Live Review: Chelsea Light Moving w/ Grass Widow @ Neumos 3/23/13

all photos by Brittany Brassell

If current trends continue, Thurston Moore will evoke the true spirit of rock and roll musicianship and artistry until the day of his death. 35 years into his career, he and his band of extravagantly talented musicians in Chelsea Light Moving are making hard and heavy rock with just as edge and demand as his earliest material with Sonic Youth. Chelsea Light Moving tore the freaking roof off of Neumos on Saturday night, ripping through the majority of their debut self-titled record, throwing a couple newbies here and there. Chelsea Light Moving were joined by San Francisco band Grass Widow on the west coast leg of their tour, and luckily for Seattle, they decided to close out their excellent string of dates here. Together, the evening was ripe with talent and rock and roll spirit from a time lost that we rarely see on the scene today.

Grass Widow have been rocking their west coast indie surf-rock sound since 2009 and they’ve yet to make a bad record (2012′s Internal Logic is definitely worth your investigation). But the Grass Widow sound is without a doubt realized in the live setting (perhaps one of the biggest connections between them and Chelsea Light Moving). Ravon Mahon and Hannah Lew both quietly command the stage up front while Lillian Maring kills it on the drums behind them. The songs never let up for a minute. Grass Widow’s showmanship is subtle, but their musicianship is strong and consistent, making them a really enjoyable live group. 45 minutes of clean cut surf rock later, and they were gone.

Grass Widow:

The crowd knew from the get go that Chelsea Light Moving’s show was bound to be a good time. After the band performed their own soundcheck, they stayed onstage and started to pick around on their instruments warming up and queueing the vibe. This apparently confused the sound tech on duty that evening. “Um... guys, do you want to start now or in five minutes?” No answer whatsoever from the band, as they continue to drone around, adjust their gear, and turn it up. This time, the sound tech tries a bit more affirmatively. “Um... guys, want to start now or... five minutes?” Without skipping a beat, Thurston piles up onto the mic with a wry grin. “How about we start in five seconds?” The crowd erupts with cheers and applause. The band all laugh and pile into “Sleeping Where I Fall” from their debut record. With the sound levels doubled and the body of the sound expanded to a full stage, it’s instantly known by the audience that this is where you should be listening to Chelsea Light Moving. While the recording is good, it is absolutely no match for the raw power and primal urge of the band live.

Thurston jumps around and stomps on distortion pedals with a ridiculous energy (earlier in the day, they’d been playing at KEXP for about 2 and a half hours) as his band jams out. Samara Lubelski rocks a steady but dynamic bass line, while Keith Wood plays a steady second guitar and John Moloney pounds out the drums. Samara, Keith, and John are all in established bands on Moore’s own label, Ecstatic Peace!, and it’s evident that a similar ideology is shared between the members. Chelsea Light Moving isn’t a cash grab or even just a fan service to longtime fans of Moore’s work. Rather, it’s entirely its own beast, and their brutal live energy paints this fact in astounding colors. The evening was grand. Moore nodded countless jokes about how prima donna most bands on the scene tend to be today, including a fake stage exit for an encore and a short, sarcastic monologue about zealous analog purism. With Chelsea Light Moving, Thurston Moore is putting a new foot forward in the same wonderful way he always has: letting the music be the guide and hoping to learn something on the drive.

Chelsea Light Moving:

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