Monday, September 20, 2010

Pavement concert

Last night in Brooklyn, I got to see a 2-hour set by Pavement from about the 4th row (an approximation, since there was no seating). All it took was getting there not long after the gates opened, and then being willing to stand near the stage for almost 2 hours before they got started, a wait that was mitigated by two warm-up acts, including one with Jenny Lewis (formerly of Rilo Kiley).

My back wasn't especially thrilled by this, but it agreed not to scream too hard or shut down operations, and even recovered swiftly afterwards. Another annoyance was a few drunk twenty-somethings who would shove past people who got there before them and then jump up down screaming the lyrics, physically endangering those near them while also crowding them and blocking their view.

This, however, at least bemused me a bit. The strange angle was that people who would do this sort of thing would actually know Pavement lyrics by heart. They're a bit, well, elliptical for that sort of thing. Take "Summer Babe," seemingly a classic brainless school's-out type of tune about what the title suggests, except that the lyrics begin like this:

"Ice baby / I saw your girlfriend and she was /eating her fingers like they're just another meal / but she waits there / in the levee wash she's / mixin' cocktails with a plastic-tipped cigar." Okay.

Or take "Fin," a stately anthem directed at prison architects, who are urged to send in their blueprints ASAP.

The songs above all made the concert, though the group was high-energy and entertaining as well. Pavement reputedly gave relatively ramshackle or haphazard concerts at times back in the day, but today's standard is more professional (just as rock groups can't take the stage 2 or 3 hours late any more, as the big names used to 30 years ago). So they were revved up and delivered on the songs' musical potential for enjoyable loud performance.

Everyone in the group except for Stephen Malkmus seemed to be a competent but not enormously interesting guy, happy to give a full-tilt concert to the sort of wildly appreciative crowd they probably only got in smaller venues back in the 1990s. There was even football banter between songs. But he, like his songs, is a lot more ambivalent. There's both an evident love for "classic rock," the big anthem, the classic riff, etcetera, along with an accompanying enjoyment of word play and musicianship for their own sakes, and yet at the same time a sardonic and aloof sense of the phoniness and artificiality of rock stardom and public performance conventions.

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