Pavement rocks the rubble in the Bay Area (6/25)

Last Friday marked the third time I would see a live Pavement show in the summer of 2010. I was lucky enough to see them (and write short reviews about them) when I attended Coachella and Sasquatch. The first show got me excited for their reunion and showed they could still kill it after being apart for nearly a decade. The second show made me realize Pavement were cool because they were intellectual slackers who were only human (to all those who complained about their show at Sasquatch, it was great because they couldn’t remember how to play their songs).

So, what was going to happen the third time? Was Bob Nastanovich going to blow up their drum set? Were they going to kick the enormous door down on the stage of the Greek Theater, causing shards of wood to fly into people’s retinas? Was Stephen Malkmus going to descend from the ceiling playing the opening chords to “Kennel District”? Of course not, and that’s what I realized this time I saw Pavement: They’re awesome for being ordinary.

The California natives took the stage as the light began to fade over a cloudy Berkeley sky. As many Bay Area fans cheered endlessly, one could argue that the band resembled something greater than men. Coupled with the unique Greek architecture of the theater – that of ruins and tranquility – there was something truly epic going down. I was just wondering how hard they were going to rock after their hometown show from the night before. In fact, how does one follow their own hometown throw-down?

They followed it by opening up with their classic single “Cut Your Hair”, which immediately pulled everyone together for a sing-a-long. Followed by “Frontwards”, the crowd vacated their seats for the night and went absolutely nuts, screaming along and flinging arms and hair around. By the time they reached “Stereo”, which always has gone over well for their new live show. It was just great to hear Malkmus and Mark Ibold’s quick little ditty with Nastanovich in the background saying the lines about knowing Geddy Lee, which provided a nice laugh.

The band then pulled out a couple of Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain gems like “Rattled by the Rush”, a high-octane version of “Unfair” (which caused a few mosh pits), and “Silence Kit” to bring everybody back down to a mental level between angry punk and pleasant indie. “Kennel District” followed, which still (at this point on the tour) doesn’t seem to pack the sonic punch it does on record, but it was great to see Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg take the microphone for a bit. A once-again epic version of “Grounded” followed as I held my lighter to the sky in a cliché fashion, but when other people heard “Boys are dying on these streets” followed by Malkmus and Kannberg’s guitars tearing apart the night, others soon followed suit, as well. Some of the more classic Pavement songs rolled out: “Range Life”, “Spit on a Stranger”, “Shady Lane”, and one of my personal favorite Spiral Stairs vocal numbers, “Date With IKEA”, which Malkmus introduced as a song about consumerism.

Pavement truly pulled an ace out of their sleeves for the final portion of the show. For one, original drummer Gary Young was backstage, drunk as a skunk but ready to rock and roll with his old friends one last time. The band brought him out to play some of their oldest and rarest material. And by adding Steve West on another guitar, their sonic might raised by about another 150%. The six-piece Pavement kicked it off with “Trigger Cut” which caused a giant sing-along mosh session on the floor (I indulged). They then played two of their older and rarer tracks. The first was “Box Elder”, a song off their 1989 EP, Slay Tracks (1933-1969) and then, “Lion (Linden)” to kick off the encore. But got the crowd jacked up a moment later with the classic pogo anthem, “Two States.” Everybody in the audience was more than happy to scream out with Nastanovich (as he ran on stage in a way that more or less reminded me of an 80’s hardcore singer), “Forty! Million! Daggers!” while they jumped around as though they were nine-year-olds with a two-liter of Mountain Dew.

As Pavement thanked their friends and supporters for the event, they announced the next song would be another classic… “Summer Babe (Winter Version)”. There’s a video of Pavement in 1995 playing this song, and I’ll tell you this, 2010’s rendition sounded just as fresh, and the band sounded equally as excited to play it. The whole crowd sang, cheered, and rocked together as Pavement began to close the night out. A finale of “Here” off Slanted and Enchanted (which they played about half of) mellowed out the crowd for the final moments, and then Pavement exited the stage, the Bay, and the West Coast altogether to end this portion of the tour.

Earlier this year, Chuck Klosterman interviewed Malkmus, asking him why people were so jacked up about the Pavement reunion. As I stood there admiring a band that has been playing on my stereo constantly for the past year, I was trying to figure out what was so great about these guys who wrote hyper-intellectual songs over lo-fi melodic guitar chords and had a knack for unusual percussion. They’re just a bunch of good friends who like to play music, and now they’re just glad to be back together for another year. Sure they drink, they fuck up songs, and they all look spooky, but that’s what reality is like. People feel comfortable with that sense of familiarity, and that’s why people have been flocking to see Pavement all year. This reunion may not be permanent, but like any group of friends coming together, it’s good to enjoy it while it lasts from both our perspective and theirs. Go see Pavement this summer, you won’t be disappointed.

Cut Your Hair
Gold Soundz
Zurich is Stained
Rattled by the Rush
Silence Kit
Kennel District
Range Life
Shady Lane
Date w/ IKEA
Spit on a Stranger
And Then (The Hexx)
We Dance
Elevate Me Later
In the Mouth a Desert
Starlings in the Slipstream
Stop Breathin’
Trigger Cut (w/ Gary Young)
Box Elder (w/ Gary Young)

Lion (Linden) (w/ Gary Young)
Two States (w/ Gary Young)
Summer Babe (Winter Version) (w/ Gary Young)
Here (w/ Gary Young)


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