Friday, November 25, 2011

New Day Rising

The spawn endure another concert seated next to me when I spring for “See a Little Light: Celebration of the Music and Legacy of Bob Mould,” at Disney Hall. Number one son suggests that the music is better suited for Al's Bar but to me Mould's three decades of work merit the grand setting. For once, I am not conspicuously old. It's the kids who are conspicuously young at this tribute to the front man for the seminal punk band Husker Dü. I saw the band in the 80s at the Variety Arts Center and was happy to find standing room close to the stage. It was only when the show started that I realized that I'd planted myself directly in front of a speaker the size of a double-wide. About ten minutes into the concert the sound took on a muffled quality and everything has been a bit muffled for me ever since. Whenever anyone screams at me for having music or the tv on too loud I think “Husker Dü.” I will note that while the band was loud, it was not particularly animated and my stageside vantage afforded the disappointing view of the trio attaining impressive volume while remaing completely motionless, like stiffs. The band busted up and Mould went on the form the band Sugar and later to craft a number of praiseworthy solo albums. Mould has recently published an autobiography and Himself will here paste a link to his review of the "See a Little Light" as well as to his reviews of a book about "the noise-pop band that changed modern rock" and a collection of essays “This Band Could Change Your Life” that has an excellent piece about Husker Dü written by the co-writer of Mould's autobiography.

A number of artists perform a variety of songs spanning Mould's career which results in some mind blowing interpretations and a shamelessly gushy love fest. When I see Margaret Cho's name on the roster I presume she is slated to master the ceremonies but instead she effuses a bit about the succor Mould's music afforded during her years as a teenage misfit. Cho is joined by Grant Lee Phillips for a version of the Sugar tune “Your Favorite Thing.” Her pure passion for Mould's oeuvre overshadows any limitations she may have as a singer. My kids hate Craig Finn of The Hold Steady and sneer that Darby Crash, who made the mistake of committing showy suicide on the same day as John Lennon's murder, did it first. While Finn's herkey jerky physicality bears some similarity to Mr. Crash's, Finn is less a nihilistic punker than a teenage fan letting every nuance of a song take deep root in his soul. His performances evoke the most nerdulent kid in high school letting it rip in front of his bedroom mirror. Finn's performance of Mould's "Real World" and "A Good Idea" is as exciting as his interpretations of his own smart moody songs.

My kids turn me on to the spectacular No Age, a ubiquitous rag tag local duo. They are as ebullient as any performers I've ever seen as they play with Mould and the elder statesman makes it clear that the love and respect is mutual. The burning question of the evening is “Where have you been all my life Dave Grohl?” I was never a big Nirvana fan and may be the only person in the universe who doesn't own Never Mind, which apparently at one point Bob Mould had been slated to produce. Grohl's next project, The Foo Fighters, can be credited with some good commercial songs but have a sound I imagine appeals mostly to teenage girls. When Grohl accompanies Mould on a couple of tunes I am fearful that the 51 year old Mould is going to keel over with a heart attack trying to keep up. Mould, however, holds his own and it is remarkable to see two performers so thoroughly bring out the best in each other. Grohl takes over on drums for New Day Rising and the result was so blistering that even my “came only to see No Age on Mom's dime” companions are on their feet.

Ryan Adams, a singer song writer is the only performer at the tribute to perform Mould's songs acoustically. An old friend who attends the tribute only to hear Ryan Adams, is almost 60. He says that the six year difference in our ages is the reason why none of Mould's music is familiar to him. He complains too that the show seems to be a commercial for Mould's book, which indeed is being sold in the lobby. Britt Daniel of Spoon opens the performance with the confession, “I have the book but I haven't read it yet.” I am in the same boat, although I did read Himself's excellent review (see link above) and Himself boinks himself on the head quite smartingly when he goes to retrieve the tome from the garage at my behest,

The autobiography “See a Little Light” recounts Mould's father's alcoholism and his own struggles with substance abuse. He details the perils of the music industry and his personal difficulties navigating it as a gay man At the end of the show I am elated to see that after over thirty years in rock Mould is respected and adored not only by his peers but by a younger generation as well. Mould admits he is not much of a speaker but also recognizes that the occasion requires a few words. He steps up to the mike and notes that his book chronicles the struggle with his ordinary mindset of alternating between rehashing the past and agonizing about the future. “I have some trouble being in the present,” he goes on and then is silent. He stands in the footlights, looks out to the crowd and drinks in that 2000 people are blissfully in the now with him. A now I am delighted to have shared with my boys, who for all of tsuris they cause me, need music like oxygen and doughnuts. Maybe someday they will tell their children that Grandma has partial hearing loss due to a band called Husker Dü.

1 comment:

Fionnchú said...

Hearing Bob (Mould) probably meant more for me than Bob (Dylan), showing how ten years difference from that oldster you saw makes a difference--Bob M.'s born only a year off from me. That bond, with a musician who's from the same generation, deepens I reckon how we respond to the music we grow up with and seek out as speaking most closely for us.

Let's hope Our Two Sons continue this bonding, with whatever kids these days listen to. No Age, apropos, gains plaudits from Bob M. as the band that continues his "massive hooks, massive volume" combination. Long may they rave.

P.S. I did not go to the celebration due to my dislike of crowds and my inability, ever since my first rock concert, to take loud noises!

P.P.S. Thanks to my relationship with the dear author, I did post the review links--so, dear readers, please rate me on Amazon.