Movie note: Sonic Youth bring the noise, even in their sleep


Youth bring the noise in a fresh look at Sonic Youth—one of the earliest and most influential noise rock bands in the country, formed in New York in 1981.

Sonic Youth: Sleeping Nights Awake, a documentary film directed by Project Moonshine. Screening at the Riverview Theater on October 23 (9:00 p.m.) and at the St. Anthony Main Theater on October 24 (9:15 p.m.) as part of the Sound Unseen film festival. Admission $8. For more information, see

As part of Project Moonshine, a youth film education project, seven teenagers filmed Sonic Youth: Sleeping Nights Awake at a concert in Reno, Nevada one summer night in 2006. Let loose with cameras, the teens filmed the concert and interviewed members of Sonic Youth, their crew, and their fans.

In a style remniscent of early 80s music videography with its high-contrast black-and-white cinematography, the teens balance live performance footage with interviews they conducted over a couple days. Their close-up shots of the band in action are excellent.

As I watched Sonic Youth perform hardcore punk-infused garage rock songs from their early years (“Sweet Sensation,” “Incinerate”) I was reminded of their intense show I saw at First Avenue in the early ‘90s. The band haven’t lost their touch.

A great moment in the film is Kim Gordon hitting her stride singing “Cool Thing” while dancing. She reveals in the film that she’s actually always been shy of singing. Some other good moments in the film include an amusing interview with the “monitor guy” discussing Sonic Youth members’ temperament during shows, and how their angst appears in their performances.

The teens’ interviews with Thurston Moore—who, at 53, still seems very young—reveal his dry, deadpan humor. He talks about his early New York influences such as Patti Smith and the Ramones. When he comments that young journalists seem obsessed with musicians’ favorite foods, the teens as if on cue, ask him what his favorite beer is.

Thurston dedicates a song to the Wrecks, an early-80s band from the Reno area, and later talks with the youth about his personal experience with Betsy Wreck, of the Wrecks. During an afterparty, more is revealed as the band relax and share Hershey bars with the kids.

Sonic Youth tell us they don’t know when they will stop; they don’t think about it. From the looks of the performance documented in this film, they could keep going for a very long time.

Cyn Collins is a Twin Cities freelance arts and culture writer. She is the author of West Bank Boogie, a substitute programmer at KFAI, and an assistant producer of Write On Radio.

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