REVIEW: Mudhoney, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth & Unnatural Helpers @ Neumos 11.13.09

As mentioned yesterday, I filed a review of Friday night’s grunge spectacular at Neumos featuring Mudhoney, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and Unnatural Helpers with the folks over at Crosscut. Here’s a snippet of the review. Click the jump to read the full review.

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth :: by Alex Crick

Seattle’s music scene is fast becoming known for its bearded folk rock and burgeoning hip hop, but Friday at Neumos the flannel flag flew high once again with a triple-bill featuring Unnatural Helpers, Brother of the Sonic Cloth, and Mudhoney.

The show was in celebration of photographer Michael Lavine’s book Grunge, and the lineup did a great job of capturing the essence of the book, making it feel like 1992 all over again. Lavine was one of two photogs hired by Sub Pop to visually capture the bands that helped define a musical movement. He spent the late 1980s and early ’90s living in Olympia and later moved to New York where he shot various Sub Pop acts (TAD, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Fluid, Skin Yard) along with other important alt-rock bands of the time (Sonic Youth, Hole, White Zombie, Pearl Jam) as they passed through town.

The book features photos of all the aforementioned bands and dozens more, and is a striking visual document that chronicles the culture and look of an era. It is similar to what Lavine’s colleague Charles Peterson, who also shot for Sub Pop during the grunge days, did with his book Touch Me I’m Sick a few years back. One of the main differences between the two is that Peterson’s style emphasized the action on stage and in the crowd; Lavine’s shots are more candid and playful band photos.

Although the Neumos show was technically a book release party, aside from Lavine being on hand signing and selling copies of his work there was not real emphasis on Grunge the book; rather it was more about grunge the sound, which felt appropriate considering the book visually represents sound. And what better band to have representing that sound on stage than Mudhoney?

“These photos are mind-blowing for those of us who are old enough to remember,” Mudhoney frontman Mark Arm told the crowd before starting the band’s set with a cover of Fang’s “The Money Will Roll Right In.” It’s a song the band has covered previously, and astute grunge scholars will know it’s also a song Nirvana covered during its famous 1992 Reading Festival set as well as a song Arm performed onstage with Kurt, Krist and Dave (check out the video here).

From there the grungiest of grunge bands blazed through a near two-hour set that spanned its 21-year career. The set proved once again that Arm is still capable of commanding the stage like the proud graduate of the Iggy Pop School of Frontmen he is, and that guitarist Steve Turner can still shred with the best of them. Plenty of new material from the band’s 2008 release The Lucky Ones made the set including the title track, “I’m Now,” and “Tales of Terror,” which was a late highlight. An earlier highlight was Turner tearing it up on the one-two combo of “Suck You Dry” and “Oblivion.” The performance was one of the best Mudhoney sets I’ve witnessed out of the dozen or so times I’ve seen the band, and according to UC Berkeley’s Mudhoney Tourbook it was the longest set of the band’s career. It was an impressive showing by one of the most important bands to hail from the Emerald City.

Tad Doyle, former frontman of TAD, a lesser known but still very important grunge band, played with his new band Brothers of the Sonic Cloth before Mudhoney’s set. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth’s songs combine ground-moving drums with deep, bowel-shaking bass while Doyle’s dark and heavy guitar cuts through it all. There are not a lot of vocals happening with BOTSC but when Doyle screams it is a scream that makes you pay attention.

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