Bob Mould has been a mainstay of the punk and indie rock scenes for several decades now, having put out a consistently steady stream of new music since Hüsker Dü’s first album in 1982, Land Speed Record, crammed 17 songs into 26½ minutes. Although much of the world associates him with the Minneapolis, MN scene that Hüsker Dü came out of, Mould spent a decade living in the District before moving to San Francisco a few years ago, making any show that he plays here now like a homecoming. On Wednesday night, he made a return to the 9:30 Club, where he had DJed a frequent dance night called Blowoff for much of his time in the area, in support of his 12th solo album, Patch the Sky.
Patch the Sky is Mould’s third album recorded as a trio with bassist Jason Narducy and drummer Jon Wurster, following 2012’s Silver Age and 2014’s Beauty & Ruin. Following a solo opening set by another DC mainstay, Ted Leo, the trio launched into a lengthy performance which started off with a set of tracks from all three of these albums, intermixed with several songs from Mould’s early 90s project, Sugar. The set opened with two Sugar songs, “A Good Idea” and “Changes,” both from the band’s 1992 debut Copper Blue. Mould followed this with his first new track of the night, “The End of Things,” followed by the lone Silver Age track of the night, “The Descent.”
For much of the set with Mould standing larger than life behind his microphone to stage left, Narducy to stage right, and Wurster toward the back at his drum kit, the large stage often seemed sparse, but when the group would hit instrumental breaks they would frequently come together in the center, performing as a cohesive unit that has learned to anticipate each other’s every move. Other highlights from the first portion of the set included new tracks “Voices in My Head” and “You Say You,” along with “I Don’t Know You Anymore” and “Tomorrow Morning” from Beauty & Ruin and two more Sugar tracks from Copper Blue, “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” and “Hoover Dam.”
The real surprise of the set, though, was the ending, which consisted of a brief tour of Hüsker Dü’s catalog – “Hardly Getting Over It” from 1986’s Candy Apple Grey, “Something I Learned Today” from 1984’s Zen Arcade, “Celebrated Summer” from 1985’s New Day Rising, and “In a Free Land,” released as a bonus track on the 1993 reissue of 1983’s Everything Falls Apart. Putting these songs side-by-side with his latest material served to prove Mould’s strength and consistency as a songwriter.
Coming only a few days after the 40th anniversary of the release of The Ramones’ self-titled debut, it was fitting that the band opened the encore with a tribute. Wurster stepped out from behind his drum kit (with Ted Leo taking over on the drumming) and took over on vocals for a fun and spontaneous-seeming cover of “Beat On the Brat.” Wurster returned to the drums for both sides of Hüsker Dü’s 1985 single, starting with the b-side cover of “Love Is All Around” (the theme from the Mary Tyler Moore Show), and closing with perhaps the band’s best known song, “Makes No Sense at All.”