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last night's gig

Slint Plays a Funeral Mass for the Album

Britt Walford and David Pajo irrevocably alter history in a sitting positionPhoto: Getty Images

Some say the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, ended an era of innocence, prosperity, and peace — a little stretch of time, fondly remembered, that we like to call the nineties. Fair enough. But we’re still gonna go ahead and say that last night’s performance of Slint’s Spiderland — the 1991 indie-rock masterpiece that irrevocably altered the life course of a guy you know who just had a baby — at Webster Hall was in fact the event to finally close that chapter of American history. Played note for note by the band’s four original members, who gave no hint as to whether they were overjoyed or embarrassed to have reconvened for the gratification of unadulterated white-male nostalgia, the deeply brooding, fussily executed album finally sounded, sixteen years later, like the existential, cosmos-annihilating shrug it was envisioned as. Which is to say: It sounded fucking great.

The band treated the stage as if it bordered a precipitous drop, edging back into dark corners. (On the balcony, a puzzled audience member was heard to observe that there didn’t seem to be anyone actually performing.) Craning our neck at one point, we saw Brian McMahan caressing his guitar while sitting down. The “light show” consisted of white beams turned either on or off. Between songs, there was stony silence. The music was mournful and majestic, a museum piece as staggering (and unyielding) as a Serra sculpture. The album format, suffering a slow death brought on downloads (though it’s rumored that Clive Davis sliced open its belly to feast on the intestines), could not have been honored with a more tragic series of dirges — played, of course, in the exact order that you’ll find on your old LP. Last night, we partied like it was 1999 — knowing what awaited us on the other side of the millennium. — Nick Catucci