playing a simple four note bass line.  But that doesn’t last too long before another ending is tacked on.

The last few minutes has someone singing “No more pain” and then shouting a story that is somewhat inaudible although I think I hear “mom” and “post office.”

This is certainly not something to listen to much.  But I found it an interesting sonic experience today.  if nothing else, it made me really wish I had seen that 1991 show.

[READ: August 30, 2019] “Beyond the Pale”

I really like Nick Hornby’s music (and book) reviews.  He and I don’t share the same taste, but we have a lot of moments that overlap (he’s more traditional while I’m more experimental).

In many ways it is no surprise that he hated Radiohead’s Kid A, but the amount of savagery he does to it is quite astonishing.

He essentially compares it to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music and Neil Young’s Arc.  Not in content, but in the giant middle finger he feels it is to fans of the band.  Although he does admit that Kid A is “nowhere near as teeth-grindingly tedious” as Metal Machine Music.

He feels that the album stems from the idea that fans are interested in “every twist and turn of the band’s career no matter how trivial or pretentious.”  Although a valid question is what has earned Radiohead its huge audience.  I have not figured that one out myself. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TRAGIC MULATTO-“Freddy” (1987)

I knew of Tragic Mulatto because they were on Alternative Tentacles records (home to Dead Kennedys).  But I’d actually never heard them before, I don’t think. I knew they were a noise rock band, but I had no idea they were quite so explicit.

The main band members were singer Flatula Lee Roth (Gail Coulson), guitarist Richard Skidmark (Tim Carroll) and bassist Reverend Elvister Shanksley aka Lance Boyle (Alistair Shanks).

This five minute song starts like a deranged circus with a swirling saxophone and  a muddled guitar and drum stomp.  Once the music establishes itself, the vocals come in, a deep growly evil spokenish rhyme that I can’t exactly make out.

Around 1:45 Flatuta takes over, singing a refrain of

“Don’t let him cum in your … butt … ear … rear … head … bed … feet … all over your sheets.” etc. that runs for the rest of the song. It’s surprisingly catchy, but you’d not want to sing it at the dinner table.

Fascinatingly, this album is described as featuring more tightly structured music that emphasized melody was less satirical and more serious.

It sounds like Tragic Mulatto, and especially Gail Coulson, (who is said to have possessed a simply astonishing vocals range) were really ahead of their time.

[READ: July 10, 2019] “Marmalade Sky”

I love Nell Zink’s writing and was pretty excited to see that she had a new story.  This is an excerpt from her new book Doxology.

It is 1990, Pam went over to Joe’s place to listen to records.

Joe let Pam in and introduced her to a man holding a piece of black plastic.  His name was Daniel Scoboda and he was holding the Sassy Sonic youth flexi.

Joe said he subscribed to the magazine as soon as he heard about it. But Pam, who introduced herself as Pam Diaphragm, said the magazine wasn’t long for the world.  Whats the demographic? Thirteen year-old girls who fuck?  Advertisers really go for that.

Joe said he’s a Sonic Youth completist. The only thing he doesn’t have is the single “I Killed Christgau with My Big Fuckin’ Dick.”  Daniel said its not a real record, the editor of the magazine made it up.  [I love this Sonic Youth indie rock banter]. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACKLONELY LEARY-“Flaneur” (2018).

At the end of every year publications and sites post year end lists.  I like to look at them to see if I missed any albums of significance.  But my favorite year end list comes from Lars Gottrich at NPR.  For the past ten years, Viking’s Choice has posted a list of obscure and often overlooked bands.  Gottrich also has one of the broadest tastes of anyone I know (myself included–he likes a lot of genres I don’t).  

Since I’m behind on my posts at the beginning of this year, I’m taking this opportunity to highlight the bands that he mentions on this year’s list.  I’m only listening to the one song unless I’m inspired to listen to more.

One of the things that I love about Lars, and this list is a great example, is how effortlessly multicultural he is.  He doesn’t listen to music because it’s from somewhere, he listens to music wherever it;s from because he likes it.  So this band, with the decidedly English-sounding name Lonely Leary is actually from China.  Lars says that the

The excellent label Maybe Mars documents the current Chinese underground music scene, from the psych-rock of Chui Wan and surfy shoegaze of Dear Eloise to P.K. 14, Beijing’s experimental rock pioneers.

Lonely Leary is a post-punk band which sounds like they would fit right in with Protomartyr or even The Fall, Sonic Youth or Joy Division.  The fact that they are from China and sing in Chinese doesn’t affect the tone and overall feel of the music, it somehow makes it more intense (to my ears).

Lars describes their debut album as one “where noise needles into perversely kitschy surf riffs and hoarsely barked punctuation marks.”  Although I hear less kitschy and more Dead Kennedy’s guitar and feedback noise.

The sounds they achieve throughout the album are great.  “Flaneur” opens the disc with a screaming feedback followed by a rumbling bass.  There’s some great guitar lines from Song Ang (which remind me of Savages) and then Qiu Chi barks his dissatisfaction through to a satisfyingly Dead Kennedys-ish chorus.  There’s even some Savages-esque chanting as the song squeals to and end.

This is great stuff.

[READ: January 4, 2019]  “Father”

Here is a new year and a new essay from Sedaris that perfectly mixes emotional sadness and hilarious light-heartedness.

The night before his fathers 95th birthday, his father turned in the kitchen and fell.  David’s sister and brother-in-law discovered him the next day and brought him to the hospital.  They felt the most disturbing thing was his disorientation, including getting mad at the doctor: “you’re sure asking a lot of questions.”  He was lucid the following day, but he was quite weak.

David was in Princeton on the night his father fell [at a show that I could have been at–we opted not to go this year].   He called his father and said that he needed him to be alive long enough to see trump impeached.

A few months later, his father moved into a retirement home.  David and Hugh visited and at first he seemed out of it, but hr recognized both of them instantly.  The thing was that he was no injured.  He had tried to move his grandfather clock (one of the prized possessions he brought to the home) and it fell on him (for real).  Many family members called the clock Father Time, so David said to Hugh “When you’re 95 and Father Time literally knocks you to the ground, don’t you think he’s maybe trying to tell you something?” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MUDHONEY-“Halloween” (1988).

Mudhoney recorded a cover of Sonic Youth’s “Halloween” just two years after the original was released.

Mudhoney, a deliberately noisy and abrasive band recorded a deliberately noisy and abrasive version of this song.  And yet at the same time, it doesn’t hold a candle to Sonic Youth;s version for deliberate noise and chaos.

On the other hand, in many respects the Mudhoney version is better.  It feels more like a “real song” with the guitar, bass and drums all playing along fairly conventionally.  It follows the same musical patterns as the original, with that same cool riff, but it just feels…more.

Mark Arm sing/speaks the lyrics more aggressively and less sensuously than Kim Gordon did.  In some way it helps to understand the original song a little more, as if they translated it from Sonic Youth-land into a somewhat more mainstream version.  Although it is hardly mainstream what with the noise and fuzz, the cursing and the fact that it lasts 6 minutes.

It feels like Mark emphasizes these lyrics more than the others although it may just be that the songs builds more naturally to them:

And you’re fucking me
Yeah, you’re fucking with me
You’re fucking with me
As you slither up, slither up to me
Your lips are slipping, twisting up my insides
Sing along and just a swinging man
Singing your song
Now I don’t know what you want
But you’re looking at me
And you’re falling on the ground
And you’re twisting around
Fucking with my, my mind
And I don’t know what’s going on

Happy Halloween

[READ: October 24, 2018] “From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-“Halloween” (1986).

This early Sonic Youth song is creepy mostly for Kim Gordon’s whispered, drawling, sexy delivery.

The music is a simple, somewhat pretty guitar melody.  The drums are almost tribal toms, that propel the story along.  There are noisy shards from the other guitar.  I don’t hear any bass at all.

The musical motif repeats itself over and over as Kim whispers

There’s something shifting in the distance
Don’t know what it is
Day as dead as nights
Except for the feeling That’s
crawling up inside of me As you
sing your song As you
swing along, and you’re
It’s your, your song
It’s the Devil in me
makes me stare at you As you
twist up along, you
sing your song And you
slithering up to me and You’re
so close I just a
Wanna touch you and I
sing your song And you
don’t know what’s going on
But you want me to come Along
As you sing your, your song

It ends with a hollow bell ringing over and over.

I don’t know what it has to do with Halloween, but it’s pretty creepy (and sexy at the same time).

[READ: October 23, 2018] “The Lake”

Just in time for Halloween, from the people who brought me The Short Story Advent Calendar and The Ghost Box. comes Ghost Box II.

This is once again a nifty little box (with a magnetic opening and a ribbon) which contains 11 stories for Halloween.  It is lovingly described thusly:

The Ghost Box returns, like a mummy or a batman, to once again make your pupils dilate and the hair on your arms stand straight up—it’s another collection of individually bound scary stories, edited and introduced by comedian and spooky specialist Patton Oswalt.

There is no explicit “order” to these books; however, Patton Oswalt will be reviewing a book a day on his Facebook page.

Much respect to Oswalt, but I will not be following his order.  So there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKJUST SAY NOËL: A Gift for You from Geffen Records (1996).

This is a weird mix of songs.  I purchased this all those years ago because I loved the Sire Records Just Say series, and this seemed like a fine addition.  But this album really pushes what might have been anticipated in a Christmas collection.

Look at the names!  Beck! Sonic Youth! (when they were riding high), Elastica! But man, this is just a crazy mix of stuff.

BECK-“The Little Drum Machine Boy” (NSFC)
This is like 7 minutes of drum machine nonsense from Beck.  There’s mention of the Hanukkah robot funk.  Gonna drop some Hanukkah science.  And then 7 minutes of Beck’s nonsense lyrics.

AIMEE MANN with MICHAEL PENN-“Christmastime” (NSFC)
This is a little mopey because Aimee is always a little mopey.  The Michael Penn parts are a bit more upbeat.  They sound great together, but “all alone at Christmastime” isn’t really much for holiday cheer.

SONIC YOUTH-“Santa Doesn’t Cop Out On Dope” (NSFC)
I had no idea that this was a cover.  Martin Mull recorded this back in 1973.  That explains the spoken word part that doesn’t sound like something Sonic Youth would construct.  But after the spoken intro, they turn the end into 2 minutes of utter noise.  Thurston sings the actual song almost a capella with strange noises in the background and twinkling bells.  The last 40 seconds are just squelching noise.  And they end with Thurston saying “Merry Christmas, David Geffen.”

THE POSIES-“Christmas” (NSFC)
This song is downbeat and sad (“you made me for the last time.  That’s okay Christmas means little to me”).  The chorus is kind of pretty though.

THE ROOTS-“Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa” (NSFC)
I had no idea that this was a cover.  And never would have guessed it was originally by The Roots.  It is shockingly about incest. The Roots version is even darker (and the recording features an echoed voice making it even harder to hear the words).

SOUTHERN CULTURE ON THE SKIDS-“Merry Christmas Baby” (NSFC)
This version is bluesy and slightly funky in a very white way.

REMY ZERO-“Christmas” (NSFC)
This is muted and mopey and I have literally no idea what its about.

ELASTICA-“Gloria” (NSFC)
This is without a doubt the best song on this record.  Although as far as I can tell aside from chanting (and playing) the melody from the Christmas song “Gloria In Excelsis Deo” there is no connection to Christmas whatsoever.

WILD COLONIALS-“Christmas Is Quiet” (NSFC)
This is six-minute mellow folk dirge.  Her voice is pretty, but good lord, six minutes?  Even a build up and backing vocals doing la las can’t rescue this.

XTC-“Thanks For Christmas”
Obviously, I love this song as I have mentioned elsewhere.

THE MUSICAL CAST OF TOYS FEATURING WENDY & LISA -“The Closing Of The Year”
The Toys song is such a weird inclusion–clearly it’s only here because they own the rights.  But it’s a really pretty song and it should be played more at the closing of the year, for being a lovely optimistic song.  Even though I like this version, I’d like to hear a cover from someone else with a strong voice (and not necessarily Seal, or whoever that is, joining in).  I’ll bet it could be done really well.

TED HAWKINS-“Amazing Grace”
Hawkins has a low gravelly voice.  This is a lovely cover of just him and his guitar.

So overall, this is a disappointing collection of songs.  Most of them can’t be played in a festive way.  But there are a few rocking standouts.

[READ: December 12, 2017] “Announcements”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This was a fun, light-hearted look at Wedding announcements.  And of course, as with any fun, light-hearted look at something, there were undercurrents of seriousness that made the story even better. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: July 22, 2017] Thurston Moore Group

I’ve loved Sonic Youth since the late 1980s.  And yet in all of those years I never saw them live.  Never!  So to make up for that, I quickly snatched up tickets for Thurston Moore’s show at Underground Arts (such a great intimate venue).  Inexplicably, I don’t  think the show sold out.

For this show his band consisted of Thurston on guitar and vocals, Steve Shelley on drums (1/2 of Sonic Youth right there), My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe (!) and maniac guitarist James Sedwards.

I had the impression that they would play most if not all of their new (fantastic) album Rock n Roll Consciousness.  And that was fine with me.  They did play the whole album, but not in order.

I was talking to the fans around me and we marveled at the lo-tech way their gear was set up–the bass was propped on the bass drum case, guitar amps were stacked on chairs.  And, everyone (except Thurston) came out to prep their own gear.

There were a couple lunatic bozos nearby who just screamed and shouted through the set, but it’s hard to overpower Thurston and Co.  One of these bozos took off his short and threw it on stage–it actually landed on Deb’s bass which I could see pissed her off.  After the song she threw it back into the crowd–it sailed right over my head. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: June 22, 2017] Sneaks

Sneaks was second on the bill opening for Chastity Belt.

I ended my post about Joy Again by coming out of the bathroom.  Well, while I was on line, I kinda thought that Sneaks was standing behind me.  But I’d only watched one video from her so I wasn’t sure and didn’t want to be presumptuous.  Well, I was right, because the woman wearing the Space Jam T-shirt climbed up on stage with the same shirt tied in a knot and, now, glitter all over her face.

I hadn’t heard Sneaks, so I checked out her bandcamp.  Sneaks is basically a one-woman show.  She plays bass and sings/raps/freestyles over her punky bass and a drum machine.  She has a lo-fi recording out and a more polished disc.  I would have loved both of these records when I was in college–the DIY punk attitude is pretty great.  But I didn’t love either one all that much the other day.

But she was great live. (more…)

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