"Later tonight a giant rattlesnake head's gonna rise up over Manhattan and swim over the river and introduce us to 2012," Sonic Youth frontman and soothsayer Thurston Moore announced at the Williamsburg Waterfront deep into the quintet's set Friday night. Taking a cue from a deranged man up front who'd been yelling about making pottery with Moore back in the '80s and shouting requests for prescription medication, Moore added, "And yes, it's gonna spray LSD and angel dust, and we'll all become women." Oh, just another twisted Sonic Youth show—three freaking decades since they formed, they still know how to destroy a room with sound waves.

In this case, the "room" was the East River State Park and the glittering Manhattan skyline, on a perfect midsummer night with a full moon to "shower lots of positive magnetic energy on you," as Moore put it. Earlier last week, the band dished on Twitter, "Teaching Mark some songs we haven't played in a long time for this friday's show #rehearsin'forya." The "Mark" there is bassist Mark Ibold (he also played in Pavement) who joined Sonic Youth in 2006. At one point during the show, Moore, unsure exactly how a certain song began, consulted Ibold, the new guy. "We're playing all these really old songs," Moore explained. "So when we're unsure how they go we ask Mark because he was always in the audience back then and he remembers."

True to their promise, the set was packed with well-rehearsed deep cuts and rarities, in what seemed to be a tribute to their longtime fans and a celebration of their impressive thirty years of melted faces. Audience members of all ages screamed in disbelief as the setlist grew increasingly obscure, with such songs as "Starfield Road," "Psychic Hearts," and the show-closing "Inhuman," which featured Moore's primal screaming over an exploding volcano of blistering electric noise. Strings broke, Gordon crouched center stage performing some mysterious ritual on her bass, Moore doused his guitar with a bottle of water and wrapped himself in the microphone cord, and all was right with the world. "Anything is possible through the power of love," Moore informed the audience in a final benediction.

Earlier, the set ended (preceding three encores) with "Drunken Butterfly," during which Kim Gordon sang the priceless refrain, "I love you, I love you, I love you, what's your name?" and then spun around frantically in circles in her skintight orange dress—an emphatic defiance of age, rust, and inhibition. Here's a taste:

Whatever's in the rattlesnake water Sonic Youth's been drinking over the years should be something coveted by every up-and-coming Brooklyn Band that cares about longevity. Speaking of "new" bands (compared to Sonic Youth they're all new), we can't wrap this up without a hat-tip for the two opening acts, Kurt Vile and the Portland-based Wild Flag. The latter, an all-female quartet featuring ex-members of the bands Sleater-Kinney, Helium and The Minders, charmed the pants off the crowd with their swirling, unpredictable guitar-driven compositions.

Here's Sonic Youth setlist, via the band's official message board:
Brave Men Run
Death Valley '69
Cotton Crown
Kill Yr Idols
Eric's Trip
Sacred Trickster
Calming the Snake
Starfield Road
I Love Her All The Time
Ghost Bitch
Tom Violence
What We Know
Drunken Butterfly
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Flower
Sugar Kane
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Psychic Hearts (whole band)
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Inhuman