On April 1, 2002, we received this following announcement:
Yes, Unwound has decided to call it quits. Due to our inability to do any touring for an indefinite period we have decided to disband. We will continue to play music in different forms (other than unwound) in the future and also hope to release a collection of live tracks, demos and any unreleased material there is. Also hopefully a live/tour video-movie of some sort. Apologies to those who missed their chance to see us last year due to our cancellations. We can’t begin to thank all of those who helped us over the years, so we hope you know who you are! A round of applause from us to all the fans that came and went.
Thanks and good night!
I used to make fun of Fatkid so much for loving Unwound. Mostly because I was (and still!) am an asshole and like poking at people. To be honest, I don’t think I ever really heard their music at all, but hey, anything to amuse myself.
But once I heard them, fuck, I was hooked. Absolute chaos and darkness from the guitars and throat of Justin Trosper that surrounded the steady beat of Sara Lund’s drumming and Vern Rumsey’s bass was sublime. They were less Grateful Dead than early 90s Sonic Youth, more complex than the simplicity of Nirvana and more cohesive than most of the other Olympia bands. All of us who are fans wonder why they were not bigger than they were even after their demise.
Along with Nine Inch Nails, Unwound is (are?) my favorite band/musical act of all time which is why their breakup affected me a lot back in 2002. With their last album Leaves Turn Inside You in 2001, they seemed to reach a zenith in their artistry and could have gone so much farther. But the inevitable communication breakdowns, substance issues and all that typical rock star bullshit even made its way to them.
I didn’t think I would ever get to see them live again especially after Vern died in 2020. But Justin and Sara have come back together bringing along Jared Warren of Karp and the Melvins to fill in on bass and Scott Seckington of one of Justin’s post-Unwound bands Nocturnal Habits on guitars and keyboards. There I was at the Wiltern on the second night of their sold-out shows here in LA. After coming out to what sounded like the National Weather Service radio report of Northern California, they launched into their normal open “All Soul’s Day.” Holy fuck.
Then came “Envelope”, “Hexenzsene” and “Look a Ghost.” Boom boom boom. They weren’t fucking around here. This was for all of us who stood by holding the torch after all of these years. After this section, Sara asked who of us saw them back at the Jabberjaw. Then, perhaps most surprisingly, when she asked who weren’t even born yet when they last played, there was quite a bit of cheering. “This next song is for you,” she said as they launched into “New Energy”, a quick burst screaming for passion, youth and burning shit to the ground. It was also nice to notice that there was a bit of moshing down in the pit which I haven’t seen in ages.
It was spellbinding being on this journey as they calmed things down with “Usual Dosage” to the snarky “Laugh Track” and dark “Corpse Pose” and “Scarlette.” It was hard not to get choked up during “Disappoint” especially when Justin screamed out in the chorus “I never want to dive / Inside this heart of mine,” and then a resigned mournful singing “I’ll disappear and then I won’t know it’s true / Disappointed in me, disappointed in you.”
But, no shit, tears did come out in their noisy culmination of their set “Swan.” A complete banger in 5/4 time signature, it hit me when Justin screamed “What I see is the end of the end of the end,” before the song complete breaks apart into a wall of feedback. As they left the stage, they played a tape of “Pardon My French” on a loop as they took a break and gave us all a change to catch our breaths.
Fuck. That was so fucking good.
I was talking with Shea from San Diego who was sitting next to me. Talking about the last time we had seen Unwound live (he in 2002, me in 2001) over 20 years ago, we chatted about how much things have changed: we used to be the ones smoking cigarettes in venues that we were now complaining about; that we now paid for actual seats because standing in the pit for hours on end is a no-go now. It was just reassuring to be next to someone who was just as into seeing Unwound as I was. (While talking, he even reminded me of the DC band Circus Lupus who I had completely forgotten about!!!!!!)
As we were gabbing, Unwound came back out and launched into “Dragnalus” which brought all of us old folks a lot of excitement. “THIS BOREDOM REALLY SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!” went into another Fake Train gem “Nervous Energy.” There is something about the chaos on that album that really causes the head to violently bang so-to-speak. They slowed it down with “Arboretum” and “Lady Elect” before ending the show with THE trilogy: “Valentine Card”, “Kantina” and “Were Are and Was or Is.” It was here that I really noticed Vern’s absence. While Jared held the fort down and you could hardly tell the difference, there was something mournful as Justin was screaming and pleading, “STAY! DON’T GO!!!!!!”
And just like that it was over. They spent a few minutes handing out the flowers to those in the pit, then the roadies came onstage and turned the amps off. “That was fucking amazing,” I noted to Shea. We both sat there for a few minutes to regain ourselves before going our separate ways.
Yes, I wished they had played “Equally Stupid”, “Unauthorized Autobiography”, “Devoid”, “Summer Freeze”, “Radio Gra”, “Broken E Strings”, “Seen Not Heard.” Sure, I wish this was a three-hour show. But this little tidbit was such a fucking gem of a show which made up for all the lost time.