Sonic Youth Lowers the Boom in Cincinnati

By William Brents

Based on Sonic Youth's veteran status and underground popularity, earned by extensive touring, you would have been assured that they'd played at such a well-known club like Bogart's in the past. Believe it or not, it was the band's first visit to Bogart's, which happens to be a hotbed for all types of live music.

Just by walking around the spacious two-story club, I saw some of the acts that have ventured through, captured for posterity on framed posters. Bonnie Raitt, Living Colour and the Replacements were just a few of the ones I saw.

After I finished a tour of the place and rejoined my friends, it was just about time for the opening band to begin.

They were a foursome by the name of Bewitched that combined bombastic heavy metal riffs, record scratching, pre-recorded drums and muddled angry vocals. It was just too bad we got there so early and had to endure this confusing and uninteresting noise. But I only went to Cincinnati for only one reason: to feel and hear the hard-edged harmonic sounds of Sonic Youth.

Sonic Youth, from the lower East Side of New York, are known for their independent attitude and innovative sound, which makes them very distinguishable.

After nine years of recording for various independent labels, they recently signed with Geffen Records and have released their potent major-label debut album, "Goo."

After a lengthy wait, the lights finally went down and the crowd of 1,200 (most of them making extreme and humorous fashion statements) were about to enter the hypnotic and intense world of Sonic Youth. The band wasted no time blasting through two unfamiliar songs and from there they appropriately played six songs of their new "Goo" LP.

Beginning with "Dirty Boots," lanky guitarist Thurston Moore combined his biting vocals with the ultra twisting style of fellow guitarist Lee Ranaldo to create and intoxicating atmosphere. Kim Gordon handled the vocals on "Kool Thing," their most successful single to date, and on "Tunic," a great song about Karen Carpenter.

Earlier in the day, I read a quote from a music critic saying "a Sonic Youth performance can sound and feel a lot like a tornado being pulled through one ear and out the other." I would say that that's a pretty accurate observation, especially when they played certain songs like "Titanium Expose" and a lively tune known as "Mary Christ."

Drummer Steve Shelley had the look of a very timid individual, but once he started playing, it was obvious he wasn't a timid musician. His vigorous and focused drumming was just one of the reasons that the show was so powerful.

However, there were some drawbacks to the performance. For instance, the group only played one song, "The Wonder," off their critically acclaimed 1988 album Daydream Nation and two tunes, "White Kross" and "(I Got a ) Catholic Block" off their 1987 release Sister.

During the brief encore, the show abruptly ended when Moore and Gordon dropped their instruments and left, while Ranaldo briefly stayed behind to wallow in swarming distortion.

The show clocked in at under an hour and at the time I was disappointed, but, looking back, it was a tremendous experience to have heard this very important band.