Early in Sonic Youth’s set, Kim Gordon, dressed in bronze lamé that looked like it had been dragged through a dirty New York alley, pushed her bass guitar around on the ground and then stood in front of a pile of black amps on stage. She appeared to be listening to them, those black boxes that regulate the noise, for the kind of mystic instructions that would make the writers of “Lost” proud.
For romantics of the rock 'n' roll squall, the Hollywood Bowl served up an evening of pummel and grace Thursday night. Each performance – No Age’s smart brutality, Sonic Youth’s artful bashing, Pavement’s elegant shambles – danced around noise. For No Age, who opened the show, that mission was explicit; for Pavement, the recently reunited headliner, less so. Sonic Youth, helmed by Gordon and Thurston Moore, the art-world godparents of feedback-laden wreckage, made a fine connective tissue.
No Age, the local duo of Randy Randall and Dean Spunt (and joined on stage by William Kai Stangeland-Menchaca on samples), wins distinction for perhaps being the loudest band to ever perform at the Bowl. At times, it was thrilling: For their closing number, drummer/vocalist Spunt did little more than issue a series of club-fisted lashes while the shell around the Bowl’s stage pulsed with light. At other times, some of No Age’s nuances were lost in the rubble. Spunt’s vocals, in particular, couldn’t find much expression or dynamic interplay.
Sonic Youth, on the other hand, has been at the post-punk game much longer and is more adept at countering the harder elements with guttural beauty. The lineage between No Age and Sonic Youth is clear, if only in stage presence; anyone could believe Randall is Moore, just some 25 years younger: same style of slouchy flannel, same curtain of hair that only sometimes parted for an expression of stupefied wonder on Randall or a Cheshire Cat’s grin on Moore.