Only a few objects on earth are visible from space: the Great Wall of China, Nick Zinner’s gothgantuan hair, Thurston Moore’s willowy neck, the Pyramids, Karen O’s purple tights and feathery minidress — Okay, maybe not the Pyramids. But a double bill of Sonic Youth and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs? In an abandoned swimming pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn? They would have had to try hard to screw up a hometown show like this. These are two of the most beloved New York bands of the past twenty-five years, repping two generations of eat-me downtown cool. How many of us have made our pilgrimage to the corner of Orchard and Delancey, just because Thurston sang about his cosmic revelations there in “Stereo Sanctity”? (Now it’s just a block away from the new Lower East Side Starbucks. Awesome! I’ll have the Eric’s Trippucino with extra Evol and room for feedback please!)
Sonic Youth sent out the wild wail of East Village freedom with their guitars, and more than any other young local band, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs grabbed it and gave it a new twist for the Berliniamsburger era. Seeing the YYYs in McCarren Pool is like seeing the Dead in Golden Gate Park, except the whole twirling-naked-in-puddles thing. McCarren Pool has swiftly become one of the city’s best-cherished rock venues–it’s a pool, for Chrissake. You’re in a happy mood as soon as you step inside. It holds 5.000 people, but you can see from anywhere, the mood is commune-peaceful, and even crap bands sound decent with that much cement reverb. All summer long, the pool has hosted great indie-rock gigs (Deerhoof, Bloc Party, Enon, Dead Meadow, The Slip, Secret Machines, Les Savy Fav) but nobody has rocked the crumbling concrete like these two bands. Despite the guitar noise, the vibe was family-sweet: Karen O’s mom and dad were shaking ass in the crowd, while Sonic Youth’s kids ran amok and played with glowsticks.
For the Friday and Saturday shows, the bands switched off headlining duties, but both sounded best on Saturday, when the YYYs opened for the Youth. The ultimate Willie-Aames-Burg warriors attacked the stage with a barrage of their rockingest songs–“Black Tongue,” “Mystery Girl,” “Cheated Hearts,” and “Bang.” Nick Zinner’s guitar is one of the most dangerous weapons on earth, so it’s no surprise he had trouble getting it through customs (though it didn’t help he had a Dirtbombs sticker on the case). How does such a little vampire make such an epic Transylvanian-metal noise? Karen O wore some kind of Egyptian Isis outfit, complete with blue feathers and gold-lionness headdress. She looked regal, screeching “I wish I could buy back the woman you stole” and making the guys in the house feel it wouldn’t be such a bad deal except we would never EVER give that woman up and that’s that. By the time they hit “Rich” the YYYs made even the most rigid-hipped scenesters adopt an emergency booty-loosening policy. As the sun set, they dedicated the acoustic “Maps” to their friend and fashion guru Christian Joy, getting married the next day, with Karen sermonizing, “This is the Yeah Yeah Yeahs love song, motherfuckers — and love is our religion.” Preach, sister, preach.
Sonic Youth opened their set with “Teenage Riot,” rocking the bones of a fervent crowd, most of whom were barely out of kindergarden when *Daydream Nation* came out. They did loads of oldies– “Eric’s Trip,” “100%,” “Shaking Hell” –but truth be told, the new songs from Rather Ripped were even hotter, as the twin guitars of Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore rippled in the pool. On Friday, Thurston introduced â€œa song we co-wrote with Brooklyn resident Michael Gira, stoking the over-forty fans who cherish the memory of Swans classics like Raping a Slave but mostly just amusing themselves, which is always a good idea for Sonic Youth. Under the summer stars, nobody wanted the show to end, and as long as Lee Ranaldo kept clanging away at “Pink Steam,” it didn’t. These bands have made two of 2006’s best albums so far, and this is the sort of historic show people will be falsely claiming they attended years from now, so get your story straight now.