Bob Mould hit the Bowery Ballroom with a set that was short on time, but long on substance. One of indie-punk’s greatest heroes, Mould played a thirty-minute rapid-fire set drawing from his wide back catalog, including his seminal eighties punk rock band Hüsker Dü, his post-Hüsker solo projects, his nineties alt-rock group Sugar, his most recent solo album, Body of Song, and even something new.
It was just him on guitar, but with Bob Mould, that’s more than enough.
Mould was the headlining act on April 16th in a benefit for Callum Robbins, the infant son of J. Robbins, the head of indie record label DeSoto Records (Jawbox, Dismemberment Plan). Callum was diagnosed with Type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a tragic disease that interferes with the brain’s capacity to control voluntary muscles, such as for walking, breathing, and swallowing. Usually fatal before a child turns two, there is no known cure. J. and his wife Janet are pursuing quality of life-improving alternative therapies, but these are unfortunately not covered by medical insurance, so this benefit was put together, featuring not just Bob Mould but also Radio 4, Harmony, and Annuals.
The quick succession of songs from Mould was not some sort of throwback to Hüsker Dü’s speed-punk debut record, the live Land Speed Record, but rather because he had to wrap everything up by midnight. This led him to shorten many of the numbers he performed, especially longer pieces like the opener “Wishing Well” and Sugar’s “Hoover Dam”. He also forcibly limited his chitchat with the crowd, except to speak a bit on the benefit’s cause, and to tell the crowd that he’d finished his new album the week prior. Due for a September release, Mould joked with the audience, saying, “I’m just waiting for the first wheelbarrow full of money, and I’ll put it out – Oh, that was ten years ago, wait a minute.” He did feature one new song, “Again and Again”, which he claimed was “the most depressing song I’ve ever written.” And coming from the man who wrote “Helpless”, “It’s Too Late”, and “Hardly Getting Over It”, that’s saying something.
But the set was more characterized by power than tragedy, despite the circumstances of the benefit and Mould’s lack of any backing band. The most gripping pieces he did were his older numbers, like “Wishing Well”, “Hoover Dam”, “If I Can’t Change Your Mind”, and his one-two Hüsker finisher, “Celebrated Summer” and “Makes No Sense At All”. Any performance by Bob Mould is going to have people wanting to hear their favorite song from his twenty-plus year career, and yet Mould managed to make the crowd happy with the limited time he had to perform. Plus, his newer Body of Song numbers, “Circles” and “Paralyzed”, fit right in, and didn’t lack for weight.
The crowd at Bowery Ballroom (QRO venue review) was a curious mix of middle-agers (some anal-retentive rock aficionados, others quite drunk), who must have been around during his earlier rock days, and twenty-somethings, who must just know their indie-rock history. But even with limited time and limited instruments, Bob Mould rocked ‘em all.
To find out more about Callum Robbins, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or to give money, please go to http://www.desotorecords.com/cal/