Last night at Magic Stick was the Detroit stop of the big Sebadoh reunion — Lou Barlow, Jason Lowenstein, and Eric Gaffney, together on stage for the first time in a long, long minute. Barlow and Lowenstein haven’t been absent. They brought out the old Sebadoh material a few years ago for a a funny duo tour that featured them playing to tracks on a Big Lots boombox, and Lowenstein opened for the Dinosaur Jr. reunion shows in that blazing hot summer of 2005, the ones that had Barlow onstage with J. Mascis and Murph for the first time in his own long, long minute. It was Gaffney in that role this time around. Before the band came out, my friend Dave said he was at the show simply to see if Gaffney was a real person. And that comment gives some perspective to how long it’s been since those late 1980s and early 90s days when lo-fi was still this thing that applied to records such as Sebadoh’s Weed Forestin’ or dudes like Daniel Johnston id=107262 and East River Pipe. Gaffney disappeared from the fold before Sebadoh’s “moment” (as it were), and so for a long time he was only known as the guy who wrote the really gorgeous, but totally loopy songs on early Sebadoh records.
And yet, here he was onstage last night, playing the original guitars from the Sebadoh days (a fun fact revealed to us Storytellers-style by Barlow) and generally sounding great, his cracked, sorta fey whimper matching the strained acoustic-electric tone that, when paired with the big bass notes, defined the sound of the band's early material. Barlow sang a few songs too; it was nice to hear “Brand New Love,” which another friend and I agreed still deserves a proper recording. That’s some triumphant shit. And it was last night too, even if he couldn’t really hit the chorus.
He said he was sick, and maybe he was. But after a strong first half, Sebadoh’s whole set started to sort of flag. I'm not blaming Barlow for that, necessarily. Sebadoh was always hit or miss live, so this wansn't so much a grand comeback as a return to form. It was like the old days, and they even made fun of it being like the old days. “As you can see, nothing’s changed,” Barlow laughed at one point . “We still take forever between songs.” His mood also fluctuated between cynical, gracious, and irritable, which is what I remember from way back, too. But then, it’s that same smelting pot of emotions that produced the wonderful alchemy of his best songs.
Lowenstein was awesome as usual, “Just Gimme Indie Rock” was a properly jabbing closer, and it was good to see Eric.
So yeah, I guess I’m still a fanboy.
Also, Gaffney's MySpace has links to his (really good) solo work, as well as a diary of the current tour.