Review: Chelsea Light Moving, Merchandise bring indie cool to the Orpheum in Ybor City
One of the most common complaints concertgoers level against Tampa is not enough certified “cool” bands come down to Florida.
Yet Saturday night alone seemed to disprove that notion. You could’ve caught critically acclaimed New Jersey punks Titus Andronicus at the State Theatre, three Sargent House acts at Crowbar or a bonafide indie rock icon at the Orpheum.
Sonic Youth’s former frontman Thurston Moore played with his new group Chelsea Light Moving, sharing a bill with three Tampa bands including the much buzzed-about Merchandise.
First was spastic post-punk trio Permanent Makeup, who themselves deserve more attention following their album The Void…It Creeps. Following them was hardcore band Blood Wave, who has fans in Merchandise and played with them in May at Stoney’s Bar.
Yet the hometown name most people recognized was Merchandise themselves. They might not be the biggest band ever to come out of Tampa, but they’re arguably the largest within indie circles. Lately, they’ve recorded a BBC session and a tour-only split with Chelsea Light Moving (released on cassette for maximum inaccessibility.)
After touring in Europe and around the country, the band seemed happy to be home. “This is a song about Nebraska Avenue,” singer Carson Cox said when introducing Anxiety’s Door off their new record Totale Nite. Their performance was also noticeably more energetic — perhaps because they were playing a larger stage than Stoney’s or Mojo Books and Music. Their set was only five songs long, but that included the 10-minute Become What You Are from 2012’s Children of Desire.
Then Chelsea Light Moving took the stage, with Moore remarking it’d been a long time since he’d been in the Sunshine State. Indeed, the last time he’d visited Tampa might’ve been Sonic Youth’s 2000 show at what was then called the Ice Palace.
When that band went on hiatus in 2011 after the end of Moore and Kim Gordon’s 27-year marriage, it was a true “love is dead” moment — the indie rock equivalent of Amy Poehler and Will Arnett’s split. Luckily for Sonic Youth fans, Chelsea Light Moving is about as smooth a transition as possible. The latter is perhaps less melodious, but shares a lot of the former’s artier and noisier elements.
Moore, 55, doesn’t look much different from his days in Sonic Youth. He still sported shaggy blond hair, along with a striped short shirt and ripped jeans. (No word on whether he’s still ransacking Peter Frampton’s cooler.)
And he was surprisingly chatty in between songs, talking about living in Coral Gables and dedicating songs to Merchandise, Roky Erickson and “all you motherf---ers.” He then cheekily apologized, claiming “there’s no reason to use blue language, even in Ybor.” While fixing a broken guitar string, he even read a poem, which was really just lyrics from their self-titled debut’s opener heavymetal.
Chelsea Light Moving didn’t play that track, but they performed several songs off that album such as Sleeping Where I Fall and Frank O’Hara Hit that clocked in at over five minutes. The band — which also included Hush Arbors guitarist Keith Wood and bassist Samara Lubelski — made for a formidable quartet, with bountiful use of whammy bars and feedback.
They also played a couple of new songs, including No Go with its frantic chorus of “No! Go! No! Go!” One of their two encore tracks was The Ecstasy, which derived its lyrics from the words of 1600s English poet John Donne.
So the next time someone claims no hip concerts ever come through Tampa, feel free to point to Saturday night as a counterexample. It ended by 10:30 p.m. to accommodate the Orpheum’s weekly party — and any dreamy-eyed concertgoers perhaps trying to catch another show.
-- Jimmy Geurts, tbt*