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Sonic Youth, St Louis, Mo, 7/17/09

My, My - What a difference thirty years makes.

Not for Sonic Youth, exactly - They have remained remarkably dedicated to their vision of experimentalism, musical independence, the beauty that can be found in the tension between extremes, and squalling, ear-shattering racket.

Maybe that was a part of the point; A band whose staked-out territory is usually thought of as heaving, sweaty clubs and gnarly, art-damaged New York critical discussions, playing a free show on the Mississippi riverfront to strolling picnickers may well have been as much a challenge to them as it was a puzzle to the audience.

That, and a comment that even Sonic Youth are admitting to their own middle age. Thirty years ago, Sonic Youth were a band that scared people - and now, they're an Institution. I realized this looking at the crowd: People half the band member's ages, tatted and pierced Gen-X'ers, with babies in cuddly pink-and-blue strollers, watching living legends roar and howl and shriek on a pleasant July evening in front of the Jefferson Memorial. A cultural collision of a fairly high order.
I was talking with a new acquaintance about their 1988 masterpiece "Daydream Nation", and I mentioned the 2007 re-issue's inclusion of their crushing cover of the Beatles' "Within You Without You" - And suddenly the phrase "You are me and we are all together" popped into my head....and the more I think about it, the more sense it makes.

But that's just me. They were great, as usual, and played almost nothing old, mostly the new album. It's still Sonic Youth, folks - I don't think that they know how to play a bad show. They are road-seasoned pros, after all, no matter what kind of middle-aged musings some members of their audience may dwell on. They still rock like crazy, and that's all that really matters.

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