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Mysteriously, the presale for this stop on the Slint reunion tour was not sold out. Now, while their reformation is obviously not creaming as many proverbial panties as, say, The Pixies, for the indie rock faithful and students of the underground this has been nothing short of earth shattering. Yes, these words reek of high exaggeration, but no matter, anticipation in the crowd was high.
Taking the stage in complete darkness, Slint faced off with a strangely quiet and subdued crowd. After the initial applause, the audience quieted down to less than a low murmur, and this trend continued throughout the night, causing singer/guitarist Brian McMahon to take notice near the beginning of their set. After a few songs though, the crowd started to wake up a bit, and the usual, smarmy, and very rarely funny indie-rock catcalls commenced, punctuating the reverence. "I heart Lousiville" is sort of charming, but "Take it off" is just dumb. Nary a response was heard from the band, until about two-thirds of the way through, when McMahon calmly told the offenders to "Give it a rest." They didn't. Other details didn't escape his eye either: "I never knew there were so many geeks in LA," he quipped. And rightfully so: the mix of hipsters, nerds, metalheads, and preppies all reeked of the pheromones that so often cause jocks to go on pounding frenzies.
Opening with the softly throbbing "For Dinner…" the band brought the crowd to silent, rapt attention. As they carefully picked their way through this slowly simmering song, Todd Cook's bass provided the low-end bed to McMahan and David Pajo's rapturously intertwining guitars. There is something very menacing about this song, the way it quietly seethes, and this effect was far more intense in a live setting. From here on out, Slint careened from song to song throughout their somewhat limited catalogue, drawing heavily from
Spiderland. All the "hits" were present: the harmonic pockmarks of "Breadcrumb Trail," the discordant sea-shanty bass frolic of "Good Morning, Captain," the slowly anthemic "Washer," and the drummer-less epic tale "Don, Aman." This song was performed intimately, Pajo and drummer Britt Walford facing off on guitar, seated at the front of the stage.
McMahon often left the guitar work to Pajo and Michael McMahon, positioned at his microphone off to the side of the stage, forsaking the traditional frontman posturing for a focus on music and collective band. A bit raspier with age, or as a friend remarked, "What happened to his voice, he used to sound sexy, now he sounds like he smokes too many cigarettes," McMahon still pulled out all the stops in his vocal attack.
The focus, as to be expected, was predominantly on the textural interplay that Slint does so well. This interplay was not just between guitars, but between all instruments involved. Partially due to the surprisingly good sound system of the club, but mostly due to the musicianship of the band members, it came off quite well. David Pajo, the band's star of sorts, quietly and intensely fingered his way artfully through the setlist, often fixedly looking at Walford on his kit, lost in a moment of concentration, and perhaps musical bliss.
Now, after all this opining ecstatic, it may sound odd to say that at times the experience was slightly underwhelming. Slint's contributions, 15 years later, are hard not to put into the context of it all. Whether you were down with the sounds from the get-go, or you just discovered Slint this past year, or you're somewhere in between, it's hard not to recognize this music. After all, countless bands have aped, mimed, copied, or been influenced by these works. On top of this, there were brief moments of boredom-inducing musical masturbation present, although to their credit these were far and few between. Overall, the hypnotic and repetitive intensity of Slint's music, on top of the wow-factor of seeing this legend (yes, legend) perform live, overrode all drawbacks. If this is it for Slint, rest assured that they did their legacy justice. When the first course is that good, it's okay to go back for seconds. SEE ALSO: www.touchandgorecords.com
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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