Lou Barlow of Sebadoh

Sebadoh can be a puzzling band with their chaotic riff-rock alongside gentle acoustic strumming; their sensitive, lovelorn lyrics preceding LSD-infused skin dives. On their current three-week tour of the East Coast celebrating Secret EP — their first new release in over ten years — the trio made a stop in Chapel Hill and represented all these endearing sounds… and it was the best show that I’ve ever seen them play.

The show offered a pretty unique take on what the band does, segmented into three parts: a noisy and chaotic primer by Circle of Buzzards (who just so happen to be Sebadoh members Jason Lowenstein and Bob D’Amico),  a quiet acoustic set by singer/guitarist Lou Barlow, then finally, a full-band set. “We’re opening up for ourselves,” said Barlow at one point from the stage. “That’s pretty weird.”


The Circle of Buzzards segment began with a loud blast of riffs and screams. Lowenstein, clad in a red bandana and glasses, stood rigid at the front of the stage cranking out screeches and scrawls from his Fender Telecaster and his bass guitar while D’Amico flailed mightily at the drums. It was an excellent beginning to the evening that was sometimes rocking, stressful, punishing and challenging to the ears. Though Circle of Buzzards wasn’t for everyone, what they did was impressive.

Barlow’s set was heavy on songs from early Sebadoh releases, The Freed Man and Weed Forestin’. Sitting on a stool,  plucking the songs on a modified ukulele, the large room was made to feel intimate. Lou told funny stories told between songs and had a few laughs at the expense of his self. The emotional high point of the short set came from a new song called, “Calves of Champions” – a song chronicling his own insecurities and his children growing up.

After a short break, Sebadoh took the stage and they were better than I’ve ever seen them. Their music was tight and the band members showed a great deal of affection for both each other and the large crowd. The band played every song from their latest EP, and even some off-the-cuff songs that they re-learned on the spot (“Give Up” from 1994’s Bakesale and “Flood” from 1993’s Bubble and Scrape).


The overall  result was a fun show. It was refreshing to see  that while the songs were well played and super-tight, the show never felt “professional.” Instead, the evening with Sebadoh felt more like watching old friends play at a party; trading guitars and instantly remembering long-forgotten chord progressions. The crowd smiled. The band laughed. It was a good night to be in North Carolina.

— By Jason Bugg, a freelance writer who has a wife, a bad rental home, two dogs, four cats, no kids, clinical depression and terribly strong thighs for a white man. Follow him on Twitter: @SansBurrito.

Upcoming Sebadoh Tour Dates
August 14 – Nashville, TN, Mercy Lounge
August 15 – St Louis, MO, Off Broadway
August 16 – Chicago, IL, Schubas
August 17 – Cleveland, OH, Grog Shop
August 18 – Hamilton, ON, Casbah
August 20 – Toronto, ON, Horseshoe Tavern
August 21 – Montreal, QUE, La Sala Rossa
August 22 – New York, NY, Bowery Ballroom

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