Slint frontman Brian McMahan stared out across the audience, stone-faced. "The last time we were here, you guys were so much rowdier..." he noted in his infamous monotone drawl. "You guys are so... calm. It's unsettling."
The last time the legendary Louisville band were in Seattle, it was 2005, and the band had just reunited after nearly fifteen years. For many of us, we never imagined we'd get to see Slint in concert. Now, nearly ten years later, the band has been around the world and back again, lessening the intensity of the impact. Sure, we weren't losing our shit quite so hard this time around, but the audience was still enraptured to hear these classic songs live again. (And, did anyone else notice Brian wore pretty much the same sweater from last time?)
This time around, the band were in the midst of a short west coast tour in support of the deluxe-edition reissue of their landmark 1991 album, Spiderland, released earlier this year on Touch & Go Records. The limited edition box set (only 3,138 copies pressed) sold out immediately, but you can (and should!) still find the remastered reissue, which features previously unreleased tracks, demos, and (of most interest to me, anyway), the documentary Breadcrumb Trail, directed by Lance Bangs.
It's hard to imagine, but Slint existed in the time before the internet, before you could just Google them and learn everything you wanted to know. Until I saw the documentary, I hadn't really grasped just how young they were when they recorded Spiderland. Spoiler alert: McMahan and drummer Britt Walford have been playing music together since the ages of 11 and 12. Slint formed in 1985 when the guys were just teenagers. And here they were at The Showbox, nearly 30 years later, together again, performing those same songs. Can you imagine that? It kind-of blows my mind. I would sooner eat glass than recite my adolescent poetry every night on stage with my pre-teen posse. (Sorry, Sandi, Tiffany, and Stacy.)
But what's so amazing about Slint is, their sound is so unique, it defies time and age: the dissonant guitars, the sharp tom hits, and McMahan distinctive vocals. He didn't talk to the audience much, but when he did, he sounded just as, well, "unsettling" (to borrow his adjective) in person as on record. Does he read bedtime stories to his kids in that voice? Does he order pizza in those sinister, hushed tones?
The set list didn't vary too much from their 2005 show — we got "Nosferatu Man," "Breadcrumb Trail," "For Dinner...", and quite a few of the songs named for their parents — but one surprise, and highlight, of the show was the stark performance of "Don, Aman" with Walford stepping out from behind the kit and joining guitarist David Pajo at center stage for this creepy voyeuristic tune.
They closed the short set with their "hit" (so to speak), "Good Morning, Captain," and, as my friend Marc put it, there's "no other way to close a Slint show." So much for McMahan's observation that Seattle audiences are "calm."
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