SOMERVILLE -- For a cold Sunday night, P.A.'s Lounge was well filled. However, given that the billed headliner was Bark Haze, an experimental guitar duo featuring Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore and the mysteriously monikered Gown (a.k.a. Andrew McGregor ), you'd presume the line would've been around the block. Somerville! Thurston Moore! Come on!
But this was a low-key, barely publicized appearance where the preternaturally youthful looking Moore seemed intent on, well, having no intentions beyond hanging out and, when he was onstage, coaxing and demanding sounds from his guitar.
Bark Haze, which just released "Total Joke Era" alongside the vinyl "LP," each containing different music, is named after a phonetic misinterpretation of Memphis R&B legends the Bar-Kays , most of whom died in an airplane crash in 1967 with Otis Redding.
A last-minute switch moved Sunburned Hand of the Man to close the night with its luscious psychedelic jams. Earlier, following opener Keith Fullerton Whitman's short electronic set of screeching, squealing sounds pulled from two keyless synthesizer modules, Matt Krefting (of the Believers ) read poetry and added an a cappella, unamplified cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."
Expanding to a quartet with drums, bass, and Moore on guitar, Krefting romped through a cover of the Misfits' thrash operetta "Hybrid Moments." Clearly Moore enjoyed the moment. He grinned widely as he slipped off his guitar afterward .
Bark Haze's performance was more languid, but with staggered intense peaks, all in one continuous piece of music, just 20 minutes long. Moore threaded a wavering repeated chord around Gown's jangles and clangs. The music grew bigger as Gown slashed firmly at his guitar and Moore added bubbly high notes, before the pair ended up riffing together madly. A clamorous squall erupted, then Gown's wall of notes cushioned Moore's hard repeated chord, plucked as his whole body twitched like a kid throwing a tantrum.
Of course, it was the kind of guitar noise Sonic Youth fans adore. One satisfied fan at P.A.'s complained that Sonic Youth's appearance at Avalon last fall had been too bland. "That was the kind of old-school Sonic Youth guitar jam that was missing," he said.