Lou Barlow (left) and Jason Loewenstein between beers at The Bartlett Wednesday.
Indie rock crew Sebadoh made its first stop in Spokane Wednesday night, a mere 28 years after first forming in Boston, and the trio was in pretty classic, somewhat cranky form.
Lou Barlow, the most recognizable member, announced before the first song that he was sick — and his bedraggled Grizzly Man appearance led one to believe it was true. Yet he still sounded great and filled the show with hilarious, often self-deprecating, one-liners about his whiny nature and his age. Jason Loewenstein, the band's other singer/songwriter, played comic and musical foil to Barlow, grinning widely and throwing good-natured barbs at his long-time music partner. Drummer Bob D'Amico was the straight man, a stone-faced rhythmic killer who propelled Sebadoh's blend of power-pop, straight-up punk and lo-fi noise through more than 20 songs over the course of nearly two hours.
Sebadoh started as a side-project for Barlow's songs when he was bass player for Dinosaur Jr. in the mid-'80s, specializing in homemade recordings full of tape hiss and incisive, personal lyrics. As the band evolved into Barlow's full-time gig, and Loewenstein joined the fold, the band's sound got more polished and its audience, in turn, grew after they signed to SubPop Records and released some of the finest indie albums of the '90s, including Bubble and Scrape
and Sebadoh III
. They never really found a hit on alt-rock radio or MTV, but they found a dedicated audience who loved their combination of raucous noise and delicate balladry.
Many of those fans were on hand at the Bartlett Wednesday, repeatedly thanking the band for coming, hollering out things like, "We've been waiting 20 years!" Sebadoh obliged with a career-spanning set that set a furious pace from the get-go — save for the occasional lull as Barlow and Loewenstein swapped places on stage or disappeared backstage in search of beer. The opening trio of "Magnet's Coil," "On the Rebound" and "The Ocean" made for a thrilling start, packaging three of the band's most insistent, poppy songs right out of the box. Barlow mentioned after "Arbitrary High" that he was trying to write what he thought a Queens of the Stone Age song would sound like, adding, "I think the real key to writing a Queens of the Stone Age song is to write something like you're trying to seduce a 15-year-old."
He introduced "Too Pure" as a song about "smoking WAY too much pot." After "Forced Love," he asked "Do people actually swim in Medical Lake? Are there syringes floating in that shit or what?" Before launching into "I Will" from 2013's Defend Yourself
, the band's first new album in 14 years, he bemoaned the discovery of an empty beer fridge a song earlier, pointing the blame on youthful opening act Literature: "You can't leave a fridge full of beer around a bunch of dudes under 40."
Philadelphia-based Literature, who played a fine set full of jangly guitar-pop reminiscent of the old "Paisley Underground" sound, delivered some drafts to the stage and Sebadoh forged on through fine takes of "License to Confuse," "Careful," "Soul and Fire" and a show-closing rip through "Brand New Love." Pretty satisfying show all around, and well worth the long wait for Spokane's Sebadoh fans.