The first week in August was a busy one for the Capital Music Hall – Wilco one day, Modest Mouse the next, then Sonic Youth the following day. Ottawa music fans were most likely thanking the gods of tourdom for sending Lollapalooza down the spout, since the latter two were refugees from the cancellation of Perry  Farrell’s travelling circus.

Originally, Bulb artists Wolf Eyes were supposed to open, but by the time Sonic Youth hit town they had been replaced by Montreal’s Les Georges Leningrad. Part X-Ray Spex, part no-wave, mostly a joke, the drummer’s antics seemed to provide the crowd with the most amusement – striking muscleman poses … falling over backwards … tearing his own shirt with his teeth … eating his shirt … Bobo – his nom de percussion – is in fact a skilled drummer, but the one-chord keyboard and nonsense vocals provided by his two accomplices were a little underwhelming. As they began, one person near me loudly declared “They’re awful!” On the way home, another showgoer walking down the street said “That opening band was something else …” to his companion. Both statements were correct.

The loudest cheers were reserved for Kim Gordon during 'Kool Thing' (unsurprisingly, since the video got a lot of play in Canada), and the announcement of “a little song called ‘Sister’” but the entire show surged. Thurston Moore was the most antic performer, shoving monitors, leaping and sliding, thrusting his guitar against the hall’s speaker system.

(I was joking with a fellow showgoer at the stress involved in being a Sonic Youth guitar tech, with all the alternative tunings the group uses, but I noticed during the show that there’s a strip of reflective tape on the headstock below the tuners with the appropriate info scribbled on – so all they have to cope with is Moore’s instrument abuse.)

Lee Ranaldo and Jim O’Rourke’s put on a less athletic performance (the latter was particularly low-key), but still definitely there – Ranaldo provided excellent lead vocals on two occasions. Like the group’s albums, the sound moved from the delicate to full on blast (though I confess that they seemed quieter than I thought they’d be … or maybe I’m getting deafer).

While not as overwhelming as their reputation would suggest, the show was still very cool.

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