Bob Mould has had quite a career in the music business – and it ain’t over yet! He recently released a new album called Beauty and Ruin on the fantastic Merge Records label (run by Mac and Laura from Superchunk). Earlier this year he celebrated the 25th anniversary of his first solo album Workbook. Which means it’s been 25 years since I saw Bob at my first non-arena concert… seems like yesterday.
I was late to the alternative/college rock party; I grew up listening to more mainstream rock and roll – a steady diet of Who/Zep/Rush – throughout my college years. But a few years after I graduated, my brother sent me a cassette of the Replacements and my whole music world changed. I started seeking out more music like the ‘mats. Living in Cincinnati, I knew there was a “college rock” station called 97X in the area, but it had a very weak signal, and it was 40 miles from my apartment. I had to stick my boombox antenna out the window to tune in, and even then it was pretty static-filled. But the music was fantastic. I was working at a country radio station at the time, in a behind-the-scenes role, but contacted the Program Director at 97X to ask about working weekend shifts as a DJ. To my amazement, they actually hired me. The pay was well below minimum wage, but the perks were fantastic:
- a chance to connect with like-minded music lovers
- free promotional CDs
- free tickets to local concerts
I signed up for a ticket to the Bob Mould show at Bogart’s, a venerable albeit somewhat rundown club in Cincinnati. I really loved the Workbook album but was only vaguely familiar with Bob’s previous band, Hüsker Dü. In fact, I remember living in a dorm in college and the “weird kid” down the hall had posted a flyer on his door for a Hüsker Dü show – I was so clueless that I said “who is HUSK-ur DUH?” (Even with 2 years of German classes, I was never good at pronouncing umlauts.)
Bob started the show the same way the Workbook album started, playing the gentle instrumental “Sunspots.” The stage was completely dark. Then Bob and the band segued into the more raucous “Wishing Well” as the stage lights came up. I was shocked, stunned, aghast… I’d never seen so much raw energy from a band before. Some of that was due to the fact that the only other shows I’d seen were arena rock shows where I was miles from the stage, but more of it was due to Bob’s in-your-face punk approach to playing and singing. So 25 years later, I’d like to thank Mr. Mould for showing me a whole new kind of live music.
After all his years in the music biz, from Hüsker Dü to Sugar to his solo work, it’s good to know that Bob still has a sense of humor… and he still knows how to rock: