Slack-rock boys never grow up. Their bands may gain some fame, squabble and break up, and years later they get over it and reunite. But they’re not going to then take some triumphant victory-lap tour. Sebadoh, back in its classic lineup for the first of two Los Angeles shows March 10, would never join up with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for cinematic reinterpretations of its back catalogue at the Hollywood Bowl. No, as with Lou Barlow’s other recent reunion tour with Dinosaur Jr., the band is going to play the same small rock clubs it made its name in fifteen years ago. And that’s perfectly fine with its fans.
Three of those fans comprised opening act the Bent Moustache, a band that obviously looks to Sebadoh as forefathers. The band is similarly a trio, but it’s from the Netherlands rather than Massachusetts. Two younger dudes joined by an older drummer who used to be in the Exploited, the band ripped through snotty, manic rock that recalled the Fall or a young Sonic Youth.
The evening found Sebadoh in a mood to please. The band played a marathon set, with members revolving around to different instruments all night. They started with Eric Gaffney on guitar and singing, Lou Barlow on bass, and Jason Lowenstein on drums. Gaffney and Barlow pulled a lot of material off of 1991’s III, which last year saw a much-deserved, beefed-up re-release. At first the sound was muddy, which marred Gaffney’s otherwise great “Violet Execution” and “Scars for Eyes.” But when they switched to a set of Barlow’s material, he took some time to improve the sound, even moving speakers around himself. The vocals were still hard to make out most of the night, but Barlow shrugged that off as Sebadoh being typically unprofessional.
And so it went. Gaffney would come back on guitar or sometimes go behind the kit so that Lowenstein could step out and sing some of his songs. Most were done very fast and very loud. This made the set — which included old favorites “Ride the Darker Wave,” “It’s Alright to Fall in Love,” “God Told Me” and “Vampire” — climb up to more than twenty tunes.
Before the first encore, Gaffney implored the crowd to get louder, saying audiences in other cities had been much rowdier. Barlow handled most of the songs for that encore. Some were slower ballads, others rockers like “The Freed Pig” and “Gimme Indie Rock.”
The second encore fell to Gaffney. The band played a few of his songs from 1993’s Bubble and Scrape. Then they did an absolutely disjointed cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Falling.” It was clear Gaffney didn’t know all the words, but audience members helped out by screaming along to the song’s odes to L.A. Sebadoh wrapped things up for good with “Visibly Wasted,” which is exactly what both the band and its fans looked to be after a long, sweaty, rocking night.