It’s three hours before Bob Mould takes to the stage of the tiny Horseshoe Tavern and the lineup to get into the venue is throbbing with middle-aged men demonstrating boyish excitement. The couple in front of me drove from Syracuse, New York, the guys behind me flew from Edmonton. “Yep, we just spent $1200 to fly to a concert that costs $24, but it’s BOB MOULD,” says one, sporting a shirt denoting Bob’s new album Silver Age.
It’s been nearly 5 years since Mould has played Toronto and tonight feels legendary for a few reasons: one, Bob Mould and his seminal band Hüsker Dü (and his later band, Sugar) have influenced scores of bands (and probably every band on SubPop) since 1980. Frenetic, dangerous, loud, and visceral, Hüsker Dü’s sound was a rallying cry. (It’s been said that Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis even starting using a transistor amp after he’d seen Bob play one…and that his use of it sent Lou and Murph scrambling for earplugs.)
Secondly, the venue itself is a 66-year-old legend: with a capacity of only 400, it’s been home to the Police, the Band, Talking Heads, the MC-5, Rolling Stones and the Ramones. It was also home to me: during the ’90s I practically lived at the ‘Shoe, and tonight the 26-year veteran bartender (and pint-sized rockabilly) Teddy Fury tells me he “remembers my face.” It’s been 13 years since I’ve lived in Toronto, but I believe him.
Finally, the night’s anticipation is high for another reason – Mould these days tours and records with two cohorts: incredible Superchunk/Mountain Goats drummer Jon Wurster (who’s also been a BSR columnist!), and former Telekinesis member Jason Narducy on bass. Live, the three-piece are high voltage. In fact, back in August when Mould ran through all of Sugar’s album Copper Blue at Pukkelpop, so compelling was the energy, that when they kicked into “Hoover Dam,” the hairs on my arm stood up to salute.
On Twitter, fans reading my own excitement share theirs: “SO MUCH ENVY I WUV BOB,” Rob writes. “ENVY SEETHES IN ME. HÜSKER DU AND SUPERCHUNK FUCK YEAH,” tweets Aaron. “I love it when ‘grandpa’ pulls out the ol’ electric.#sojealousofyourightnow” writes Ryan. The word “jealous” shows up in almost every tweet afterwards. This is the sort of respect Mould commands. And he clearly doesn’t tour enough.
But this isn’t just our need for nostalgia. It’s the excitement of us actually being rewarded for that nostalgia.
Mould’s playing now somehow replicates same intensity and speed that existed at half his age. No resting, no laurels here. These are workmen working overtime. During the set and two encores, Mould’s efficient: gregarious but speaks infrequently, talking about how it’s “fucking cold outside” but roasting inside the club. And it is – his glasses stay nearly permanently fogged, and Wurster, Narducy and Mould risk losing 800lbs to water loss. (After the show, Wurster tells me he thinks it was the hottest show they’ve played on the tour.) But from Wurster’s great rock lead ins, to Narducy’s laughs after every high-kick, to Mould just powering through a set and two encores, this night is veering into epic-ness.
Speaking of the setlist, it’s not a stretch to call it ideal: the five opening tracks from Copper Blue spurs a cathartic singalong, then comes a handful from Silver Age, a few more from Sugar, and then THE CLASSICS: Hüsker Dü after Hüsker Dü after ear-piercing motherfucking Hüsker Dü. To hear “I Apologize”, “Chartered Trips” and “If Can’t Change Your Mind” live for the first time (for me), was slightly brain-rattling.
But it was the final two encores that really killed it: “Flip Your Wig”, “Hate Paper Doll” and “Makes No Sense at All” railed, and Mould invited up local punk writer Sam Sutherland (author of Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk) for a cover of the Viletones’ “Screaming Fist.” The next day, as I’m sending Sam iPhone pics of his outing, he’s still in shock: “Man. Maaaan. Man.” he writes me. Because seeing Bob Mould is a kind of legendary experience, but SINGING on stage with Bob Mould must surely be beyond bucket list.
Afterwards, I’m one of the first to corner Bob – but a line forms behind me. An entire Horseshoe of people politely queue (bless our flappy heads) as he and I chat about mutual friends, and he stays out until every piece of vinyl or t-shirt is signed, every photo taken and every hand shaken. Wurster and I sit on the stage and he apologizes for being so sweaty. He had the luxury of a new t-shirt; I’m drenched. Narducy high-fives local friends, and a slightly dazed Chris Murphy from Sloan (“What am I doing? Trying to get my band to record some new music!” he says) marches his parka to the front of the stage to chat with Wurster and Narducy.
It’s workers working overtime, all the time. Seeing Bob Mould at the Horseshoe was just as legendary as we’d expected. And now that it’s over? Your move, everyone else. \m/
Click on each photo and flip through the gallery. Apologies for the head choppery in the thumbnails!
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