At the height of their performance, Sonic Youth lead singer Thurston Moore and guitarist Jim O'Rourke mesmerized the audience in Buffalo State College's Rockwell Hall with a mind-blowing cacophony of psychedelic tones, plucks, piercings, screeches, and other inexplicable sounds along with their poetry last Thursday.
Sonic Youth's signature is their composition of songs that gracefully blend soft melody and synthetic, spacey violence.
Wires, switches, petals, knobs and buttons weaved across the stage floor. The theater marked by dead silence, O'Rourke began turning dials and pushing buttons to produce a low feedback-hum with his guitar. The musician continued to twist, turn and fiddle, slowly developing the noise into a deep rhythmic pulse. Moore subtly filled the background with light and soft repetitive strumming.
Soon O'Rourke was producing sounds never before imagined. Spacey computer rhythms behind Moore's moon-walking sparks blasted through the theater.
The trippy melodies developed in girth. O'Rourke jammed a drumstick under his strings. Wild electronic explosions, tears, and crashes roared, similar to the rock of Jimi Hendrix. Crackling and crunching, Moore finally stuck a knife in his strings. The group's guitars belted beautiful digital screams while Moore's hair waved in violent undulations.
Eventually, the song cooled. O'Rourke continued working his mystical sound machine while Moore swayed like a weeping willow in rhythm, then shifted to what sounded like computers crying and dying.
The melody slowed and a light, sweet lullaby gently rose to fill the air. Moore's guitar was healing, peaceful and calm. The distance between his soft notes increased until Rockwell Hall was left in absolute silence.
Needless to say, the concert ended with a standing ovation.
Even more enthralling were Moore's four acoustic solo performances, his voice elegant and soothing.
"It was an amazingly personal show. He was speaking directly to the audience," said Elijah Jimerson, a 21-year old attendee.
Moore also spoke to the audience casually as he read his poetry. He read unpublished pieces, and poems from his books "Fuck a Hippy, Be a Punk" and "Alabama Wildman."
Of these poems, "NYC Memoir" is a captivating and humorous tale of Moore's experiences in the Lower East Side when he moved there in 1977. It is nonsense-free, dirty and gritty. He depicted life with verses like a "sad smoking ghost, hot steeped august." He spoke of his neighbors who stole his electricity and, eventually, his guitar.
Some of his poetry sent the audience into hysterics, such as those he wrote at the age of 15, "Freeform" and "Zap." These deal primarily with '70s rock stars and drugs. One verse of "Zap" reads, "I tried some grass, it's a pain in the ass, think I'll stick with LSD."
Although the performance was mostly improvisational and as such untitled, "Physic Heart," the only previously recorded song played live during Thursday's concert, hadn't been performed live in years, according to Moore.
Unfortunately, Moore is unsure about whether he'll be back in the area in the near future. "I don't have any plans right now," he said.