Beer and Pavement

Never Forget Pavement for the Last Time

Posted in Live by SM on September 14, 2010

Image blatantly stolen from a friend on Facebook.

After my two-year-old’s birthday party and a rather stressful Buckeye game[1], I launched my Prius[2] toward Kansas City for what would undoubtedly be my last Pavement show ever. Two hours lay ahead of me with the first last Pavement show playing on my iPod[3] and nothing but time to contemplate my time with my favorite band. I mean, it was 9-11, a day we’d never forget. Or something.

All my punk and indie cred were out the window Saturday. There was the aforementioned birthday party and football game which held me up from making a day out of the jaunt to KC. I could have hit a bar or a nasty taco joint beforehand. Hell, what I should have done was visit every BBQ shack in KC until I found the one where the band was hanging[4], but I didn’t. Instead, I watched that damn football game until the bitter end before making said trip down I-70. Two hours driving to the Uptown Theater, a 90-minute set, and two hours back. That seemed about right.

Anyway, I did use the driving for some proper reflection. It was just over 15 years ago that I first saw Pavement. I was slow to liking them and didn’t see the band until the Wowee Zowee[5]. I saw them twice that summer, once at the Agora Ballroom (not to be confused with the much larger theater) in Cleveland and at Lollapalooza in Columbus[6]. That first gig was maybe the most rocking of all the times I saw the band. Spiral Stairs/Scott Kannberg came out with a homemade Pavement t-shirt a fan had given him earlier that evening. And despite the shirtless mooks upfront moshing, the show was so much raucous fun. I distinctly remember that the set moved along seamlessly when at just the right moment, someone behind me suggested they play “Serpentine Pad” and they did. I felt I had found my band, my community. Even a lackluster Lolla set couldn’t deter me. I was a Pavement fan from then on.

I wouldn’t see Pavement again for almost two years. They didn’t come through Ohio very often in those days, at least not Columbus. Around the time my personal life was going through a great upheaval[7], they rolled into town to play the Newport Music Hall in Columbus. The set was quintessential Pavement as there were many false-starts and even a moment when Malk took over on drums for Westy in order to demonstrate how the song should be played. It was a ramshackle set, but very entertaining.

Six or so months later, I saw Pavement again. This time I saw them at Cleveland’s Odeon. It was maybe their most together and complete set of those early shows. The band played the hits and had their shit together.

The next time I would see my favorite band was also the last…for eleven years. Rumors were swirling over the band’s inevitable demise. Terror Twilight just felt like a last hurrah in its tone and message. In fact, I distinctly remember thinking that it was the lead-up to Malkmus’ first solo effort once that record was released. We somehow knew that this would be it. The show was at Cincinnati’s Bogart’s, the last in their US tour before heading off to the UK. Pavement played a pretty great set, including “Conduit for Sale” for the first time in my presence.

Years would go by and I bounced from band to band, always returning to my favorite. I even started a blog dedicated to their songs, although it is grossly ignored at the moment. Every time a seminal band from the nineties reunited, I’d wonder when Pavement’s turn would come.

Finally, the New York shows were announced last year and many more dates followed. I jumped at the chance to see them at Pitchfork despite disliking large crowds like I do. Shortly after that, the Kansas City show was announced. I didn’t actually decide until the morning the tickets went on sale to buy them, but I knew all along that I’d go anyway.

So, September 11th came. I made it to the Upland Theater, a nice older venue, in the middle of the openers’ set. It didn’t sound like I was missing anything, so I made a pit stop before finding a spot half-way back. For Pitchfork, I was really close, but for this gig I wanted to stand back and watch.

The band walked onto the stage in typical Pavement fashion. They waved. Malk wore a football jersey for his favorite football player[8]. The band looks remarkably similar to the way they looked eleven years ago. Sure, Spiral Stairs and Ibold look a little heavier, but they all look good for the most part. They certainly have not lost their aesthetic that caused them to be unfairly known as slackers[9].

From the start, this was a much better set than Pitchfork. For one, Pavement have been touring for most of the year and that old magic has come back. Also, the band was much looser, almost whimsical throughout. This feeling may have been helped by an obviously tipsy Malkmus[10]. At P4k, he tended to be aloof, almost business-like. His playing may have been better, more inventive in July, but he was incredibly engaging Saturday night. At one point, SM strolled over and played alongside Kannberg, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Back in the day, Malk just stood stage right, only to move when something wasn’t right. He seemed to enjoy himself for once. Even Ibold moved over to SM’s station, exhibiting a fondness for the (un)official leader of the band.

Steve West was somewhat subdued as compared to the mid-summer festival performance, but his percussion-mate was having a hell of a time. Both Saturday’s and July’s performances showed Bob Nastanovich at his best. There hasn’t been a hype man since Flavor Flav that’s been more fun to watch than Nasty this summer. Maybe he knows this is his last hurrah or whatever. All I know is that he has not disappointed on this reunion tour. Of course, I could have used a little more Moog on his part, but you can’t get everything.

The set was huge, a whopping 29 songs. Normally, I grow bored with sets that long, but this one was worth it. The band played eight more songs than P4k and fit in an encore complete with a cover at the end. Strangely, neither show included “Summer Babe”, but I can live with that.

It was a good send-off for my favorite band. As long as they don’t reunite again in two years a la Pixies or play into their 70’s a la the Stones/Who/Led Zeppelin, I’ll be good with them ending things later this fall. They’ll go out on top, more like Jordan than Favre[11].

September 11th has a lot of meaning to me. I remember that day in 2001 when I entered the teachers’ lounge at my school to discover the world had been turned upside-down. Luckily, the day has now been fixed for me. My daughter was born two years ago on the day, forever wiping the slate clean. This September 11th was great since my kid now has a personality and an intellect in which we can relate on some level[12]. The day was certainly topped off with the Pavement show, making it an easy date to never forget.

Notes (Yes, they’re back. Get used to it.):

1OK, so I’ve outed myself. I am a die-hard Ohio State Buckeyes football fan. I had to hang around to see them put away the Miami Hurricanes and maintain their #2 ranking in the polls. I’m OK with this since Pavement are avid sport fans.
2So, I’ve outed myself again. Yes, I own a Prius, but that’s mostly because we got a good deal and I drive a lot for my job. And despite my hyperbole, it does not launch. It mostly scoots away silently.
3I don’t remember where I found it, but one can download a free and somewhat legal recording of that last Pavement gig at the Brixton Academy in London on November 20, 1999. Included is SM’s “handcuff” statement.
4As any self-respecting Pavement fan knows, the band was cookoo for the Cocoa Puffs (AKA BBQ) while recording Wowee Zowee in Memphis.
5To be clear, I listened the shit out of that dubbed copy of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain before that. It’s just that at the time, I was discovering a lot of music. It was hard to focus on one band. Something about that album and tour helped me see the light.
6Pavement followed a pregnant Sinead O’Connor that day. It turned out to be her last performance on the tour.
7That was a great spring for shows, if I remember correctly. There was the last Brainiac show in Columbus, John Spencer Blues Explosion, Yo La Tengo, Guided By Voices (twice, consecutive nights), The Afghan Whigs, Archers of Loaf, and Pavement to name a few.
8The jersey was a Jamaal Charles #25. Charles is a running back for the Kansas City Chiefs who had an incredible second-half of the season last year. Malk is a notorious fantasy basketball participant, but something tells me he dabbles in the fantasy football as well. Being the Charles is a big-paly back, SM surely has him on his team.
9I will never understand how a band could be called “slackers” when they release five records, countless singles, plus tour almost non-stop for nine or ten years straight. There’s something about nineties bands in their un-tucked shirts, ironic t-shirts, and jeans that make them slackers.
10I once saw Malk trashed for a Jicks show where he proceeded to count the pretty girls in the audience.
11Both came out of retirement, but only Jordan left on top…unless you count that stint with the Wizards or that time he played baseball. OK. Nevermind. No sports analogy works here. I want them to retire on top before they record an album we’ll all regret.
12Well, we can relate as much as an adult and two-year-old can relate. I won’t pretend we’re talking philosophy or politics, but we understand each other. That and she loves “Cut Your Hair”, a song Pavement played both times I saw them. Now even that song has new meaning for me.

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4 Responses

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  1. Carrie said, on September 14, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    I nearly chronicled my Pavement fandom in my review too, but omitted it at the last moment. It got a little too depressing/personal when all I really needed to say was “Frontwards” hooked me on a shitty 17th birthday.

    I totally agree about Nostanovich–he made it worth every penny.

    But what was with Spiral Stairs’ hat choice? Driving caps are the official hats of assholes everywhere.

  2. Steve said, on September 15, 2010 at 4:41 am

    Great to see you back in the blogging saddle. I missed ya!

    I’m really torn on Pavement calling it a day/continuing. While I can foresee diminishing returns, I think I’d live to hear a new Pavement record more than a new SM record. I think they could put an interesting twist on the ‘comeback record’ genre (if such a genre exists).

  3. builderofcoalitions said, on September 15, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Carrie, I had a similar story to tell involving a breakup, but nobody wants to hear our sob stories. So, I abstained.

    Steve, I’m actually OK with Pavement ending their run. I feel the new SM albums are part of his natural progression and the band wasn’t equipped to do what he’s doing. I liken his newish direction to the sort of material John Lennon produced after the Beetles breakup. Oh, and if you want another take on the same show, check Carrie’s post.

  4. […] a proper album of new tracks this year. What they did do is answer my prayers with a reunion tour and released maybe the single greatest best-of album I’ve ever heard[9]. Besides, how could I […]

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