Night Falls on Hoboken, Part 1: Chelsea Light Moving at Mawell's, 3/2/13

on Mar 4, 2013
This past Saturday, Hoboken, NJ, officially celebrated St. Patrick's Day. The 'zombie' thing is played out by now, but it's hard to conjur a more apt description of the experience of walking up Washington Street from the PATH train station to Maxwell's than to compare it to the scene in Shaun of the Dead where the gang have to pretend to be zombies as well in order to get down the street safely. Adrift in a swirling bright green haze of staggering boys, collapsing girls, and the dim bellowing of quite-uncalled-for language -- muted only slightly by a tranquil fat-flaked snowfall -- I recalled the first piece of advice I was ever given in New York, by the family member I was visiting back in 1999: "don't make eye contact with anyone."  

If you were hoping for good pics of the show, please see Brooklyn Vegan
Not since the days of Jawbreaker has it been more endearing to see a frontman wearing his own band's T-shirt on stage. Speaking of, the punk and hardcore turns of Chelsea Light Moving shouldn't be much of a surprise coming from a man who immediately changed into a Void T-shirt after his own wedding ceremony. If anything, the prevalence of those turns has been a little overstated. There's the Germs cover, and "Lip," but even in those there are equal measures of appreciation for history and humor in, say, the jabbing riff and repetition of "too fucking bad/too fucking bad." As welcome as a whole album's worth of "Winner's Blues"-type quiet would be, it's a relief that Moore seems still a ways off from going soft.

Live, Chelsea Light Moving sound like a mohawked cousin of Psychic Hearts, Moore's rapidly written and recorded, and rightfully revered, 1995 solo album, which was given an excellent 'Don't Look Back' performance at the first All Tomorrow's Parties in the US a few years ago. When the band encore later with "Staring Statues," a highlight from that album, it fits in to the set seamlessly. That there was a time when "Ono Soul" got played on major FM radio stations seems absurd now, but 98% of the audience at Maxwell's surely remembers that time vividly. 

It's best to pretend that we were taking artsy photos on purpose
One of the funnier aspects of the show is that, for a punk band "from New Jersey" (as Moore deadpans at the start) that's premiering their debut album in a small club, there's a beyond-impressive wealth of talent and experience between the Moore, bassist Samara Lubelski, guitarist Keith Wood (Hush Arbors), drummer John Moloney (Sunburned Hand of the Man). Notably, the veteran Lubelski released one of the finer albums of last year, Wavelength.

Late into the show, Moore becomes talkative, and, awesomely, it diverges into what might be the closest thing to a VH1 Storytellers episode that we'll get out of him - though there's always hope. A guy in the audience calls out to Moore that he owes him a tape of a show from fifteen years ago. After a short clarifying back and forth, Moore recalls the episode and the exact Feelies show in question, and tells the guy to send him his email and he'll finally make good on the promise.

The mood even gets a bit wistful when Moore gives a shout out to Bob Bert, a longtime Hoboken resident and the drummer for Sonic Youth in the formative early-to-mid 80's years from Confusion is Sex to Bad Moon Rising, who is in the audience. He segues from there into an anecdote, also told in the Sonic Youth biography Goodbye 20th Century, about a 'wanted' flyer that the band posted up on St. Mark's Place back in the day that said "Sonic Youth Needs Drummer," on which someone had crossed out "drummer" and written "ideas." It was a jarring reminder of who we were watching: a legend with little left to prove, but still hungry all the same.

 Coming soon-ish: Night Falls on Hoboken, Part 2: Yo La Tengo in Berlin...