Not many bands can sell out the Greekwithout a single hit on the radio or, much less, a hit record. (And no, Phish and Widespread Panicdon't count. Sorry.) Come to think of it, I can't even recall the last time I heard Sonic Youth being played on the radio since, like, 1992, while I was being dropped off at grade school by my big brother.
Composed of members who have somehow since become household names—Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo, Steve Shelley—Sonic Youth have really been around. (And by around, I mean that their name has never quite disappeared from the music scene, much less lost any credibility in the eyes of music snobs everywhere.) The band's unaffected cred and name have even outlasted others who played a role in the short-lived New York City no-wave music and art scene (a nebulously obscure, not-so-distant relative of the 1970s New York City punk scene), such as Mars, Swans or Theoretical Girls.
But the band's durability and undying fan base despite lack of commercial success and radio play and Billboard charts is perhaps the most remarkable thing about them. They've stolen Peter Frampton's watermelon on the "Homerpalooza" episode of The Simpsons ("God. Homer Simpson wrecks my pig, Cypress Hill steals my orchestra and Sonic Youth's in my cooler! Get out of there, you kids!"), guest-starred and performed an acoustic version of "What a Waste" on last year's season finale of Gilmore Girls (seriously), opened for Neil Young in 1990, toured with Pearl Jam in 2006, headlined Lollapalooza in 1995 (and again in 2006), worked with everyone from Public Enemy to Fugazi and, perhaps most notably, helped launch the mammoth careers of other bands, all the while still managing to remain in a strange quasi-spotlight. Thurston Moore helped Nirvana get signed to Geffen Records, and the rest, as we all know, is history and mad drama. (Right, Courtney?)
It's important to note that Sonic Youth aren't on some reunion tour, as some of their Coachella peers (. . . or younger contemporaries) are. Right now, right this second in 2007, a whole 26 years after the band's genesis, Sonic Youth are not trying to cash-in on a sound being resurrected by the tragically hip and easily forgotten. The band has been continuously and faithfully putting out records since 1982.
And in preserving the spirit of Sonic Youth's rebellion against the mainstream, their set this weekend will probably feature avant-garde, feedback-riddled noise that will clock in much longer than Peter, Bjorn & John's entire career.
Sonic Youth perform at the Outdoor Theatre. Fri., 9:55 p.m.
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