Words By Jeb Gavin, Photos By Ryan Kelly
I really wasn’t sure what I would feel seeing Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks playing the Black Cat this past Friday night. I sometimes let expectations cripple me before a note is played. I try and fight against it for the sake of objectivity, but there’s only so many ways to wall off your own expected mental constructs. Let there be no mistake: this was a fun show. Malkmus was peppy, upbeat yet relaxed, and spent time between songs joking with the audience about going to UVA and making reference to the Grateful Dead track “New Potato Caboose” for reasons which in retrospect escape me.
For some reason I’d built up in my head Malkmus as more standoffish, more laconic. I expected slacker rock- a witty but withdrawn indie rock from twenty years ago, as though I’d gotten a caricature of Pavement stuck in my head and was holding out hope I’d have the opportunity to be snide and pretentious about it. This show was pleasant. Guitar solos were tight, with just enough play to them. The on-stage banter was effusive but professional. Despite opening with “Jenny and the Ess-Dog,” most of the tracks came from the latest record Wig Out at the Jagbags. They managed to work in covers of both Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” and The Velvet Underground’s “Beginning to See the Light.”
Maybe I wanted to see some on stage slouching. Perhaps all the years I spent as a pre-teen laughing at pop culture jokes made me want to be in on the joke, rather than assuming it was funny in abstract. I can remember watching the “Homerpalooza” episode of The Simpsons and understanding jokes about “the guy from Apple Computers” and references to Jimi Hendrix more so than what Sonic Youth was doing in Peter Frampton’s cooler. Rather, I got that last joke, but I hadn’t at the time heard a single Sonic Youth song. All these years later, the residual clutter of ’90s culture should’ve been mucked out of my head like horse stalls; instead I show up to the Black Cat expecting a milquetoast cover of “From Now On” (I mean, they closed with it, but it was by no means milquetoast. It’s really good live.)
Prevailing, unfounded wisdom says there’s no lead more dangerous in hockey than a two goal lead. Perhaps it’s the equivalent of seeing a band you sort of kind of almost think you know. I loved Mirror, Mirror when it came out a few years ago, and Real Emotional Trash before that. I probably have about a dozen mix CDs in a shoebox somewhere of what I considered “throwback” music (in this case throwback means indie rock,) at least one of which prominently features the song “Haircut.” I had expectations, and in exceeding my expectations, Stephen Malkmus made me realize how pointless expectations are when you go to see a concert like this. I’d of done better to just shut up and enjoy myself. One of these days I’m going to get that tattooed on my arm.
Jenny & The Ess-Dog
Rumble At The Rainbo
No One Is (As I Are Be)
Cinnamon and Lesbians
The Janitor Revealed
Stick Figures in Love
Oh Well (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Beginning to See the Light (The Velvet Underground cover)
Lions(linden) (Pavement cover)
From Now On (Pavement cover)