August 30, 2008
Last McCarren Pool Show Ever (?)
The chance to see Sonic Youth always seems like a lucky opportunity, and yet the excitement of the show was marred by the sad notion that this was to be the last concert at the abandoned mammoth pool that concert goers like myself have come to love over the last three summers for its mellow atmosphere and appealingly adventurous programming. But is it really the last show? Right up until the end, promoters announced from the stage that everyone should sign petitions to keep the place open and presumably stave off the plan to restore it to a functioning pool. You know, for swimming. Whether the renovation plan is a done deal or not, I'm not among the many who are choked up over the closing of the venue. I've enjoyed the hell out of the place maybe as much as anyone else and will be sad to lose it as a staple in my summer concert-going regimen, but people, they're turning it into a pool! It's not like they're paving it over and building condos. Pools are cool. There's a nice big public one (although only a quarter of the size of McCarren) near me, in Red Hook, and I regard the opportunity to swim in it, or bob in its cooling waters as the case may be, on a steamy summer afternoon with my neighbors to be pretty special. I have faith that new oases for live music will rise in the absence of McCarren Pool and the cycle shall continue.
As for the show, there was much wondering among my crew as to what Sonic Youth would play considering they had just done a huge free outdoor show at Battery Park almost 2 months prior. The answer was given when they opened the show announcing they were going to play a few new songs--songs so new that they didn't yet have titles and had just been written a few days before. Thurston Moore said that, in the absence of lyrics, they would just sing whatever came to their mind. That made everyone feel pretty good I think, implying as it does the continuous onward march of music production, which is surely one of the charms of Sonic Youth. The show rocked and sounded incredibly fresh, moving effortlessly from spare punkish rock, feedback laden guitar freakouts, and morose pop loveliness. Kim Gordon did her groovy helicopter arms dance. The band was joined onstage by Mark Ibold, bassist from Pavement.
I'll miss the pool. Presumably when it's ready for swimming in 2011, it shall be irrigated with the tears of a million morose hipsters.
The spooky noise artists, Wolf Eyes, played first and set the tone for an evening of arty musical exploration. This was my first time seeing them and it sounded interesting but it was hard to fully take in their keening industrial droning happening as it was in the middle of McCarren Pool social hour. The broad daylight felt wrong for the soundtrack. I'd definitely like to check Wolf Eyes again some time, preferably in a dark, dinghy basement club filled with reverentially silent listeners.
New Song (sung by Thurston)
New Song (sung by Kim)
Cross the Breeze
Jams Run Free
Making the Nature Scene
Expressway to Yr. Skull
NY Times article and accompanying photo slideshow on the closing of the pool.
Photos on Brooklyn Vegan.
Addendum: I bought a copy of the SYR7 vinyl-only release at the show, the latest in Sonic Youth's series of experimental, raw EPs, which features the songs J'Accuse Ted Hughes and
Agnes B Musique, and a photograph of Thurston Moore aggressively wielding his guitar over his head in combative stance. I put it on, forgetting that I had been previously listening to a 45rpm single and should change the speed of the turntable. I listened to both sides of the record with great satisfaction, only realizing that it had been at the wrong speed the whole time after I put on a new, more familiar record. My only cause for suspicion was why they had let a young child sing a song with so many uses of the word "fuck" in it. I figured maybe it was a Japanese woman with a high voice singing. I've since listened to it at the proper speed and I'd just like to say, the record is fantastic at any number of revolutions per minute.