Unwound played Paradise Rock Club – 3/25

Post-hardcore giants Unwound made a long-awaited return to Boston, with support from veteran noise-rockers Cherubs.


If you’re taking the time to read a blog post about an Unwound performance in Boston in 2024, it’s likely you’re already familiar with how the band’s troubled final tour in 2001 never quite made it here. Their gig at the Middle East was scheduled for September 11th of that year and, for obvious reasons, did not take place that day. That the final date of an East Coast leg of Unwound’s unlikely reunion run finally made up that show late last month, two and half decades later, was not lost on the band nor the audience.

I was a bewildered third grader that day, not thinking about the Leaves Turn Inside You tour, and the crowd packed into the Paradise last Monday night ranged between my age, kids who had yet to be born at the time, and fans so long-tenured they still had their tickets to that ill-fated show. It was an equally big deal to all of us that they were finally back.

This wasn’t my first (or second) time catching the reactivated Unwound in the past year and change, but something hits different about finally seeing a band you once thought you’d never see in your hometown. And much as I’m loathe to praise the place, the exceedingly-lived in confines of the Paradise actually felt like an appropriate place to do it.

The trappings were much the same as the LA and NYC shows I caught last year – clean light, a sprawling map-like backdrop, storm reports from the National Weather Service portending the band’s entrance – but the setlist and presentation mixed things up from last year’s run. Gone was the two-set structure of the headlining dates, embracing instead a hammer-down 90 minutes with heavy emphasis on 1996’s Repetition. The set could’ve satisfyingly focused on most any corner of a near-bulletproof discography, but rolling straight through that particular album’s sequence of “Message Received,” “Corpse Pose” and “Unauthorized Autobiography” to open the night felt like an especially gauntlet-throwing maneuver. The current foursome were imposing straight out of the gate.

The thing that ultimately made Unwound who they were – a class apart from a sea of noisy nineties contemporaries – was that the dissonance, rhythm and interplay of core members Justin Trosper, Sara Lund and Vern Rumsey felt like a secret shared language between the trio. Plenty of bands played like them, but none really played like them. And so it remains a feat that Trosper, Lund and new members in bassist Jared Warren and guitarist Scott Seckington are able to do what they did on stage last Monday night, conjuring up that particular feedback-laced magic. And it bears repeating that Warren, in particular, stands out in living up to the nigh-impossible standards of filling in for the late Rumsey.

Throughout the set, which tended towards mini-suites of songs from particular records (“Hexenzsene,” “Usual Dosage,” “Arboretum” from ’94’s New Plastic Ideas, a second trio from Repetition later in the night), the band explored both their explosive, abrasive, mosh-worthy material and the woolier atmospherics of something like the instrumental “Sonata for Loudspeakers.” Perhaps the perfect midpoint of the two came towards the night’s end with Leaves deep cut “Summer Freeze” – a new addition to the set for this run and my own personal highlight for the night.

These reunion shows have served as a celebration of the singular sound cultivated by Unwound during their original run, and the stature and influence it’s taken on in the years they’ve been away. And for the first-timers, those of us who followed the reunion like a summer Dead tour, or fans who’ve been on board since the beginning, the band’s Paradise date was a powerful reminder of it all. 1991-2091-forever.

Austin, TX noise rockers Cherubs – fellow ’90s purveyors of cacophony and discord – opened the night with a tempestuous led by the antics of singer/guitarist Kevin Whitley. Routinely sticking his tongue at the crowd, stabbing his guitar skyward and unplugging it to run the live instrument cable across his torso, Whitley was an impish force backed by the powerhouse drumming of Brent Prager and onetime Unsane bassist Pete Shore. The whole production brought a tinge of glee to music that might otherwise best be described as “harrowing.” I’d missed the trio at their own Mid East date last year and was very glad to catch them here.

Check out a gallery from the evening of a somewhat indulgent length below.