Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY, July 31st, 2010

Aug 03, 2010 Photography by Robert Kidd Web Exclusive
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I'd fight the first man who'd claim there might be a better band to usher away the final hours of the NYC's hottest July on record than Sonic Youth. Who more appropriate to put a fork in a month where temperatures frequently topped 100 degrees than a band whose seminal album, 1988's Daydream Nation, dripping with sweaty feedback and featuring vocals that sound like they were recorded in a packed sauna, was laid to tape during another of the city's notorious heat waves.

After a streak of sweaty mid-summer shows in their hometown New York (2009 at the United Palace Theater, 2008's Independence Day show in Battery Park, 2007's McCarren Pool show, 2006 at CBGB... and so on and so on) that is almost unbroken in the band's going-on-30-year-history, these Sonic Youth concerts have become an annual event that's as much an NYC institution as Nathan's Famous hot-dog-guzzling contest.

As a cooling breeze blows over the crowd at Prospect Park's outdoor bandshell and Thurston & Co. hiss, whine and squeal their way through a Daydream-heavy set, you can only take a deep breath, absorb the smell of warm beer and fresh-cut grass, and think: 'It's summer. I'm in New York City. Sonic Youth is on stage. Where else in the world would I rather to be?'

I say this front the perspective of a fan who looks at Kim Gordon and sees a woman older than my mother. The half of the crowd closest to the stage is made up of this generationmy generationdrifting south from Bushwick, Greenpoint, and Long Island City. We are the kids who bought a copy of Murray Street to see what the big deal was. We were late to the Sonic Youth party by fault of birth.

In back you've got your Gen X'rs, stretched out on blankets in the grass, coddling their toddler and converging on Prospect Park mostly from the surrounding Park Slope neighborhood, taking in a noisy rock 'n' roll show over a picnic as a family unit. These are the ladies and gents who first bought Experimental Jet Set at their college record shop and whose image-memory of the Youth is made up of snap-shots from videos rotated during late-night airings of 120 Minutes. When you think that even this large portion SY's audience was still half a decade removed from Sister and the following streak of brilliant albums that forever cemented the band's place in hipster canon, it hits youChrist! This band is old.

And that's somewhat the point, at least in summer-oh-ten. Thurston, Kim, Lee, Steve Shelley and that guy from Pavement have long since settled into the role of being everyone's rockin' uncle. As much as it gags me to type it, the critics are at their most acute when discussing Sonic Youth as Indie Rock's Elder Statesmen. Any member of this band could have birthed and raised any and all of the talented young brats who make up similarly noisy upstarts No Age and Times New Viking, but who gives a shit? You'll never find a new musician who's afraid to wear the influence of the howling, shrieking cool that's consistently oozed from SY's vintage Jazzmasters on their sleeve. For goodness sake, Nirvana used to open for these guys.

Sonic Youth embodies cool and they know it. For the bulk of their hour-long first set, the band is content to keep silent and let its guitars do the talking (squealing?)save for a polite "thank you" from Lee Ranaldo and Thurston's dedication of "The Wonder" (one of the first and still the best tribute New York City has received from indie rock) to "all [his] Manhattan home-girls."

The band is content to playing hits, and the audience is beyond content to hear them. No matter whether the introduction to the band came in 1985, 1994, 2002 or 2006, what only matters is where Sonic Youth is bringing you in July 2010and when it's to a cool evening of music in the park to cap off the city's brutal dog days, that's more than enough for at least one New Yorker.

Setlist:

Candle

Brother James

(I Got a) Catholic Block

Stereo Sanctity

Hey Joni

The Sprawl

'Cross the Breeze

The Wonder

Hyperstation

White Cross

Mote

Shaking Hell

Encore:

Shadow of a Doubt

Silver Rocket

Expressway to Yr Skull




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