On The List :: The Long Winters @ Bowery Ballroom [10.18.13]

This review runs live and first on The Bowery Presents House List blog.

John Roderick and Sean Nelson, the two founding members of the lapsed and debatably defunct band the Long Winters, took the stage at a sold-out Bowery Ballroom on Friday night under the auspices of a reunion that maybe was and maybe wasn’t. They had gathered to play their seminal sophomore record, When I Pretend to Fall, just six months past its 10-year anniversary. Roderick was in his usual biting form, cracking sardonic jokes about fans’ online relationship with the band: “Now the fans can go home and express their displeasure on the Internet. Back in the old days, you just had to go home and suck it.” Nelson, an on-again-off-again member of Harvey Danger, nodded approvingly as those in the audience chuckled.

Most revealing was when Roderick paused to answer questions later in the set. As fans yelled for the next Long Winters record, he sarcastically demurred, replying that it was on a hard drive on his desk and “every once in a while I adjust the EQ mix on one of the toms and then I wait another year.” There was no mystery to the set list for the band or the audience. It was When I Pretend to Fall from front to back, beginning with the familiar standard “Blue Diamonds” and running through favorites “Shapes,” “Cinnamon,” “Stupid” and “New Girl.” Roderick stepped in often with his trademark banter, remarking after “Blanket Hog” that he’d written it about a disastrous romance only to later realize “that it was, in fact, I who was the blanket hog.”

Most winning was his story accompanying “Stupid,” one of the band’s most wrenching songs. Roderick relayed the tale of trying to track down a Princeton, N.J., record-store clerk he’d met, only to discover she’d moved to California. So, he wrote “Stupid” for her, about which Sean Nelson sarcastically remarked: “And I’ll play this song at a sold-out Bowery Ballroom 10 years later to show you.” Roderick seemed to respond to this brand of forward and backward reflection in the middle of “Prom Night at Hater High,” asking, “How did I get old?”

But it was Nelson who got the last word during the “New Girl” breakdown, gently ribbing Roderick for unoriginality by singing the chorus from Pearl Jam’s “Better Man” and then the English Beat’s “Save It for Later” over the song’s chord progression. Roderick laughed. It was two older tunes laid over a slightly newer one, all more than a decade behind us—gray hair in Roderick’s beard and on Nelson’s head—near the end of CMJ, a festival about restless, relentless newness. For a night, it was all in the past.

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