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Unwound with Cherubs - The Paradise (Boston) - March 25, 2024

28 March 2024

Maybe they weren’t the first band to reunite, but The Who’s tour in 1989 just seven years after their farewell tour is the first instance I can recall. Since then, it’s been a veritable flood of bands, from across different generations, all getting back together for a variety of reasons. Some of these are very small, focused events (hello, Kate Bush), others are on-again, off-again affairs like The Jesus Lizard, and some blossom into something entirely unexpected until the band decides to finally call it another day, such as Mission Of Burma and their fourteen year reprise that also produced four excellent studio records.

Two years ago, when news broke of Unwound’s return to the stage I kept waiting for a Boston show to be announced. The band filled the bass position of the late Vern Rumsey with fellow Tumwater homie Jared Warren (bringing an undisputed pedigree via heavy bands like Karp, Big Business, Tight Bros From Way Back When, Melvins etc) and also recruited Scott Seckington who played guitar in Nocturnal Habits alongside Justin Trosper and Sara Lund. Playing some European festivals, some West Coast dates, NYC was the closest they came but I didn’t make it down for that. (In retrospect I really should have, as there was just a half-dozen song overlap between the final NYC show and tonight’s).

Playing the long game worked in my favor, as the band announced a short run of dates that ended with a Boston show at The Paradise. Thirty years later, after opening for local noiseniks Kudgel I would get to experience the beauty, the power, and the effortless force once again. The band was obviously rehearsing during downtime from the road, and this tour was pretty heavy on Repetition material; no one was complaining.

If there’s a central theme running through Unwound’s music, it’s tension. The songs simmer and dance around the boundaries as the energy builds, and the inevitable eruption occurs, leaving a gaping caldera in the process. To say they were influential is an understatement; Troubleman Unlimited head Mike Simonett offered some prescient words when he learned Unwound was breaking up in 2002. “Unwound were (and still are) beautiful people. Unwound was one of the most influential and vital bands of the ’90s, and their last record was a masterpiece. You just don’t know it yet. Unwound’s influence will live on for a long time to come, and they were everything a band should be: independent and non-compromising in every aspect.”

The space between the bass notes of “Arboretum” that shadowbox with the guitar could be mistaken for a Mogwai passage; Trosper’s impassioned, raw-throated howls on “Usual Dosage” find familiarity with the late Rick Froberg’s.

Ideally the set would have featured another song or two from their last record, the undisputed masterpiece Leaves Turn Inside You but the segue of “Summer Freeze” into “For Your Entertainment” was an emphatic exclamation, a heavily underscored statement of their legacy. Swinging his guitar to create a tsunami of feedback, Trosper left the stage by somersaulting over to the side. Warren’s exit was a bit less graceful but far funnier, rolling off the stage on his side. The show ended with Lund leaving her drum kit, picking up the bouquet of flowers that sat at the center of the stage and passed them out to the crowd. The fact that a good chunk of the crowd (the boisterous chunk) tonight wasn’t even born when Unwound ceased in 2002 speaks well of the band’s lasting influence. Who knows what the future holds, but I wouldn’t object to the issuance of any new material. But really, I’m just really thankful they are giving us what they are.

The Midwest and NYC had a pretty robust noise scene in the late ’80s and ’90s but Texas was responsible for a good blast of destructo-rock itself. Of course everyone knows Butthole Surfers and Big Boys and The Dicks and there were dozens of bands who took inspiration and grew in their shadows. Drummer King Coffey helped nurture the scene by launching his Trance Syndicate label, and one of the early signings was Cherubs, a band who pulled members from Sugar Shack and Ed Hall. The trio kicks up more venom than a leprous rattlesnake and with their recent reboot they’ve got Pete Shore and his legendary low end tone that propelled bands like Boss Hog and Unsane.

The trio hit the crowd in the face with all the subtlety of a spiked glove, and we asked for more. It’s hard to believe a noise band can exist where the guitar is the least essential component of the mix, but the rhythm section of Shore and Brent Prager (sporting a nice sleeveless pink Sparks t shirt and a George Hurley hair style) flattened anything unfortunate to be in its way, and Kevin Whitley’s high pitched yowls were the icing. “Dave Of The Moon” had a swagger most pimps aspire to. I saw them play last year at the Middle East and when a band comes back to life and you can tell they appreciate the fans and give it all they have, there’s no faking it. Welcome back guys!