Show reviews: Lee Ranaldo Band at The Satellite, Junghaus at The Smell

Went to a couple of last-minutes shows recently… I had noticed that the Lee Ranaldo Band would be playing the Satellite not much more than a mile from home a couple of Tuesdays ago, but didn’t decide to go until I realized that (1) his songs were some of my favorites on the last two Sonic Youth albums and (2) my friend Gabie’s band was opening. How could I not go?

It was interesting to see the experimental band Lady Noise not at a museum installation but in a dedicated music venue. Their scritchy-scratchy aesthetic required attention and almost subliminally built up in intensity toward a surprising and satisfying conclusion. Perhaps their improvisatory style allowed Ranaldo to go ahead with straight-up rock without the gender politics or experimental expectations of his old band? For a more informed take on Lady Noise, check out the LACE blog entry by Raquel Gutierrez. (Can’t remember if I was wearing a hoodie that evening.)

While Ranaldo is known for detuned, noisy, and ambient guitar playing–often utilizing screwdrivers and alligator clips–his first rock album is practically full-on classic rock with its shimmering melodies and sweeping soundscapes. But of course it’s informed and guided by punk rock and artsy aesthetics, meaning no gratuitous riffs, solos, or other bullshit. It totally rips–and it’s also radical with songs inspired by the 99 percent and other populist movements and energies. So down-to-earth for a guy with such an arty image.

The band was tight as hell (especially for its third show) with the masterful duo Alan Licht on guitar and Irwin Menken on bass, as well as fellow Sonic Youth member Steve Shelley on drums. Ranaldo had two guitars and no screwdrivers, but a broke out violin bow for the haunting “Stranded.” With only one amazing album out, they added some playful-yet-serious covers of the Talking Heads and Monkees. Capping off the night was a Sonic Youth’s “Genetic.” Holy shit. Leaving on a high, I wanted to tell Steve Shelley how much I enjoyed the set but the band stayed backstage since it was raining. Next time.

On Friday, I saw another new band, Junghaus, playing just its second show. When my good friend (and former GR photog) Ben Clark just joined as drummer and played an instrumental demo for me in his car, I thought it was a little like Disappears or Krautrock. I was totally wrong. Through the speakers at The Smell, it came across more like hard goth without the dust, maybe as if Fields of Nephilim were on Amphetamine Reptile. The six songs came and left just like that, but at least I could stop taking pictures and start concentrating on the music right away since the lighting was lousy. I’ll try to provide an update after I see them again. Friday at Pehrspace, anyone?

It can be dangerous having friends that do interesting stuff because you inevitably have to go see them. Luckily, my friends are awesome and have good taste. Now going to see friends of friends–that’s another story…