Friday, March 14, 2008

For the love of Bob Mould

The frequency with which I get to a show has severely lessened. But that does not lessen the degree to which it does a heart good.

Today, I went to see the Bob Mould Band. I will confess that I have not listened to that much Husker Du. But I am an enormous Sugar fan. I bought "File Under Easy Listening" and held on to it for years before falling in love with it. That album and "Copper Blue" were the soundtrack to months and months of grad school. They were catchy and crunchy and delicious. By the time I embraced the album, Sugar was no longer a band and I read that Bob Mould had put down the guitar and was making electronic music.

Which made me all kinds of sad but, y'know, "Copper Blue" came out in 1992 (the year I graduated from college) and "File Under Easy Listening" came out in 1994. People got to move on with their lives, right?

So you cannot imagine my delight to hear that Bob Mould had picked up the guitar again.

There I was. Surrounded by a crowd of mostly my age group with a smattering of youngsters. Someone made a joke that this was a crowd of people who couldn't wait to see an old gay man play the guitar. My reply to this would have to be "Hells yeah!"

He opened with a Sugar song. Yeee! Coming down from my fan girl place I will say that the guitar work was not what it was on the album and the vocals weren't either. But being there in the presence of these beloved songs and their creator was still a thrill. Despite the toll of time, the songs have good bones. They hold up through it all. And he holds up too.

He's a tall man with neatly trimmed beard, bald (shaved?) head. He is composed and somehow unassuming, all things considered. No crazy kicks or windmills. In contrast, his supercute bass player was a powder keg all over the stage.

My favorite songs from the night were not songs that I knew. I fell in love with them right there as he was singing them. They were more downtempo. They were the songs of a person who has lived. Songs that a grown up would write for a grown up to sing. The rasp of his voice weaving the line was vivid and intimate. His voice was not in top condition but he worked around whatever condition and issues he was having to create something musical and beautiful and real. It was rough. It was present. No effects, no gloss, just his voice. It was powerful. And I was awed to be there.

At the end a little mosh pit attempted to happen it consisted of tall older men who couldn't find enough people who wanted to crash back into them. One of them rapped me in the head with his arm. It was on accident, I'm sure. But I wanted to do my part so I shoved him and bumped my shoulder into a few of them, bracing myself to get knocked over. The pit did not happen. Perhaps they should have brought their kids to demonstrate that in these times and this part of the country if you were not ready to just crash into people you needed to start dancing out a circle to signal to others what was about to happen both as warning and invitation.

It was mostly a night to be a fan girl swathed in nostalgia and puppy wriggles. But there were moments of something really really fine and elevating.

It was as Tess Gallager said:

You can sing sweet
and get the song sung
but to get to the third
dimension you have to sing it
rough, hurt the tune a little. Put
enough strength to it
that the notes slip. Then
something else happens. The song
gets large. (Gallagher, 1986)

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