mon 22/07/2024

Sebadoh, Ramsgate Music Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Sebadoh, Ramsgate Music Hall

Sebadoh, Ramsgate Music Hall

The US indie rock band played a small gig that gave a big return

"The 90s were the worst decade for music. Ever." Lou Barlow

The three-toed sloth moves at a maximum – that’s maximum – of 10 feet per minute. It’s thought to be the slowest animal in the world. While on a train hugging the north Kent coast however, I reckon I could give it a, figurative, run for its money. I’m on my way to a tiny venue in Ramsgate to see understated US rock band Sebadoh, whose album count is in double figures, on a tour that will see them joining Lemonheads in London for a high-profile gig. Well, at least that’s the plan.

Jump forward about three hours and I’m in the back of a cab speeding towards home with a massive grin on my face and reflecting on the things I’ve learnt from the night:

  1. Small venues are always better. I really don’t care what anyone has to say about stage-show spectaculars and huge arenas, this tiny venue on the edge of Kent wins. It’s packed, friendly and run by people who care about bands and punters alike. The sound is impeccable, too – loud without inducing tinnitus, all of which combines to create an intimacy that lends itself to proper dialogue. Speaking of which…
  2. Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein are an impressively funny double act. In between songs in this two-hour plus set, the frontmen swapped zingers, anecdotes and flights of fancy. We learnt about Lou’s obsession with the Trogg Tapes and had a crowd/band debate about the evil of child labour “Our T-shirts may be £20,” said Lou during the to and fro, “but that’s because they’re made by adults.” We were also given a small lecture on the problems of thinking about drug use: “Don’t do that… don’t think about it” was Loewenstein’s inconclusive conclusion.
  3. Part of Sebadoh’s success is that their songs are near-perfect forms. Hearing “Beauty of the Ride” or “Not a Friend” for the first time, there's an almost instant familiarity. Tonight, that hasn’t changed, but neither have they grown tired. Some songs, it was noted, are familiar because they sound a bit like other songs. Barlow, as he has done before, puts his hand up for hilariously and unconsciously plagiarizing “Black Magic Woman” (of all things) on “Together or Alone”. The introduction to “Ride the Darker Wave”, meanwhile, arrives to calls of “Parklife” from the audience.
  4. “Ride the Darker Wave” predates “Parklife” by four years. I didn’t learn this, but it’s a point worth making anyway.
  5. Lou Barlow is a terrific bass player. Everyone who’s familiar with Dinosaur Jr will, of course, know this anyway, but it’s an easy thing to forget when you’re watching Sebadoh. As he and Jason Loewenstein swap instruments to romp through “It’s All You”, among others, things become more urgent, Loewenstein’s pained howl takes over lead vocal duties, the guitar becomes sharper, more angular, and Barlow strums his way though the basslines with a propulsive power that sounds quite unlike anyone else.
  6. Good things can happen when egos are put on hold. As Barlow looks over to Loewenstein and asks if he wants to finish the set on the guitar, it’s a lovely moment. It may speak volumes about Barlow’s notoriously difficult early tenure in Dinosaur Jr, where he is reported to have felt sidelined, it might just be that he fancied having a go on the bass again. What matters is how wonderful it feels to watch a band who clearly like each other and are really enjoying themselves. When that leads to playing an encore with the support band’s guitars because theirs are broken, then asking for suggestions, well… it’s a feelgood gesture that feels really good. Forget all that posturing nonsense and theatrical distance between band and audience – who needs it? What we needed was “Rebound” and “Flame”, and that’s exactly what we got. 

In the cab, I’m still smiling: intimate venue, great sound, phenomenal band… When you have stripped-back, small-scale, simple pleasures like these, you don’t really need anything else.

It feels wonderful to watch a band who clearly like each other and who are really enjoying themselves


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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what a great gig review! thank you

10 feet per minute? doesn't sound bad actually

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