Sebadoh/Mazes; October 31, 2011; High Noon Saloon
I love Lou Barlow. I love his floppy hair, his narcotic hypnotic voice, his self-deprecating humor. But I couldn’t quite remember why I don’t love Sebadoh. I’ve been to all his solo shows in Madison, and I listen to those CDs and the Folk Implosion stuff, but Harmacy, my one Sebadoh CD, hasn’t been off the shelf in years. After two of the best songs from that record, “Ocean” and “On Fire,” showed up early in the set I was even more mystified. Then Jason Loewenstein who had been playing bass switched guitars with Barlow and took the mike and I remembered. Sebadoh is a tale of two songwriters, and while I guess technically they could be more different, they seem at best jarringly at odds with each other. Barlow is the indie singer songwriter, the jangly Mr. Tambourine Man and Loewenstein is a whole lot punk. By the end of the night I had almost gotten used to the dichotomy and Loewenstein’s songs weren’t quite as abrasive, but I’d still rather a full night of Barlow.
Luckily it did seem that he sang more than half of the set, he certainly did most of the talking. It was Halloween, so it didn’t seem weird when he took the stage wearing priest outfit. Not weird at all that is, until he said he found it in the parking lot of the BP down the street where he had gone “to get some protein.” Since he had committed to wearing the outfit, he claimed he needed to commit all the way and he led us in the “Our Father” to start the show. Other than the handful of songs I knew from Harmacy I didn’t recognize most of the set, but I learned from the T-shirt (more later) I bought after the show that this was the “Harmacy Bakesale remembering tour,” so I guess that means those two records were featured.
When I arrived it looked like it might be another depressing Monday night crowd, but it did fill in gradually and by the time they played there was a healthy amount of people. And all of them were right up front. Barlow couldn’t have been happier, “I always have a great time in Madison,” he declared, “but no one ever comes to my shows.” Unless you go back to a miserably jam packed Sebadoh show at O’Cayz Corral a long, long time ago (which oddly enough followed a show at the Barrymore), he’s kinda right. Even his show at the tiny Frequency earlier this year hadn’t felt crowded. He struggled to remember the last time Sebadoh had played here and I was surprised no one yelled it out; I couldn’t have been the only person who was at both shows. For the encore he added another Halloween accessory to his ensemble. He hoisted the glowing eyed zombie which had been lurking side stage onto his shoulders and tried to play the final song. The little fella kept getting loose until he tucked him under his guitar strap. Yes, a little strange, but it was Halloween.
The only thing they had for sale was T-shirts in “a variety of indistinguishable covers. Um, colors,” according to Barlow. True to his word when I asked for a small black one he pawed through the pile before handing me one. I looked at it suspiciously, “is that black or blue?” He looked crestfallen, “please don’t be picky.” I handed him fifteen dollars and took the shirt.