About halfway through Sebadoh’s performance last Friday, Lou Barlow remarked “It gets to be a long night for the band when your band members are also the openers.” While that statement may be true – it was in fact a long night – it was far from a complaint or condemnation. Presenting a triple bill of sorts, Barlow is currently touring the country with old friend’s bassist/guitarist Jake Loewenstein and drummer Bob D’Amico, and together the trio makes up the classic lineup of lo-fi pioneers Sebadoh. But much like that the end result of that project was always steadfastly equal to/reflective of the sum of its parts, so was the group’s performance at The Black Cat.
First up, Jake Loewenstein and Bob D’Amico took the stage under the moniker of Circle of Buzzards. The duo’s style, Loewenstein’s in particular, is aggressive and loud. Hidden behind sunglasses and a reversed bandana, the usually warm and funny Loewenstein manhandled his overly distorted bass through a quick set of aggressive basement jams that were as potent as they were unpolished and direct. In short, it was exactly what the audience came for.
After a short break Lou Barlow took the stage. Surprisingly comfortable with the crowd, he sat on a bar stool and delivered his entire set with only his voice and bass ukulele with his kid's elementary school sticker on the underside. As expected the song selections were wide ranging and mostly obscure. “Mary” - a song off of 2005’s Emoh that concerns true purity of Mary and what she probably did (and didn't) do to become mother of her holy offspring – made an appearance, as did a beautifully stripped down version of “Soul and Fire.” The highlight of Barlow’s set though came with the a new song, “Calves of Champions”, a tale concerned with the calves of the fathers of the other children at his kid's school. Witty and cutting it revealed a lighter side to Barlow and clearly demonstrated the transition of a songwriter whose heart isn't in a constant state of being broken anymore.
After another short break the whole band took the stage, with Barlow on guitar and Loewenstein on bass as the band reconvened for the Sebadoh segment of the evening. Barlow “warned” the crowd that there would be new songs from the EP, to a mixed reaction of enthusiasm and silence. Fan favorites “Skull”, “Rebound”, and “Together or Alone” were dealt with early on in the set before Lou and Jake switched instruments along with D’Amico gleefully dove deeper and deeper into their extensive back catalog. With Jake on guitar, a completely different segment of the crowd started rocking and dancing. Bros and their younger bros with Xs on their hands threatened to form a mini mosh pit, with members of that crowd unabashedly yelling questions and requests at Loewenstein who responded as if he were just hanging out in a garage playing with a bunch of friends.
With no end in sight, Jake and Lou continued to trade instruments, and vocal duties, for the rest of the night. The longer they played the more comfortable they seemed to be, playing requests immediately from the now consistently vocal bro crowd. On a stage littered with water bottles, guitars and pedals the trio pummeled the audience over and over with exactly what they came for: LOUD LO-FI ROCK AND ROLL. As if to drive that point home, late in the set Barlow picked up a guitar that was held together by duct tape, had 6 strings but space for 12, and proceeded to break a string almost immediately. With little more than a laugh and shrug, he played on.
News songs were woven seamlessly into the set, and if tracks like “Keep The Boy Alive” and “My Drugs” are any indication, the dichotomy of raucous Jake songs and mellower Lou songs continues in fine form with the new Secret EP. Whether or not this new batch of songs manages to pull in many new fans remains to be seen. In the meantime though, hey easily and completely won current fans over, and how could they not? For the Sebadoh fans present, new, old – it didn’t matter. Just like the band, they were all in it for the love.