Three piece kings of Lo-fi Sebadoh were born out of the prolific nature of Dinosaur Jr back in 1988. Founding member Lou Barlow needed an outlet for the songs he was writing while playing bass in Dinosaur Jr.
A few lineup changes, intermittent side projects and 9 albums later, it’s 2020 and this Massachusetts trio find themselves with two sold out shows at the Northcote Social Club in Melbourne. This show was technically the second sold out show but physically the first.
Opening up for the evening was local act Immigrant Union who weaved their way through a genre diverse set of songs that weaved in, out and around melodic psyche rock. The bass was the driving melodic force throughout their set which gave them a mid century pop element while the fuzz guitars could have come straight out of Seattle circa 1991. The drums and the keyboards were the glue to this performance, subtly working their magic whilst never overtaking the sound at any point. With their second album coming out through Cheer Squad late April, Immigrant Union are here for the long haul and are certainly on their way up.
Sebadoh’s set began with Lou Barlow on guitar, Jason Lowenstein on bass and Bob D’Amico on drums searing through a 5 song mini bracket drawing from material that spanned almost as many decades. “Beauty of the Ride” from their 1996 release “Harmacy” set the tone and started the engine. For all the gear heads out there, Barlow’s pedal board consisted of 3 effects pedals and a tuner – a classic ProCo Rat, Electroharmonix Hot Tubes and an MXR Dyna Comp. A modest array compared to some but a tried and true means to a guitar sound that is uniquely Sebadoh.
The tag “Lo-Fi” is appropriate in terms of their sound but as far as the melodic and lyrical component of their songs and arrangements, Sebadoh is as sophisticated as they come. The unique tunings are aided and abetted by the way Barlow strings his 12 string guitars – 6 strings strategically placed where I wouldn’t have expected them to be.
The next block of 5 saw Jason Lowenstein sling on the 6 string tele and take the lead vocals while Barlow manned the Rickenbacker 4001 which he lamented wasn’t very well this evening. A thicker gage of new strings were apparently wreaking havoc with the tuning but to my and the crowds ears, this was inconsequential. They blistered through a bunch of songs from their 2019 release “Act Surprised”.
Jason provided light entertainment during the bass technical difficulties with the quote of the night being “The key to a good show is momentum!” And it was back to Lou on his alternate alternatively string 12 string.
Another bracket of newer songs, the highlights being “Medicate” and “Sunshine” proving that the new stuff is equally as good if not greater than the old stuff then back to Jason taking the lead on some “Bakesale” classics to the delight of the increasingly jubilant crowd. Before leaving the stage, they admitted that there would be more to come – that we all knew they were just going to “stand over there for a minute” pointing to the side of the stage – hinting at an encore and they didn’t disappoint.
Sure enough as promised, the trio did return and this time it was Lou who picked up the tele with solid renditions of “Magnet’s Coil”, Licence to Confuse” and the one everyone had been waiting for “Skull” as well as the well loved “Ocean”. Barlow was noticeably uncomfortable when a drunken and overzealous fan stormed the stage and took over his mic providing unwanted vocals on their final song but maintained his cool without a skerrick of interaction. He calmly moved to the other side of the stage and continued singing into Lowenstein’s mic and didn’t let it disrupt the completion of a truly wonderful show.