Sebadoh + Elliott Smith, London Astoria, London, January 1999
Debut as a patron of London’s Astoria (now demolished as part of Crossrail), and it was a quadruple bill for some NME show - you know, bright young things, this week's rock ‘n’ roll saviour. However, the headline act was Lou Barlow’s Sebadoh, a band that (along with his previous band, Dinosaur Jr.) had rocked flat stereos back in NZ since Uni. I loved the 1995 album Harmacy - it was like having a record by more than one band there was so much on there, though this also highlighted Lou’s dilemma of always ending up in bands with more than one songwriter (in Sebadoh’s case, it was sharing duties with Jason Loewenstein). Sebadoh nailed it - the different tempos & vocal duties making for a great set, and when they unleashed the punkier portions of their song library, it was mosh-tastic. I love simplicity in music, it’s the common thread to a lot of what I like, whatever the genre… so having a band like Sebadoh that can do jingle-jangle, country, punk and sheer noise, all so competently is a bloody pleasure. I am gutted I did not get to see them when they played last year in Wellington, but bubba was new born then, and gigs were off the agenda! A bonus of the night, and pleasant surprise, was two other acts playing that night: the introverted Elliott Smith, and the world’s smallest super-group, Portland’s Quasi. (I won't comment on Hefner because I didn't rate them). Smith was mellow, timid, a with pretty sweet voice - this was the first time I had heard him, and since he tragically went the way of Mark Linkous, (apparently) taking his own life, I am pleased I got to see him. It may have been even better to see him in a gig on his own, rather than slotted into a showcase of sorts. He is another sad story and big loss to music. Quasi were very cool, very hip, but uncomplicated… but I’m a Kiwi and we love that shit… good, simple, sloppyish pop. Bloody good night out all up, and I liked the venue - how you could stand downstairs or go upstairs and be so close to the stage on the mezzanine level, even sit at the tables along the front if you wanted. So, to the picks! For Sebadoh it is the first track of theirs I heard, ‘Rebound’, off earlier album Bake Sale. For an Elliott Smith track its the mellow ‘Waltz #2 (XO)’ - I think its suitably melancholy. Poor old Elliott. And if you have never heard any Quasi, try ‘The Poisoned Well’.