OK, well, I'm back -- for a quick one-off post!*
One of my favorite bands of the 1990s was Pavement, that Stockton, California quirk-rock band who combined surrealism with grunge-rock chops and indie low-fi weirdness. So it was pretty damned awesome to be in the crowd last night to see the reunited band do their first show in 10 years, kicking off a worldwide tour down here in Auckland with an awesome opening set by also-reunited local alt-rock icons The 3Ds. I came to Pavement a bit later in their heyday -- my favorite album has always been their emotional fourth one, "Brighten The Corners," which I played in extremely heavy rotation in my own chaotic personal summer of 1997 -- but I made up for it later by grabbing up all their discs (and also Stephen Malkmus' own excellent later solo work). Since they broke up in 1999, I'd kind of imagined I'd never see them live. But no band stays dead forever these days unless it's The Smiths.
Only 1600 or so of us could fit in to see Pavement at the full Town Hall, and it was a great teaser for what folks at mega-festivals like Coachella will see later this year. Despite a decade off, they're in awesome form, with frontman Stephen Malkmus seemingly ageless, a steam-of-consciousness poet in a preppy's body. Over a two-hour set with an encore they played all their "hits" -- catchy alt-rock anthems that were on high rotation in college radio back in the glorious '90s -- "Cut Your Hair," "Gold Soundz," "Shady Lane," "Range Life."
While there was a slight bit of rust after the decade hiatus (frontman Malkmus also had a cold, so his voice got a bit strained by night's end), the band was clearly having a blast, with wacked-out backup vocalist/instrumentalist Bob Nastanovich providing tons of energy. Pavement stretched out in excellent jams on songs like "Stop Breathing," alternating nicely between Malkmus' laid-back vocals and crunchy guitar freakouts. While sometimes I felt like the sound didn't help the clarity of Malkmus' vocals (for me, the words -- strange, nonsensical and yet universal lyrical wordplay like "You've been chosen as an extra / in the movie adaptation / of the sequel to your life" -- have always been key to Pavement), it generally came off as a polished band getting back in the game, rather than one of these all-for-the-money sad reunion gigs. (*Set list here.)
Long live Pavement -- the rest of the world will soon get to see what New Zealand saw last night. It's nice to be first sometimes!
(*So I'm not exactly 'un-retired' from blogging, but after a two-month break, I can see the way to perhaps throw up a post every once in a while when I'm particularly inspired, such as wanting to write about how awesome Pavement was. I don't want to feel constrained by "rules," man, like I was letting myself be before, so I can't promise punctuality. But if you're interested, check in every once in a while for the 'all-new, all-sporadic Spatula Forum.' Cheers!)
** Very nice show photo inelegantly borrowed from blogger Piero who was there too.