When a legend among rock bands is playing a concert in your area, you don’t skimp at the chance to see them. On August 27th, rock innovators Slint came to Seattle to make sweet passionate love to the ears of those at the Showbox. With a performance of their landmark 1991 album Spiderland in its entirety, with the occasional track off of their debut LP and untitled 1994 EP in between, their hour-and-fifteen-minute set was a Slint fan’s wet dream.
I arrived at the venue at around 8:00, over an hour before the music actually started. After about an hour and ten minutes of waiting at the front of the stage leveling my Blastoise, the opening band Tropical Trash came barreling in with an insanely loud wail. I had never heard of this band before seeing them, but I, along with the rest of the attending audience, absolutely got our balls rocked by what this band had to offer.
The music I heard from Tropical Trash is what I could only describe as experimental math-noise-punk. Yeah, you heard me. Their sound was abrasive, chaotic and ear-piercingly loud, though there was also a strong sense of subtlety and nuance to a lot of their songs as well, sometime taking on slow passages with quieter and more abstract instrumentation to balance out the electric bass-heavy monstrosity.
I was very surprised a band as heavy and noisy as Tropical Trash was chosen to warm the audience up for a band as understated and introspective as Slint, but I had a blast with them all the same. Tropical Trash’s live antics were as wild and all over the place as their music, and their music was like injecting a shot of adrenaline and chasing it with a line of coke. My ears were a little under half-functioning after the trio’s 45-minute set, but I enjoyed their performance, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them again, in the event that I bring earplugs next time.
About a half-hour later, four out of five members of Slint came out and opened their set up with “Glenn” off the untitled EP. Afterwards, lead vocalist Brian McMahon came on stage, and David Pajo played the unforgettable opening guitar to “Breadcrumb Trail”, to which the audience immediately burst into applause. From there, the band moved into “Nosferatu Man”, and worked their way through the entirety of Spiderland, albeit in somewhat of a mixed order.
I once read a festival review that included Slint, and it said that the band has no stage charisma, and that the band’s quiet, moody sound doesn’t fit in an outdoor, broad-daylight music festival. In this respect, I’m glad I got to see the band in a small darkly-lit, indoor venue, as it fit the band’s music and stage presence perfectly. In the Showbox, the band was in its own little world, and they appropriately invited the audience along for the ride. The minimal-at-best stage presence Slint as a band has worked in their favour, as a completely hectic and overblown live environment doesn’t really fit the kind of slow post-rock that Slint delivers, and I tend to find that a dark compressed live venue fits this kind of performance and music best.
In any case, I was thoroughly entertained by Slint’s performance. Their sound was great, and watching it all come together live was a delight. I hold Spiderland in high regards as one of the greatest and most prolific albums of its kind, and getting to hear all of it performed live and getting to see how all of the sound-craft comes together was an experience unlike any other. The zenith for me was their quiet, almost existential performance of the nine-minute “Washer”, the centrepiece of Spiderland. The dual vocals from McMahon and Britt Walford on this song were ominous, and all of the subtle instrumentation and effects throughout the track were just as bewildering live in concert.
Spiderland’s closer “Good Morning, Captain” was, as you may expect, Slint’s set closer as well. After uproarious applause from the audience in hopes of an encore, the group came back out and performed “Pat” off of their debut album Tweez, the third song they performed off of this album. Not exactly the most climactic and substantial ultimate set closer, admittedly, but it was a well-performed finisher, at the very least.
I had a monster of a time seeing Slint and Tropical Trash live, and I’d happily recommend anyone who’s interested in either band to see them live. Despite being over 28 years old at this point, Slint still has it, and from a musical standpoint, they still have a lot to offer when seen live in concert.
(Below are a handful of awful phone pictures taken during the show of both bands. Photo credit goes to me, bitch.)