Thurston Moore and the Psychic Neon Band @ Exeter Phoenix

I only bought tickets to this gig on the Friday before the gig. I had debated going because I had not heard Thurston Moore‘s latest album The Best Day. On that basis, I wasn’t sure what to expect as whilst reviews have been positive, some of Sonic Youth‘s output was great, but they did like to be experimental rock band and I didn’t feel like going to a serious, po-faced beat poet gig with musical accompaniment. Then I thought about ‘Dirty Boots’ from Goo and realised I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to see anyone who performed on that, because I would regret it.

Now I’m here to tell you that if you haven’t seen Thurston and the Psychic Neon Band (as he called them), you should regret it. Consisting of Steve Shelley (ex-Sonic Youth) on drums, local-ish gal Debbie Googe (My Bloody Valentine and Primal Scream) on bass and guitarist James Sedwards (Nøught and Chrome Hoof), the group was formed to record The Best Day and are touring to perform it live.

Opening the night was tour support Hannah Lou Clark, whose fuzzed up guitar playing echoes The Kills‘ Jamie Hince, particularly when backed by drum machine, but mixes it with indie-folk on other songs. Her lo-fi minimalist approach is wrapped up with her beautifully soft vocals.

The crowd though seemed to be formed unusually of men much older than myself, with a dashing of the more alternative rock types I’m more accustomed to sharing the experiences with. These men are serious peddle pointers and have a far deeper knowledge of music than myself. It has the atmosphere of a gig for musicians and I must say, it was a very pleasant and polite experience for it.

From the opening notes of ‘Forevermore’, I realised I had made the right decision as Moore and Sedward battled it out, with a solid backing by Googe and Shelley. Singing from lyrics on a lectern, Moore seemed like a well respected teacher, giving a speech to his pupils of 30 years ago.

My fears of a solemn pretentious evening were lost in a wave of harmonic riffs and feedback, played by a tight knit rock band. This illusion was somewhat shattered later on, when Moore introduced the rest of the band and explained that Googe was local. Without a mic, it might not have been heard by all the audience but she replied in a West Country burr that she’s from Somerset. A couple of songs later, Moore enquired “So you’ve lived here?” to which Googe replied no she hadn’t and that she lived in Somerset. “No? So where is this? And what ‘shire’ am I?” After which Googe gave a mini-geography lesson explaining that Exeter is in Devon which confused Moore who enquired if that should be ‘Devonshire’. Googe rightly explained that the term doesn’t exist and seemed to satisfy Moore for the time being. Another song later he said he always thought Googe was a Yorkshire lass (and attempted a very strange impression of a Yorkshire accent). But who can really blame a New Yorker transplanted to London?

‘Detonation’ and ‘Aphrodite’ were dedicated to Chelsea Manning, which along with a flag in the sand statement that band was “anti-guns and pro-socialism” formed the political elements of the evening.

The only negative point from the crowd came when a man in the audience asked for the band to play any ABBA. Moore replied that he didn’t know any, before clarifying that he did know them, just not how to play it, which was received with a cheery laugh from the audience.

Have I done enough to convince you that if you weren’t there you missed out? Yes? Well, if so you can buy The Best Day and hear as close as possible an aural representation of what went on and await the release of the next record (which Moore said has already been recorded) and hope they play Exeter again soon. I, for one, hope they do.

Thurston Moore


Speak to the Wild
Germs Burn
Turn On
Grace Lake
The Best Day

Hannah Lou Clark

2 Responses

  1. Hey man, get off my turf lol. Well done for identifying the songs. I wasn’t going to review it and hadn’t bothered doing my homework but it was such a good gig I had to.

  2. Thank you for writing your post when you did. It takes me a while to get round to things these days and without your post I wouldn’t have been able to remember as many of the things that happened. I didn’t remember the songs, I took a picture of the set list and worked it out from that because my memory is awful.

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