The Bent Moustache – Washington – 9:30 Club, DC – 2007-04-03

The Bent Moustache
Where: Washington – 9:30 Club, DC.

When: 2007-04-03

Reunion fever is sweeping the rock and roll nation and the latest victim to fall prey to the virus is Lou Barlow. No person has made such a long and productive career out of broken relationships than he has and he may not have had such a career if not for the nature of relationships falling apart. Sebadoh began as an outlet for the trouble he experienced in Dinosaur Jr. and after time became a vehicle for the pining of “that one true love.” That love then broke down and was well documented on the classic III album and before long the creative partnership with Eric Gaffney began to develop problems. Now in 2007 Barlow has since gotten married and reconciled with both Mascis and Gaffney. After 14 years the original Sebadoh lineup has reunited in the wake of the III reissue and following in Dinosaur’s footsteps, has hit the road.

The lucky act to gain exposure on this tour is The Bent Moustache, a 3 piece from the Netherlands. Or at least that’s where they said they were from. The ‘Stache seemed to say a lot of things, none of which was informative or important. They opened their set with a guitar/keyboard/drum song, with singer/keyboardist Ajay Saggar decked out in a pharaoh’s hat to accompany the noise rock meets Sam the Sham piece. With that the keys were ditched in favor of his main instrument, the bass, and the trio set about making a half hour’s worth of noise with each song as incomprehensible as the last. The audience, what little of one there was for their set, wasn’t entranced, and this was quickly noticeable to Saggar. After each musical assault he treated the crowd with the verbal variety, chiding them for not getting into the music which is apparently detrimental to the band’s performance. As the evening wore on it became clear that it was not just the ‘Stache that provoked such staid reaction so the band was not completely to blame.

In their defense however they were energetic and amusing to watch. Their take on loud post punk-ish 3 minute pop songs were well performed for only a 3 member group. Certain songs contained interesting segments to but overall it was a performance to be better enjoyed if one was already familiar with the album. No song names were given, which was the one thing Saggar didn’t tell the audience. The largest cheer of the evening for them was Barlow appearing on stage at Saggar’s cell phone request to tune his bass. It was a joke than ran too long and had an air of being a tad rehearsed.

Several questions were at hand before Sebadoh took the stage. Would they perform anything from the post-Gaffney era? (They did.) Since the reconciliation between Barlow & Mascis would there be a “The Freed Pig?” (There was.) Would there be solo sets since each member has a wealth of material to draw from? (No, there wouldn’t.)

In true old school Sebadoh fashion a tape began to play over the PA announcing their entrance. There was a rather lengthy and awkward period after the tape finished and before Jason Lowenstein and Gaffney appeared on stage taking their places at the drums and guitar, respectfully. Barlow then bounded across the stage to the bass as Gaffney introduced the band. Again, another awkward moment as everyone there, (the club had begun to fill up at this point) knew who they were; that’s why they were there.

Trusty beat up acoustic guitar in hand Gaffney then led the band through a Weed Forestin track and into several III anthems such as “Scars, Four Eyes” and either “God Told Me” or “Supernatural Force.” It was hard to tell, even with the repeated listening it was given during those coming-of-age years, as the sound quality was terrible. The bass, not just Barlow’s playing but later Lowenstein as well, was turned up far too loud and caused a sludgy mix drowning out the guitar throughout the whole evening. The performances of the songs were also missing the trademark vocal affectations that made them so loveable. Gaffney, dressed a lot like an Austin Powers extra, sang the songs in a rather straight forward manner while Barlow’s back up vocals were barely audible.

After a band-instrument rotation, Gaffney to drums, Barlow to guitar, they went into 2 of the more popular songs in their back catalogue, “Brand New Love” and “It’s So Hard To Fall In Love.” Though they were greeted with appreciation it wasn’t exactly the reaction I was expecting. Maybe I’m just getting old. What did get the biggest applause were “newer” songs such as “Too Pure” and “Mind Reader” during a too brief Jason set from ’96’s Harmacy and “Careful” from ’94’s Bakesale. If these are the songs that people came to hear, maybe Gaffney really did need to introduce himself.

By the time they got to “The Freed Pig” the whole charm of the reunion was lost. It was obvious they were there to play “the hits” as there was no other reason for playing it; they were now giving the people what they wanted. Unfortunately what they wanted was more from Bubble & Scrape. The entire performance came off as trying to replicate the sloppy mess of the terrorist folk that Barlow & Gaffney wanted to create years ago. That is the beauty of III. It was the perfect balance between aching yearning-for-love and acceptance songs and complete fuck it all-ness. They tried but fell short to achieve this. It was an entertaining show but still left something to be desired. Perhaps if the reunion also included drummer Bob Fay (who replaced Gaffney on Bakesale & Harmacy) there would have been more honesty in the set as each member to come through the Sebadoh lineage has contributed their own certain feeling and skill.

Sebadoh is an amazing band with III & Bakesale having greater meaning to me than the more popular Nevermind & Live Through This did in that era. And even though I’m older I still need that reassurance that I received from those albums. And with the self billed “classic Sebadoh” line up finally on stage before me, I only felt kind of cheated. I can’t say what they were in this for, certainly it wasn’t the millions a Simon & Garfunkel reunion bringt in but there was definitely something afoot. I swear I even heard Gaffney say before a song “Here’s a new one….” Oh shit……here we go again….