October 16, 2004
BY MARTY GARNER
My first impression of Sonic Youth was their opening gig for Pearl Jam at the New Orleans Arena in 2000. The Arena had god-awful
acoustics, so Sonic Youth's music just plain didn't work there. Fast forward four years and
they've become one of my favorite bands. I waited that long to give them a shot at redemption. They hit the ground running Saturday afternoon at Voodoo Fest.
After dedicating the opener, "Rain on Tin," to people voting against George Bush, they ripped apart the ending of "Pattern Recognition." Near the end of it, the music began to devolve into a
pattern of feedback, generated mostly by Thurston Moore, who straddled his guitar and humped it on top of his amp. Moore, clearly intoxicated in some way, made his way to the catwalk, where he humped a light fixture and his guitar once again. As Lee Ranaldo, Jim O'Rourke, Steve Shelley, and Moore's wife Kim Gordon continued the frenzy behind him, Moore
rubbed his guitar against a photographer's face and dropped it into the photo pit, where he got into an altercation with the photographer. The combination of one of my heroes acting so bizarrely and the incredible swirling texture coming from the speakers made for a completely
unique experience. Thurston re-took the stage and rejoined the song as if nothing happened.
Sonic Youth, 22, was a very tight band. They jumped seamlessly from a noise freak out into soft indie rock. Their set was a remarkable balance between extremely well controlled noise and amazing art-punk-indie-thrash-(insert meaningless genre here).
Gordon eventually took over the microphone (after shooting many dirty looks at her husband) to sing "Mariah Carey and the Arthur Conan Doyle Hand Cream" and "Kool Thing," during which she came to the front of the stage and rocked out in her "I'm the oldest little girl in the world" way.
The transitions between songs were flawlessly played splotches of effects-drenched guitar, which left the crowd guessing as to which song was about to be played. My friend was convinced that every single song was "Bull in the Heather" until they broke into whatever it actually was.
In keeping with the unofficial theme of the festival, Ranaldo claimed "Paper Cup Exit" was an anti-Bush song, which received a roar of approval from the crowd. As Gordon handed off her bass to O'Rourke, and Moore began some very familiar souding harmonics, my friend screamed, "BULL IN THE HEATHER!!!," which of
course it was not. Instead, it was "Drunken
Butterfly," and Gordon marched to the front of the stage to spin like a teacup once more. As the final chorus stabbed through the air and Kim Gordon smashed the microphone into the stage, Sonic Youth left the stage, giants among men. And no, that's not supposed to be making fun of Thurston for being 6'6".