Daydream Nation didn’t define my adolescence. Nor did Goo. Though I’ve passively inhaled Sonic Youth at parties and on road trips over the years, last night’s show at the Knitting Factory was the first time I really experimented with this influential New York noise-rock band.
Though it was their first time in Boise, Sonic Youth had a casual, yet practiced rapport with the audience—surely a result of nearly 30 years of onstage bantering. After they wrapped up their opening song “Tom Violence,” guitarist Lee Ranaldo commented, “We’ve never played in Boise before.” Without missing a beat, lead singer and guitarist Thurston Moore retorted, “That’s not true. We just played. The blush is off the rose.” The audience laughed giddily.
Playing old hits like “Shadow of a Doubt” off Evol and new songs like “Antenna” off their latest release The Eternal, Sonic Youth kept the Boise audience hanging on their every distorted note. When I pried my eyes from enigmatic silver lame-clad bassist and singer Kim Gordon, I could see several people around me mouthing the word, “epic.” After the second encore ended and the lights came on, I chatted up some folks on the outside patio to see what more seasoned fans thought of the experience.
Overall, I came across two types: casual listeners and superfans. While both agreed that the show was jaw-dropping, both also seemed slightly disappointed by the set list. The casual fans wanted to hear more of the band’s older hits, while the superfans wanted to hear more obscure songs. With a musical catalog that includes 16 studio albums and an assortment of experimental releases, achieving a balance that pleases everyone is an understandably daunting feat.
Listening to these concertgoers speak on their various expectations and wax nostalgic on their favorite Sonic Youth albums, I quickly realized that experiencing the show with an open mind was an unexpected gift. After sampling from the band’s extensive musical buffet, I decided I'll start with dessert first. I’m getting my hands on a copy of The Eternal, then I’ll work my way back.