The Sunset Strip has long been a strange relic to me. Enormously influential in its heyday, religiously mythologized in its present, yet seemingly unrelated to any scene in the last 20 years. Each storied block is filled with legend of Buffalo Springfield clashing with police and Jim Morrison spewing Morrison all over the pavement. Even here in the Roxy the mythology is palpable. Framed photos of Ozzy Osbourne, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Frank Zappa line the walls. Like most of the Sunset Strip, the Roxy has always been more interested in the past than the present (until Goldenvoice stepped in a few months ago and took over the booking).
So it is worth noting how interesting it is to see Cymbals Eat Guitars, a band in their present peak (with no ceiling in site), open for an iconic figure like Bob Mould, a man who has seen more trends come and go than an Urban Outfitters vinyl rack, in a space like the Roxy, which hasn’t been relevant since Marlboro had T.V. commercials.
The average age tonight is probably around 38. Everyone looks like the type that has a poster of Stephan Malkumus in their study. I bum a cigarette from some long time fans and they laugh nervously noting that, “I thought there would be more young people here.” Before the show starts I count at least six Father-Son outings. It is a perfect lineup for any parent/child excursion: Cymbals Eat Guitars representing the youth, and Bob Mould staunchly holding up the old guard. Although, as I soon find out, Mr. Mould plans on making a lot of youngsters believers by night’s end.
Cymbals Eat Guitars
Cymbals Eats Guitars begin promptly at 9 p.m. They hit hard right out the gate opening with “Warning.” Their entire performance is a shivering, thrashing cathartic release. Joseph D’Agostino screams with earnest abandon, spit flying from his mouth, his neck strained and his eyes squinted. At the same time, he can go from a nearly crippling sincerity to a jocular crooked smile in the blink of an eye.
Cymbals Eat Guitars play their new album LOSE almost exclusively, playing only one song that isn’t familiar to me midway through their set. As I have mentioned before LOSE is one of my favorite albums this year, so seeing it performed nearly in its entirety is fine with me. Many of the older crowd seems to think the same. By the end of their set I hear at least three separate conversations asking, “Who were those guys?”
Bob Mould comes onto the stage to rapturous applause. Surprisingly, many hold up phones to record the first few moments of the show. But soon after, the phones are gone and it is probably the least screen polluted show experience I have had in awhile. The smell of weed fills the venue; it’s a good time.
Bob Mould runs and jumps across the stage like he isn’t 54. He gives Cymbals Eat Guitars a performable run for their money. His energy is nonstop as he blows through his great new album Beauty and Ruin, plucking liberally from his extensive back catalogue. He plays Hüsker Dü cuts as well as songs from his days in Sugar.
If Cymbals Eat Guitars was cathartic for me I can only imagine how much more so Mould’s show is for everyone else. Many have been singing these songs for years. Moments in his performance are incredibly introspective. Bob Mould is a totem of musical legend. He has somehow found that sweet (and profitable) median that allows him anonymity while also making a living with his guitar. His entire presence is more punk than a tattered and patched leather kilt. Seeing the fervor with which these fans worship at the stage of a man that was clearly formidable to them in their youth is intoxicating and revelatory.
Bob Mould wraps up a triumphant set and comes back for an encore; his glasses are fogged up. There is a shirtless bald man thrashing with abandon. Security is helping a man to his feet after he has collapsed. The Roxy feels a bit younger, a bit more significant. When Bob announces, “have a good night!” we all walk out and are welcomed by digital advertisements for blue tipped electronic cigarettes.
Bob Mould’s new album Beauty & Ruin was released June 3 via Merge.
Review: Ziv Biton
Photography: Tama Agle
Check out more photos of Bob Mould and his band with Cymbals Eat Guitars below!