The four-day celebration of Barsuk Record’s 15th anniversary continued Friday at the Neptune Theatre with another sold-out showcase of some of the best artists in the label’s history.
Barsuk might be a “teenager” but most of the bands (and their fans) are looking a little grayer these day. It was John Roderick, lead singer of the headlining Long Winters, who summed things up on stage.
“I’m a 45-year-old man in skinny-ass jeans,” Roderick said. “I can do what I want.”
And what everyone was in the mood for Friday was a bit of nostalgia. Roderick led the Long Winters — which featured Andy Fitts subbing in on bass guitar but with an otherwise era-accurate line-up — through 2003′s “When I Pretend To Fall,” front to back.
Things got off to a somewhat rough start but by the time the band was halfway through its first song, “Blue Diamonds,” they were rounding into form.
The bright, quirky pop of “Scared Strait” gave the band a chance to get the crowd moving early and it seemed like Roderick and his long-time partner-in-crime, Harvey Danger frontman Seth Nelson, were having fun. They certainly enjoyed bantering with the crowd and teasing each other, reinforcing the Old Home Week vibe.
Not every song hit home. “Blanket Hog” wasn’t particularly effective and killed the momentum, while the mid-tempo rock of “Stupid” wasn’t moronic but it wasn’t memorable, either. On the whole, though, songs like “Prom Night at Hater High” and “The Sound of Coming Down” (dedicated to Barsuk founder Josh Rosenfeld by Roderick, who said it was Rosenfeld’s favorite track) became indie-rock anthems and provided moments of catharsis.
Thursday night’s Showbox at the Market show was notable for Death Cab for Cutie stopping by to play a set. No mystery guests this time, but plenty of star power.
Sunset Valley got things rolling with frontman Herman Jolly’s announcing, “Happy birthday, Barsuk. You are almost old enough to date.”
After tearing through a tight 30-minute set, Sunset Valley gave way to Minor Alps, the side project of Nada Surf frontman Matthew Caws and singer-songwriter Juliana Hatfield.
It was the band’s first live appearance not counting a set they played on KEXP earlier in the day, and they acquitted themselves well with just two guitars, a synth keyboard and a little help from a track on an iPod. The best moment came when Hatfield and Caws turned in an arresting performance of Hatfield’s “Such a Beautiful Girl” that benefited from the stripped-down sound and haunting harmonies.
David Bazan (of Pedro and the Lion) and the Passenger String Quartet offered a challenging take on some old Pedro favorites like “The Fleecing” while also testing out some new material for an album. That bit of information is courtesy of Roderick’s impromptu announcement after Bazan’s set. If Bazan does hook up with the Passenger String Quartet, it’ll be a collaboration to look out for as the quartet added some needed verve to Bazan’s depressing lyrical landscape.
The festivities aren’t over yet, not by a long shot. The Tractor Tavern hosts Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter, Rocky Votolato and Laura Gibson, with the Sunset Tavern featuring Ra Ra Riot and Aqueduct to close things out with a late show.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails