August 28, 2010 – Though my day was spent eyeing Lieutenant Commander Worf and Chewbacca from afar, my night was yet again spent at the Horseshoe Tavern, this time to see Wye Oak, who captured my interest when I first heard their cover of the Kinks’ ‘Strangers’ from the AV Club’s Undercover series. Following that I discovered The Knot, an album that would have definitely made my 2009 best of list. Needless to say, I was excited. Female-fronted Toronto band the Caraways opened, providing a genre-hopping start to the evening. What began as a sort of alt-country vibe morphed into something completely different during the set. Still, what captured my eye the most was the drummer’s odd kit setup.
Following a brief interlude, Wye Oak took the stage. For the uninitiated, Wye Oak is a made up of Jenn Wassner and Andy Stack. While Wassner handles vocals and guitars, Stack is on drums AND keyboard bass. This multi-tasking makes them far more complex than your typical duo, and I have to applaud the lack of a backing track. You would think drumming one-handed would bring limitations, but Stack performs ably while Wassner thrashes about. Material was largely drawn from The Knot and this year’s EP My Neighbour/My Creator, along with a pair of songs from their upcoming album. Following Wassner’s plea for a Canadian husband (“I’m available!”), Wye Oak made their exit.
Though I was mostly there for Wye Oak, it was clear from the chants of “Lou!” who everyone was there to see. Not knowing much of Lou Barlow, but knowing that he was a member of Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, and the Folk Implosion, I felt a certain reverence towards him. As one of the more influential artists I’ve seen, it struck me as odd that he was manning his own merch table, kindly signing anything fans brought. Given his huge back catalogue, I had no idea what to expect from his setlist. I had already ruled out any Dinosaur Jr., but I wasn’t sure if there would be a focus on his recent release with the Minutemen. As soon as he reached the stage, Barlow outlined the plan for the night: an acoustic set by him, followed by an electric set joined by backing band the Minutemen, followed by another acoustic set incorporating his ukulele.
The relative tameness of the acoustic open made the Minutemen’s appearance all the more jarring. Lou Barlow and the Minutemen were probably the loudest band I’ve ever heard, though standing a few steps beyond the Horseshoe’s right speaker likely didn’t help. The band opened with an electrified version of ‘Home’ that I wouldn’t have recognized if I didn’t know the lyrics so well. The banter also picked up; I haven’t seen an artist who loved to talk as much since Dave Grohl, though Barlow wasn’t quite as rambling. Coincidentally, he mentioned that he didn’t appreciate the Foo Fighters until he heard Glen Campbell cover one of their songs. The Minutemen were also a chatty pair. They managed to drag Wye Oak’s Jenn Wassner on stage to perform the Baltimore accent they were making fun of mere moments ago. Soon enough, the band departed while Barlow remained on stage to begin the encore. It was here a few fan-favourites came out, including ‘The Freed Pig’ and ‘On Fire’. With a set approaching two hours in length, Barlow seemed willing to stay on stage for as long as the audience would have him, and though my shouts for ‘Brand New Love’ went unheeded, I doubt there was anyone complaining about not getting their money’s worth.