LOU BARLOW with Earlimart and Alaska at the Horseshoe, October 27. Tickets: $10.50. Attendance: 300. Rating: NNNN
Two sure signs you're in the pre- sence of a musical cult hero.First, the jam-packed Horseshoe echoes with heartfelt pleas for acoustic versions of obscure four-track recordings from the dude's teenage years.
Second, between-song banter is repeatedly interrupted by disciples trying to curry favour by volunteering snippets of bizarre biographical info from the guy's life.
So it was with Lou Barlow, an iconic superhero for the generation of shaggy-haired, basement-dwelling indie kids who came of age in the early-to-mid-90s.
There was a time when you could count on at least one Barlow track showing up on a mix tape, whether it was his alt-rock dirge in Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh-style unrequited love songs or a fragment of quirk-pop from Folk Implosion.
Barlow's epic Sunday night was like a two-hour flashback to those idyllic days before electronica and the Y2K bug.
The nostalgic mood was underscored by opening acts Earlimart and Alaska. Entering the stage to looped feedback, loping beats and a weird-ass doorbell chime, three-piece Earlimart thrashed through a few crunchy tunes reminiscent of weak early Sloan before settling into a nice atmospheric indie groove. They ended their set on a high note with a balls-out, ominous cover of R.E.M.'s Strange.
La-la-land neighbours Alaska started out on with a dual acoustic Simon-and-Garfunkel hushed campfire vibe before spiralling into vicious Doors-meet-shoe-gazer territory.
Barlow brought it back down a notch. Waxing eloquent on the stories behind most of his tunes and the nervous breakdown that's kept him out of the spotlight in the three years since Sebadoh's last disc dropped, Barlow positioned himself as the prolific bard laureate of the beautiful loser contingent.
Armed with just a beat-up folk guitar for most of the show, the bespectacled boy fingerpicked his way through 25 tunes, his hushed tenor gorgeous on ballads like On Fire and the jilted lover anthem Mystery Man.