Ben and I decided to go see The Thurston Moore Band in Santa Ana, California on Saturday night. After an hour of maneuvering through several freeway interchanges and slinking through an ocean of mini-malls and countless fast food eateries, our GPS said we had arrived. We were in a dimly lit industrial park. The only clue that hinted live music might be near was the hundreds of cars in the lot. While the actual location of the venue was still unknown we began walking in circles in search of a facade. There was a gathering of teenagers wearing all black near the Carl’s Jr. Drive through.
I thought to myself, “Ah-ha, my people!”
Then, I wondered if the show was somehow in the Carl’s Jr. Parking lot.
“Which way to the Observatory”, I asked.
With a drunken sway, a young man wearing a Brujeria t-shirt pointed to the hospital across the street. Made sense, so we headed that way. As we walked across the intersection, we were soon surrounded by young men with long hair and all black clothing. Some were congregated in small groups rolling joints and eating bacon wrapped hot dogs. Others, already full of the day’s events were passed out in the grass like garden gnomes. There was litter and trash everywhere. Apparently, The Observatory was hosting a Latin Metal Fest this evening and Thurston Moore was headlining, or so it seemed. We finally made it to the gate and were handed photo passes, then told in order to get to The Constellation Room we’d have to brave our way through the festival crowd. Once in we were quickly ushered through the capacity crowd to the side of the stage where the artist’s gear was being stored. The air was so think you could slather it on biscuits.
Sebadoh finished their set to a full house of happy sweaty people. After loading out Jason Lowenstein of Sebadoh spoke with us for a minute and mentioned that they were sharing a dressing room with a bunch of Lucha Libre wrestlers. Awesome.
Looking like a professor, Thurston Moore took the stage with an LED topped lectern and opened a folder on it. The elder statesman of indie rock was about to give a lesson. He introduced his new band consisting of drummer Steve Shelley, bassist Deb Googe and guitarist James Sedwards. He informed the crowd all the songs will be off their new album, “The Best Day” coming out October 21st on Matador Records. For those not already familiar with the label he said,
“Matador is like the SST of the east coast”.
I have to admit I wasn’t really expecting the incredible show they put on. Kids with green hair and thick glasses were pressed up against the stage grinning from ear to ear. At one point, one of the song’s melodies descends into a feedback segue where both Thurston and James are dragging Jazzmaster headstocks on the ground and across amplifiers, wildly shaking tremolos into a sonic assault. Everyone had their fingers in their ears. A girl in the front, hovering over a monitor had her mouth open in a state of jaw dropped awe. It instantly made me think of Jimi Hendrix playing Altamonte, burning and smashing his guitar, the camera pans across the crowd and they are just completely stunned. While expected to hear some noise, I wasn’t expecting to be so captivated by it. Although it came close, the noise never became completely self indulgent. The most interesting part of the whole experience was watching Thurston’s second guitarist James Sedwards. He completely stole the show. Who is this guy? He’s incredible. He’s stomping on a fuzz box and going deep into guitar solos reminiscent of Jimmy Page circa 1970. Apparently Thurston met James in his apartment building in London after having heard him playing guitar several times through the walls and was so impressed he asked him to join his new band. The music cannot really be described other than to say it’s honest. A short set of all new material with standing ovation and encore explains it well enough.
Nothing makes me happier than a figure like Thurston Moore, with all of the history and expectation, after years to continue on a path of integrity and talent. To stay relevant despite changing tides and tastes in a landscape so dense is something beyond greatness. It transcends the quality of the music and the physical recordings thereof. It becomes something with a higher virtue. Following a path towards making art unencumbered by the masses is something that inspires others to do the same. Thank you Professor Moore for keeping the ball rolling.