Posted in music | pictures on August 15, 2011

photos by Dana (distortion) Yavin, words by Andrew Sacher

Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth

Kurt Vile and the Violators started the evening pretty early at Williamsburg Waterfront on Friday (8/12), taking the stage at a prompt 6:30 PM. The crowd hadn't filled in too much yet but those who did make it out early were treated to a short, but great set. Drawing almost entirely from his recently released Smoke Ring for My Halo, Kurt's shoegazey folk rock kicked off the show well and was especially fitting on the sunny waterfront with whiffs of barbecue and cigarette smoke floating through the air.

Up next was Wild Flag, who initially won me over when I saw them open for Bright Eyes earlier this year at Radio City, but their Radio City set doesn't compare at all to what they did at the waterfront on Saturday. The all-girl indie supergroup, featuring Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney, Mary Timony of Autoclave and Helium, and Rebecca Cole of The Minders, were greeted to tons of immediate applause as soon as they stepped out onto the stage. Unlike at Bright Eyes, where many people in attendance seemed unfamiliar with the group, this crowd was giving the band some serious support, and that might have encouraged them to rock even harder.

Wild Flag

As Bill pointed out, Wild Flag's album is not out yet and hasn't even leaked, but even being only vaguely familiar with their material from live shows and various online singles, I was blown away by every song. The two frontwomen (Carrie and Mary) switched off lead vocal duties every other song and both of them ripped through killer guitar solos. I was a little more drawn to the Carrie-fronted songs because of how ferocious of a performer she is, but needless to say, Mary's were excellent as well. I feel more than confident in saying that Friday's show is not the last I will be seeing and hearing of Wild Flag.

Sonic Youth took the stage a little after 8 PM as their 5-piece incarnation of the band with Pavement's Mark Ibold, unlike last summer's NYC show at Prospect Park, when it was just the four of them. They launched right away into a handful of old material, focusing most heavily on 1985's Bad Moon Rising, and diving as far back as Confusion is Sex and the Kill Yr Idols EP. After a few more old favorites like "Kotton Krown" and "Eric's Trip," the band played a few cuts off their most recent proper LP, 2009's The Eternal. Having Mark on stage gave Kim Gordon the opportunity to put down her bass and sing. And as Kim proved when she left the constraints of a mic stand and took to the front of the stage during the pummeling "Sacred Trickster," she's an electrifying frontwoman. She carried the band as if she was solely a vocalist for their entire career.

They played material from 1983 alongside stuff from 2009, all sounding like it came from the same brilliant place. While most bands who are thirty years into their career are either fading away or living off of the nostalgia of their older material, Sonic Youth continue to sound and perform as fresh as ever. They thrash around stage with a youthful fervor that could destroy the hip-to-be-bored lo-fi scene who cite the band as an inspiration. And while you could try to argue that the similarities between their newer and older material is a negative thing, you'd be leaving out the fact that with only guitar, bass, and drums, all of it sounds like music from a time period that the rest of the world hasn't experienced yet.

Kim returned to the front of the stage around 9pm to sing "Drunken Butterfly" off 1992's Dirty. The band then left the stage after what seemed like far too short of a set. The crowd was audibly disappointmented. However, Sonic Youth quickly began making up for it when they returned for the first of three encores. Kim gave a shout out to Wild Flag and dedicated the song "Flower" to them. After leaving and returning to the stage a couple more times, the band were preparing to play their actual last song when a fan threw a ukulele to Lee Ranaldo, which he used to create the noise intro to "Inhuman." As the song progressed, Thurston Moore unplugged the bass he was playing and started making feedback with his guitar cable that he proceeded to wrap around his neck and body as he sang into the mic that he'd ripped off the stand. Mark Ibold and Steve Shelly kept what was left of the song's structure intact as Kim and Lee continued to create layers and layers of guitar noise. The band stretched the song's ending for at least twice the duration of the recorded version as Thurston kicked around stage moaning and shrieking "inhuman" and Lee swung guitars around by drumsticks lodged underneath their strings, completely stripping at least three of them. By the song's end, Thurston had uprooted the mic setup, and over a sea of fading feedback he said, "With the power of love, anything is possible," threw the mic down and walked off stage.

More pictures, a video, and setlists from the show below...

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Sonic Youth at Williamsburg Waterfront 8/12/11

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Kurt Vile Setlist:
Overnite Religion
Runner Ups
Jesus Fever
On Tour
Ghost Town

Sonic Youth Setlist:
Brave Men Run (in My Family)
Death Valley '69
Kotton Krown
Kill Yr Idols
Eric's Trip
Sacred Trickster
Calming the Snake
Starfield Road
I Love Her All the Time
Ghost Bitch
Tom Violence
What We Know
Drunken Butterfly

Encore 1:
Flower
Sugar Kane

Encore 2:
Psychic Hearts

Encore 3:
Inhuman
--

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Comments (80)

The nice weather and Kim in that skimpy red outfit alone made my night. Huzzah!

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:03 PM

Best show of the year!

ok at least in my top 10 so far......along with Flying Lotus @ LPR, LCD @ T5, Godspeed @ Church, Nicholas Jarr @ LPR, and etc

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:07 PM

What's going on in the last picture?! That is totally amazing!

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:07 PM

Posted this in the other thread in response to the over hyping idiots:

"Yes the show was good. I have yet to see a bad Sonic Youth show and believe me I have seen more than you. One of the best shows of the summer? Nope. Sound at Waterfront sucks. Honestly Prospect Park last year was much better than Friday and if you disagree well then you were not at that show."

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:08 PM

IIINNNNNNHHHUUUUUUUMMMAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNN

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:10 PM

1:08 = correct on all counts. I have also seen them more than a few times extending back 20 years. They show was good, fun (there is never a bad Sonic Youth show), but nothing compared to Prospect Park last year. That one was the singular best Sonic Youth show I've ever seen (and I've seen them in clubs without a stage playing to 200 people).

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:13 PM

My show highlight was What We Know. All of them singing and jamming ... perfect

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:14 PM

@1:07 splashed a poland spring bottle all over the guitar haha.

great show, would be nice if Kurt Vile comes back soon.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:15 PM

1:13pm. If you're in the drinking area, waterfront sound sucks cause of all people talking but if you're right near the soundboard, the sound was great on Friday.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:16 PM

I don't understand how a Sonic Youth fan can be upset about people being excited at how good the show was, but okay.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:16 PM

Anyone hear that insanely loud sound glitch for a mili-second at the very end? It was scary, dangerously loud, obviously unplanned mistake, probably the sound guy's fault.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:16 PM

.......................................................... INNNNNNNNHHHHHUUUUUUMMMMMMMMAAAAAAANNNNNN

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:16 PM

I want to see Sonic Youth play Maxwell's again....

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:24 PM

Those are good pictures.

Posted by Leon | August 15, 2011 1:31 PM

As one of the proud overhyping bozos, I also cannot fathom the logic of 1:08 & 1:13, aside from establishing for all their infallible status as leading authorities on all things SY.

I've also seen them numerous times and agree that Prospect last year was the best of those, and a night that would be damn tough to top.

That said, friday left me as freshly energized about the band as ever.

"Overhyping" applies to the half-baked, amateurish hacks like many of those subtly referenced by the reviewer here. It just doesn't apply when the masters come around and remind us of their mastery, in this case even for 1000x time.
That shit's to be celebrated.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:33 PM

Glad I wasn't alone thinking "What We Know" was a highlight.
That one belongs right there in the SY cannon.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:36 PM

I have seen Sonic Youth a billion times dating back to 1948, including once when they played in a venue smaller than ones they typically play in now, therefore, I KNOW whether or not you enjoyed the concert more so than other concerts you have attended this summer.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:37 PM

Posted this in the other thread in response to something I imagined:

just to let you guys know that I posted my comment (above) in the other thread here too. so anyone reading that thread or this one will learn from my comment. have to go update my wall and tumblr now, will let you all know about the next show I go to and whether or not it was good. toodles.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:41 PM

lol. ohhh sy fans, why can't we just get along?! if one person says it was one of the best shows of summer, leave it alone!

It's not like you went to every show that he/she went to this year....

Oh by the way, hipsters....if you want to see a real band, go see Sonic Youth!

Sonic Youth > LCD

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:46 PM

this is 1:13
(a) one correction - I didn't mind the sound. I was dead center about halfway from stage to soundboard, and I thought the sound was good.
(b) I am not trying to be a know it all SY final word fan. Sorry if all you kids feel that way. If you had a blast, that's what counts. Believe me, it is not my intent to detract from anyone's good time.
(c) Objectively, it was great to hear the old old tunes again ... really great. And great to have Lee and Thurston get so experimental. But, objectively, the show could have been longer, and lacked a certain energy and magic that Prospect Park had.
(d) Prospect Park was the best Sonic Youth show I've ever seen, and by extension one of the best shows I've ever seen. It would be pretty hard to top that, agreed.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:48 PM

i saw sonic youth in 1985. now i live in my parent's basement.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:55 PM

Anyone bitching about this show obviously wasn't there. Best setlist ever.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 1:59 PM

the venue ruined it for me

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:04 PM

Why do people like Wild Flag? Lousiest band of the year.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:04 PM

>>They thrash around stage with a youthful fervor that could destroy the hip-to-be-bored lo-fi scene who cite the band as an inspiration.

I SO SO SO ADORE THAT PHRASE. KEEP IT IN MIND WHEN YOU'RE CHOMPING AWAY ON YOUR BILLYBURGERS, KIDS.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:08 PM

"Anyone bitching about this show obviously wasn't there. Best setlist ever."

Posted by Biggest moron know nothing ever.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:10 PM

Can we all agree that Carrie Brownstein is one of the coolest people to ever touch the surface of the Earth?
So rad.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:12 PM


Wild Flag are boring, but I do enjoy stand-up comedian Carrie Brownstein.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:22 PM

I was not really impressed by Wild Flag. Was hoping for a home-run and it was a bunt.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:23 PM

sonic youth is like bob dylan. they only get better with age.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:29 PM

Funny how this thread is sorta on the smarmy side, but seems to be simmering with semi-hostility waiting to burst into full hostility at any minute.

Leave to something like SY to do as such.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:30 PM

All the best Sonic Youth shows were during Lollapalooza '95

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:30 PM

I had a ton of fun at this show. I can now die saying I saw them live.

The fact that they played Sugar Kane made it for me honestly, if they didn't, it wouldn't of been as great in my opinion.

They were fucking amazing during their jam bits.

Kurt Vile was great, sounded very very very slightly like Velvet Underground :).

Wild Flag just blew dick though. Those lesboes really didn't grab my attention with their corny songs... I personally hate that chick band scene because if you don't happen to like it, you are instantly slated sexist.

Fuck that shit, I didn't pay to see a couple of mothers who decided to make a band.

Then again, openers are usually hit or miss anyway. EX: Endless Boogie sucked dick when they opened for Pavement last year at the Waterfront. Yet Suuns ruled when they opened for Black Angels at MHOW last April.

Whatever, that aside, great show, great people, great time :D

Posted by Sam | August 15, 2011 2:32 PM

Back to back I love her all the time and Ghost Bitch back to back is when this show went from good to great. I was at the Prospect Park show last year, and this show was just as good. Sound was great right by the soundboard.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:34 PM

I love that people think they can tell you how much you enjoyed the show. Fuck off I had an amazing night and if you didn't then I guess your a cynical twat who can't enjoy a concert with out comparing it to everything else.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:36 PM

"Wild Flag just blew dick though. Those lesboes really didn't grab my attention with their corny songs... I personally hate that chick band scene because if you don't happen to like it, you are instantly slated sexist."

Wow. Wouldn't want to label a modern guy like you sexist, now would we.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:37 PM

Am I the only one who realizes that Sonic Youth are not "youths" anymore? they should call themselves Sonic Old. AMIRIGHT???

Posted by Paula Poundstone | August 15, 2011 2:39 PM

^ Sonic Elderly.

Kinda reminds of Pete Townshend nowadays. "Hope I die before I get old"?

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:47 PM

@2:32 talking about Wild Flag -- grow up.

Nobody takes people seriously who compare Kurt Vile to The Velvet Underground anyway.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:50 PM

i was there...

kurt vile...amazing...short...amazing...love him

wild flag...drummer has big boobs...carrie is awesome...mary sucks...overall...meh.

sonic youth...great as usual...seen them better in the past but great and happy.

venue...beautiful night, lots of space...good times.

crowd...fucking awful. a cross section of all alt culture from riot grrl lesbos to hippies to alt jocks.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:52 PM

@232: "Wild Flag just blew dick though. Those lesboes really didn't grab my attention with their corny songs... I personally hate that chick band scene because if you don't happen to like it, you are instantly slated sexist.
Fuck that shit, I didn't pay to see a couple of mothers who decided to make a band."

Um, it's not your not liking that band that makes you sexist.

But your complete lack of self awareness is certainly refreshing on a site full of ironic commenters.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:53 PM

......................................................... INNNNNNNNHHHHHUUUUUUMMMMMMMMAAAAAAANNNNNN

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:55 PM

The best part of the show was when Thurston pulled out his Braun Cruzer and shaved Kim bare!

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:56 PM

Blonde girl in the first crowd shot looks like she's thinking very intently on what she'd like to do to Kurt Vile.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:57 PM

"wild flag...drummer has big boobs"

they bounced in time. awesome.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:57 PM

Great show. Loved how they busted out some old gems. The members of Sonic Youth may have grown up, but they still bring the energy of a young, new band. Their songs will never grow old. Awesome pics. Thank you!

Posted by dead idol | August 15, 2011 2:59 PM

>>i was there...

kurt vile...amazing...short...amazing...love him
- i've been aware of him since pre-matador, and while i get why he opened for sy, he's played a bunch with thurston, i can't really get that into him. but whatever.

wild flag...drummer has big boobs...carrie is awesome...mary sucks...overall...meh.
- pretty sexist comment. the drummer you're speaking of is janet weiss, formerly of sleater-kinney, the jicks and still of quasi. she's a fucking badass drummer. end of discussion. i was never a helium fan, but i saw mary open solo for smog a few years ago in seattle, and she was perfectly fine.

sonic youth...great as usual...seen them better in the past but great and happy.
- yes, they are great. but your opinion doesn't count any more since the sexisy comment.

venue...beautiful night, lots of space...good times.
- see above remark.

crowd...fucking awful. a cross section of all alt culture from riot grrl lesbos to hippies to alt jocks.
- seems like you would fit right in there nice and, um, tight.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 2:59 PM

@2:32PM(s)

"I personally hate that chick band scene because if you don't happen to like it, you are instantly slated sexist.

Fuck that shit, I didn't pay to see a couple of mothers who decided to make a band."

Haha! Way to ward off any claim that your a sexist...Where would anyone get that idea?

Posted by Anon | August 15, 2011 3:03 PM

"i saw sonic youth in 1985. now i live in my parent's basement."

Basically, according to this idiotic meme attempt, if you're lucky enough to have seen any legendary punk, post punk or alternative band in their original heyday, you now are destined to live in your parent's basement. Fail genius...life turned out just great for a lot of us.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 3:03 PM

@ 2:59...

stop judging the crowd so much and just enjoy the show

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 3:05 PM

2:59 = fat homely lesbian
save it, Sammy ... we've all heard your "sexist" this and "sexist" that before. it's even more tiresome now that we know that punchline.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 3:10 PM

you suck.

no, you suck.

-every comment ever on this site

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 3:29 PM

Fro to the Hawk

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 3:40 PM

That's like the most obvious trolling ever, you guys responding to mr sexism are playing right into his hands

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 3:59 PM

@3:35- That's the second asshole I saw in two days wearing red sock with a sock garter showing. WT Fuck is going on?

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 4:01 PM

Kim has 3 boobs and Janet's boobs actually bounce in doubletime ... END OF DISCUSSION

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 4:02 PM

@2:59 you've been aware of kurt vile pre-matador? cool bro.

were you aware of iron & wine pre-warner brothers too?

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 4:09 PM

I was in the front, right against the barricades. The sound was nice and loud and great energy in the crowd. The only downside was accidentally looking up Kim's miniskirt and getting an eyeful. Dear lord. Wear some underwear. I am a woman btw. I wasn't seeking this out.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 4:14 PM

Kim looks AMAZING for being AARP-eligible.
Don't think I'd want to peak up that dirt dress either.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 4:21 PM

i think wild flag only has one lesbo

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 4:29 PM

Kurt Vile was great, too short, they run a tight ship there. Was glad to hear SY do songs from The Eternal. Maybe they don't make "essential" records anymore, but they're still pretty damn good and better than most of the other stuff out there...and I thought those songs held up just fine amongst all the classics they played. Great night, one of the reasons why we're all lucky to live in NYC.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 4:39 PM

This is a cute missed connection: We spoke during Sonic Youth's encore http://newyork.craigslist.org/brk/mis/2545089738.html

Posted by zoe | August 15, 2011 4:43 PM

BEST SONIC YOUTH SHOW EVER.

BEST SONIC YOUTH SHOW EVER.

BEST SONIC YOUTH SHOW EVER.

BEST SONIC YOUTH SHOW EVER.

BEST SONIC YOUTH SHOW EVER.

BEST SONIC YOUTH SHOW EVER.

BEST SONIC YOUTH SHOW EVER.

BEST SONIC YOUTH SHOW EVER.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 4:44 PM

Wild Flag was horrible. Sonic Youth were great, but they could have played longer.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 4:46 PM

Showoftheyearahahahahahahaha!

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 4:47 PM

4:01 - you best catch that train right now before everyone is wearing that red socks/garters combination and the cost of those red sock garters goes through the roof.

point of reference - remember how we all used to laugh at the old men playing Bocci?

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 4:51 PM

Reading some of the Wild Flag comments... Jesus christ, straight people are retarded.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 4:55 PM

I enjoyed Wild Flag. I am a straight male. I think that they are about the music, and that is OK with me.

I did so want to look up Mary's skirt though ;-)

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 5:03 PM

5:03, I heard that Mary is one of those girls with a real problem. She will give head for a pita chip of hummus.

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 5:05 PM

Dear BV- How is it that your music website ended up catering to a bunch of shithead jocks and their retarded cousins, the snarky hipsters? Boob jokes? "I'd tap that"? I suppose a better question might be, "Why do I continue to visit a website populated by such shitty people?" Great photos, as usual. Misogynistic comments, also as usual. I feel dumber already......

Posted by kNic | August 15, 2011 6:47 PM

I'd tap kNic

Posted by Anonymous | August 15, 2011 8:58 PM

any upskirts of kim g?

Posted by Anonymous | August 16, 2011 1:16 AM

I heard Thurston likes his hummus spicy with a bit of Sonic kick.

Posted by Sam | August 16, 2011 2:07 AM

More crowd shots of real fans singing the words, not these stupid dumb bimbo bitches.

Wild Flag sucked. Sonic Youth and Kurt Vile were great.

Now can we all kiss up and eat hummus?

Posted by Kevin | August 16, 2011 2:09 AM

I once saw Sonic Youth at the dawn of time. Thurston could barely stand up in all the bubbling muck. The only other creatures to witness the show were a few amoebas and some tadpoles. Man, it was so hot. Best show ever.

Posted by Anonymous | August 16, 2011 11:31 AM

This was a great show. If the person who booked it is reading this: nice job!

Posted by Anonymous | August 16, 2011 12:12 PM

Only poseurs claim to know which sy shows or eras are best. How self-righteous can you fauxhemians get? And your parents probably paid for your tickets

Posted by Anonymous | August 16, 2011 7:05 PM

Ya know, the funny thing is that we all know that 11:31 & 7:05 are the same twats that post about how shitty a joint T5 is and how Bowery Presents shows are evil, to the dismay of fans that enjoy the shows courtesy of those two organizations (or one organization, whatever, who cares). Sorry, hipster posers - you don't get to pick and choose your causes at the exclusion of logic, nor do you get to define terms that you are guilty of yourselves. Hypocrites!

Posted by Anonymous | August 16, 2011 7:37 PM

7:37 is obviously a guy slumming it in W'burg, living on his parents money

Posted by Anonymous | August 16, 2011 8:20 PM

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