Concert Review: Circle of Buzzards, Sentridoh, Sebadoh, August 21, Horseshoe Tavern


“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
– Oscar Wilde

If anyone subscribes to this mantra onstage, it’s Lou Barlow. Barlow, Jason Loewenstein, and drummer Russ Pollard Bob D’Amico (thanks to the commenter below) were back in Toronto for the second time in as many years. This time with a triple-loaded billing starting with Loewenstein’s Circle of Buzzards, followed by Barlow’s solo act (this time under Sentridoh), and finally Sebadoh.

Walking in towards the end of Circle of Buzzards’ scream-laden set, I was pleasantly surprised at how the show appeared to be running ahead of schedule. The Buzzards were slated for 9:00 and wrapped at 9:40; Barlow was scheduled for 10:00 and went on before then; the same goes for Sebadoh. No prolonged sound check, on the fly tuning–this is the way the veterans do it.

The Sentridoh segment was probably the most comfortable I’d seen Barlow. When I saw him in 2010 with the Missingmen, it took him quite a while to loosen the juices to get the storyflow going during his solo set. This time, he launched into it right away–how years of masturbation had not hurt him (as documented through songs like Pound My Skinny Head, which he said was the only one he refused to play), how weed inspired the best songwriting at 19 years old, how his first crush crushed his heart, how happy he was to be away from his wife and kids on tour. His best story was about inadequacies he felt about his career, accomplishments, and physique dropping off his daughter at their posh L.A. neighbourhood school, leading into the song “Calves of Champions” (penned for a comedian and fellow father at his daughter’s school that he was in awe of).

I think the reason Lou’s such a great storyteller is because he lays it all out there. The self-image issues, the inadequacies, the embarrassing teenage memories (one of the funniest stories of the night came in telling us about how he naively thought he would impress his first crush by showing up with contact lenses, which promptly fell out) are unedited. In an age where everyone is pretending to lead perfect, busy lives, this is refreshingly melancholy stuff to say the least.

Barlow plucked away at his ukulele (the instrument he used to write his first songs), which he joked “saved me $25 in baggage checking fees”. Everything of course led into a story, which led into a song–it was revealed that the original Dinosaur Jr. drummer “Murph” had sat and broke his ukulele–and it was only recently that he realized he’d forgiven him for it (revealed to him by the fact that Murph was living with his wife and kids while he was touring).

The ease with which the stories rattled out was alarming, and there was a nice ebb and flow between stories, audience laughter, and songs. Barlow should consider a storytelling tour with a bunch of other 90’s giants.

As for the Sebadoh set, I was happy to see the release of the first new material from their new Secret EP, being hocked on the band’s Bandcamp page, and physical copies being sold only on tour by the band themselves (no merchandising girl for these guys). I’ve said this a lot before and I’ll say it again–it can only be so stimulating for so long to play the same “classics” over and over and over again. After 20 years, I can see how the lustre could fade. The new songs sounded better to me–fresher and more energized. Barlow’s harmonization changed for these songs too, sounding more solid and on the nose than the changed up tune of the older catalogue.

In any case, there was plenty to keep everyone happy–Ocean, Vampire, Beauty of the Ride, they were all there.

Here’s the setlist from their Cambridge, which looks to be more or less what we got:

  1. Flame
  2. Skull
  3. Rebound
  4. Ocean
  5. Arbitrary High
  6. Magnet’s Coil
  7. The Freed Pig
  8. Got It
  9. Mind Reader
  10. S. Soup
  11. Drag Down
  12. Love to Fight
  13. Keep the Boy Alive
  14. Vampire
  15. Homemade
  16. Forced Love
  17. Beauty of the Ride
  18. Sixteen
  19. Drama Mine
  20. Careful
  21. Crystal Gypsy
  22. I Dont Mind
  23. My Drugs

Happily, there weren’t any encores. Not because we didn’t want any, but because we’re too old for them now.

Posted on by Allison in Concerts

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