SAN FRANCISCO — Looking a bit like a shop teacher in jeans and a flannel shirt, Bob Mould unleashed a torrent of distortion from his guitar as he launched into a headlining set at the Fillmore Saturday night during the Noise Pop Music Festival. The set showcased songs from throughout Mould’s storied career and had the aging hipsters in the audience singing along and reliving their glory days.
In the world of rock and roll royalty, Bob Mould is a duke. The 58-year-old singer and songwriter burst on the scene in the late ’70s with his band Hüsker Dü, later cited as a singular influence by the who’s who of alternative rock including Kurt Cobain and members of The Pixies. Mould and Hüsker Dü signed to SST Records, the iconic indie label responsible for much of alternative and grunge’s progenitors. In 1984, SST released Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade, generally considered the band’s high-water mark.
After that band broke up in the mid-1990s, Bob Mould recorded a couple solo albums before forming Sugar. In 2011, he added “author” to his list of credits, penning a memoir titled See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody. Mould is currently touring in support of his new album, Sunshine Rock, which was released last month.
Joining Mould onstage in his latest band were bassist Jason Narducy and drummer Jon Wurster of Superchunk. Mould’s set featured a number of tracks from his new album including the title track, “Sunny Love Song” (with a powerful chugging guitar), “Lost Faith,” “The Final Years” (with a tasty guitar interlude), “Thirty Dozen Roses,” and the slower-paced “Sun King.” The latter filled the room with huge walls of distorted guitar.
Mould also played some Sugar songs, including “If I Can’t Change Your Mind,” “A Good Idea” and “Hoover Dam,” from 1992’s Copper Blue.
Halfway through the set, Mould’s glasses were steamed up with exertion, and he made a crack between songs about it being past his bedtime, but he never looked tired. As the set wore on, Mould’s voice grew wonderfully gravelly and harsh, cutting through the band’s wall of sound. Mould seemed completely comfortable onstage. It was the kind of ease that is earned only through decades of performing live.
The energy of the crowd spiked as Mould finished out his set with a slew of Hüsker Dü songs, including “Celebrated Summer,” “Chartered Trips” and “New Day Rising.” These songs were looser and more chaotic, and the performance more punk rock. Nobody can accuse Bob Mould of slowing down, even though he’s looking more like a dad than a rock star these days.
The night’s opening act, Film School, also has a long history as a band, forming in 1998 when lead singer Greg Bertens (aka Krayg Burton) began collaborating with members of the bands Pavement and Fuck. After recording several albums with various lineups between 2001 and 2010, the band members went their separate ways in 2011 following creative differences (including a physical altercation between band members onstage). The original lineup reformed in 2014, put their differences behind them and released Bright to Death in 2018.
Film School’s music straddles straight-ahead ’90s alternative rock and ’80s synth pop. The band played a number of songs from its latest album. The spacey guitar that began “Go Low” soon was joined by a propulsive drum beat and thudding bass. On “The Celebration,” Bertens sounded a little like The Cure’s Robert Smith.
The band also played older material from 2007’s Hideout. “Compare” featured some cool atmospheric synth sounds, while on “Two Kinds,” guitarist Dave Dupuis created some fun six-string interplay with Bertens.