Over The Weekend: Sonic Youth, Fox Theater, Pomona

The Hype: The acoustically-pristine Fox Theater in Pomona seemed to be a perfect launch pad for Sonic Youth's trademark feedback on Friday. Thanks to Mark Ibold on bass, the show also served as a miniature sneak peak of sorts of the highly anticipated Pavement reunion. Lee Ranaldo--which we recently interviewed--broke his wrist postponing their show originally scheduled a few months ago. Would he return in top form?

Kim Gordon stands center stage at Fox Theater, Pomona
Kim Gordon stands center stage at Fox Theater, Pomona
Andrew Youssef


The Show: By the time Sonic Youth took the stage the audience seemed to have magically doubled and the roar ripped through like Santa Ana winds. The crowd's cacophony, though, had nothing on Sonic Youth as they tore into a nuclear "No Way." Thurston Moore appeared larger than life, his custom, namesake Fender Jazzmaster looking like a toy matched against his lanky frame. Dissonant guitar chords collided with each other in a car crash entitled "Sacred Trickster," as bassist, guitarist (wife of Moore) Kim Gordon took over the vocal duties, nailing the line, "What's it like to be a girl in a band?"

Ranaldo showed no ill effects from his broken wrist as he hammered away at his custom namesake Fender Jazzmaster guitar while singing lead on "Walkin' Blue." A triple attack of guitars and vocals from Gordon, Ranaldo and Moore had heads bobbing throughout the venue. Moore politely thanked the crowd for attending the rescheduled show and jokingly mentioned that Ranaldo broke his ankle while pointing to his wrist.  "Anti-Orgasm" was, well, aurally orgasmic with sheets of noise and feedback--punctuated by vocal grunts--hitting the crowd right in the naughty bits.  

Turning the clock back to 1987, "White Cross" had both Ibold and Gordon working overtime on their basses. It was impressive to see how effortlessly the song blended into their setlist that consisted primarily of material from their new album 

The Eternal

. Metallic harmonics of "Leaky Lifeboat (for Gregory Corso)" bounced through my brain as the overall volume seemed to get louder throughout the evening. The visual assault came during "What We Know," with white noise spiked by flickering strobe lights. "Massage The History" was surprising in that Thurston played an acoustic guitar, perhaps to allow a little healing time for our ears, or his. I wouldn't think Sonic Youth would even bother owning acoustic guitars. 

Lee pulled a Jimmy Page--well, sorta--grabbed a violin bow and coaxed some dreamy sustained notes from his guitar for "The Sprawl." The punk vitrol of "'Cross The Breeze" had a pit breakout in the center of the floor as I noted that Steve Shelley might be one of the more under-appreciated drummers in alternative rock. The man is a monster behind the kit. Ranaldo could barely believe the response from the crowd during the second encore, asking "Are you all really from Pomona?" "Expressway to Yr. Skull" ended the evening with the kind of symphonic feedback swirl that Sonic Youth pretty much invented and continues to do better than any band on the planet. 

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Sic Alps opened the evening with a set of Rice Krispies-crackle, fuzz tunes. I have to tip my hat to them because how does one really open for Sonic Youth? They wisely thanked the crowd and Sonic Youth for letting them open the show.   

The Crowd: People of all ages were dotted throughout the crowd. It definitely didn't feel like a Pomona audience as I am sure a number of people from LA made the trek. My guess is that about seventy percent of the concertgoers plan to attend Coachella. 

Overheard: "We love Sonic Youth, but we wanted to watch Mark Ibold on bass," was spoken by two front-and-center Pavement fans. They were slightly jealous when I told them I saw Pavement and Sonic Youth together in 1995 at Lollapalooza.  

Setlist: 
1. "No Way"
2. "Sacred Trickster"
3. "Calming The Snake"
4. "Tom Violence"
5. "Walkin' Blue"
6. "Poison Arrow"
7. "Anti-Orgasm"
8. "White Cross"
9. "Malibu Gas Station"
10. "Antenna"
11. "Leaky Lifeboat (for Gregory Corso)"
12. "What We Know"
13. "Massage The History"
First Encore
14. "The Sprawl"
15. "'Cross The Breeze"
Second Encore
16. "Expressway To Yr. Skull"   



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