Bands have always been reuniting (just as they’ve always been doing ‘farewell tours’), but the twenty-first century seems to have seen a lot of reunions, perhaps because the internet age offers everyone a chance to hear bands they missed first time ‘round without having to dive in record store bins – and the decline in album sales has made touring more financially vital. It’s led to even bands that weren’t massive successful in their initial incarnation coming back for another go – and often drawing better as a reunion than they ever did originally. Nowhere is this more the case in this millennium than in alternative bands, who are benefiting from their fans growing up (and earning $$$ for tickets) & kids discovering past bands through the new bands that the old bands influenced. Setting a new standard for reunion success in 2010 has been Pavement, who capped it with five sold-out shows in New York, starting on Sunday, September 19th in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Waterfront (QRO venue review) and ending on Friday, September 24th at Manhattan’s Central Park SummerStage (QRO venue review).
Pavement playing “Stereo” live at Williamsburg Waterfront in Brooklyn, NY on September 19th, 2010:
While the likes of Mission of Burma (QRO live review) reunited first, it was really with The Pixies’ 2004 reunion at Coachella Music Festival that started the ball rolling – because if singer/guitarist Black Francis (QRO live review) & singer/bassist Kim Deal (later/also of The Breeders – QRO live review) could bury the hatchet that was much-publicized after their early nineties break-up, so could anyone. And The Pixies went on to have a massively successful reunion tour (QRO live review), before breaking for their own projects, then coming back last year & this for their twentieth anniversary Doolittle tour (QRO live review). So everyone in the alt-world looked to see what once-legendary un-amicable pair’s split would be healed (or at least papered over) to get back on the road. Singer/guitarist J Mascis (QRO solo photos) & singer/bassist Lou Barlow (QRO solo album review) – plus drummer Murphy (never forget about Murph…) – got grunge-punk rockers Dinosaur Jr. back together, first to just tour re-releases of their early material (before Mascis booted Barlow, who replied in Sebadoh – QRO live review – with kiss-off “The Freed Pig”), but have since put out new records Beyond (QRO review) and Farm (QRO review). Hopes turned towards another seminal eighties punk trio, Hüsker Dü (QRO spotlight on), the rapprochement of once-notorious enemies singer/guitarist Bob Mould (QRO live review) and singer/drummer Grant Hart (QRO interview), but we’re all still waiting. [note: in his interview, Hart said that it’s not due to bad blood, but does explain why]
Pavement playing “Spit On a Stranger” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 22nd, 2010:
But the biggest alt-reunion buzz had to be for Pavement. The great nineties alt-rock act broke up in 1999, amid singer/guitarist Stephen Malkmus feeling ‘trapped’ in the band, seemingly to especially dislike the contributions from singer/guitarist Scott Kannenberg (a.k.a. Spiral Stairs – QRO solo album review). Malkmus went on to a solo career, accumulating a band behind him as ‘Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks’ (QRO live review), while the others were heard from intermittently, if at all – the biggest post-break-up news was when bassist Mark Ibold joined the ultra-iconic, never-ever broke up (because – or in spite of – that two of the four are married) Sonic Youth (QRO live review), first as touring bassist, then, with 2009’s The Eternal (QRO review), as a full-fledged member (replacing 2000-2005 fifth Youth, Jim O’Rourke). The Pavement reunion seemed farther away than ever – until, in early September ’09, the band’s website (even broken-up bands have websites) announced a reunion show at Central Park SummerStage on Tuesday, September 21st… 2010. Being announced over a year in advance didn’t stop the show from selling out, or from Pavement selling out three subsequent shows at the same venue on Wednesday, Thursday & Friday (announced one at a time). Ticketmaster obligingly mailed out very-advance purchase tickets (and made a pretty penny on fees), and New York waited. And waited.
Pavement playing “Summer Babe” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 23rd, 2010:
Meanwhile, after four nights at SummerStage were sold out, Pavement went on to announce a whole reunion tour, starting in early 2010 in New Zealand, and heading around the world, playing seemingly every alternative music festival out there, from curating one of the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festivals in the U.K. (QRO recap of the other one) to headlining Toronto Island Music Festival (QRO recap) & Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival (QRO recap), as well as playing everything from Washington State’s Sasquatch! (QRO recap) to Montreal’s Osheaga (QRO recap). They even announced a fifth New York date, at Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Waterfront the Sunday before the four in Central Park. Indeed, it seemed like Manhattan would be the last city in the world to get their Pavement fix, despite being the first announced. Numerous people lost their tickets in the intervening thirteen months, saw the band elsewhere first, and/or realized they couldn’t plan that far in advance (all especially if they weren’t from NYC). By the time the dates actually came close, Summer of ’10 was coming to an end, fans had already heard of their shows elsewhere in the world (such as their relatively sparsely-attended set at Coachella, or one-off reunion with original drummer Gary Young for a show near their original hometown of Stockton, California), tickets were going for well below face on resale websites – generally the shows, once so eagerly anticipated, felt less special, almost anti-climactic, before they’d even happened.
Pavement playing “Elevate Me Later” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 24th, 2010:
But they did happen, starting on Sunday in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn show was an outlier in terms of location, being the sole non-SummerStage show, and date, separated from the four-in-a-row at SummerStage by an ‘off day’ on Monday (where Pavement graced The Colbert Report, including a performance of “Gold Soundz” & a rather weak interview performance by Malkmus, save saying that his inspiring band was inspired by America’s favorite pundit’s favorite president, Reagan…). It was also announced much later, and was the only one to feature an opener that anyone outside of hipster circles had heard of, major label Jenny (Lewis) & Johnny (Rice – QRO photos). The Pavement set list, however, stuck closest to the ‘greatest hits’ collection that Pavement had released earlier this year (and were to promote on Colbert), Quarantine the Past (QRO review), than of any of the five nights (though all nights featured Quarantine in spades). In some ways, the Brooklyn show was a showcase for the band before their SummerStage dates, including many publications reviewing that show in their Monday edition (including a rather sloppy New York Times review), with fewer semi-rarities and more of the well-known pieces (Quarantine or not). But in other ways, Brooklyn was a warm-up for Manhattan (isn’t it always?…), such as ending on “Range Life” – a great song, maybe their best-known (thanks to Malkmus’ diss lyrics to Stone Temple Pilots – QRO album review – and Smashing Pumpkins – QRO live review), but too laid-back to be a closer. Malkmus still didn’t know what to do with himself during Kannenberg’s “Date w/ IKEA” (‘S.M.’ did lazy stretches when not playing back-up guitar, and remarked after it, “I love working out to that song”), and Kannenberg & percussionist Bob Nastanovich didn’t know what to do with themselves during Malkmus’ three-piece “We Dance” – Nastanovich used the song as an inspiration, and brought a lady from back stage out to do some waltzing & twirling.
Pavement playing “Gold Soundz” live at Williamsburg Waterfront in Brooklyn, NY on September 19th, 2010:
While everyone else in the band has a typical rock band roll, from the singer/guitarists to the bassist to drummer Steve West, Nastanovich really doesn’t. Originally recruited to keep time for the rather spastic Young, when West replaced Young after debut LP Slanted & Enchanted, Nastanovich himself thought he wasn’t needed, providing only extra percussion and some back-up vocals. However, live, Nastanovich is extremely needed – in fact, one could go so far as to say that the Pavement live show (if not the whole 2010 reunion) is really all about Bob Nastanovich. He’s the one who provides most of the between-song banter, shout-outs, jokes, etc. And he goes absolutely nuts during his chances to scream a chorus line, running up from his spot in the back to right up at the lip of the stage, such as on Malkmus’ ode to The Fall, “Conduit For Sale!”. However, at Williamsburg Waterfront Pavement didn’t play “Conduit”, and Nastanovich’s banter wasn’t yet honed (even his funny story about Biohazard was rather rambling).
MP3 Stream: “Biohazard speech”
Pavement playing “Silent Kit” live at Williamsburg Waterfront in Brooklyn, NY on September 19th, 2010:
But by Tuesday, Pavement was warmed up & ready to rock Central Park for four nights in a row. In fact, they joked about the prior shows being “a warm-up” – not just Brooklyn, but the entire reunion tour up to this point, “These are the real shows; the first shows. Those were just warm-ups…” Malkmus can seem like he’s not having fun, even when he is (that’s kind of his ‘thing’), but was on point on Tuesday, along with Kannenberg & Nastanovich (Ibold & West were pretty silent throughout all the shows). Kannenberg thanks everyone for not losing their tickets, “Or selling them…”, with which Malkmus interjected that they’re going for pretty cheap. Pavement did a faux half-beginning to “Baptist Blacktick”, before quitting, with Malkmus explaining to those who requested the song, “The reason we don’t do this song is that there’s this break in the middle … The sound of a young man screaming through a fake microphone. Now it is a middle-aged man…” But Nastanovich then cut in, “The real reason is because it’s too fast for this age group…”, Malkmus adding, “It’s ya’ll’s fault!…” There were also semi-stories about Sun Ra, fondue, being on mescaline in Central Park, “Every day is Earth Day!…”, giving out Nastanovich’s address for set list complaints (“2076 Kingman Boulevard”), and more.
MP3 Stream: “Baptist Blacktick speech”
Pavement playing “Fight This Generation” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 22nd, 2010:
For all of the great banter, Tuesday night’s set list (all done by Nastanovich, according to Malkmus) wasn’t the strongest of the five nights, with Pavement slipping into jam a little too easily, such as extending “Fin”, “Heaven Is a Truck”, “Perfect Depth”, the slow intro & outro to “Fight This Generation” (after which Malkmus even admitted, “That was a jam…”), or the short instrumental “Heckler Spray”. Back in their original run, Pavement were known for eschewing set lists for long [drug-fueled] jams, and while all they were having backstage was donuts (responsible for the white powder on Malkmus on Sunday, “If you saw back there you’d know it was just donut…”), and still didn’t shirk from the songs you most wanted that they play all five nights (like a “Superchunk version” of “Gold Soundz”, “But in a good way…” – QRO live review), it was the between-song moments that stood out the strongest.
Pavement playing “Spit On a Stranger” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 22nd, 2010:
[note: Tuesday night also featured your reviewer’s second-favorite Pavement moment ever. After playing “Grounded”, Kannenberg mentioned that it was his father-in-law’s favorite song – not one Kannenberg sings, but does have a great guitar solo – and that his father-in-law was somewhere in the crowd (and, “At least he could have picked one of mine…”). Malkmus followed that up by saying that “Rob Bingham dug that one, too” – the late friend of the band, subject of Malkmus’ solo song “Church On White”, and your reviewer’s late brother-in-law (who was also name-checked on stage the following week by Evan Dando at Mercury Lounge in New York – QRO photos)].
MP3 Stream: “Grounded speech”
Your reviewer’s favorite Pavement moment is when they played his sister’s first wedding]
Pavement playing “Grounded” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 24th, 2010:
While Sunday naturally stood out on the schedule, nature made Wednesday night stand out – specifically, the weather. Right about when Pavement began, the damp gave way to a drizzle that grew stronger & stronger. Amazingly, collective peer pressure kept people in the crowd from whipping out their umbrellas – the only one seen while Pavement was on stage was from a higher-up in security (someone in the crowd yelled for it to come down, with which the staff member replied, “Hey over there, don’t fuck with right now! Okay? Whoever said it, don’t fuck with me right now!”, as the security man was handling some drunk girl pulled from the crowd – though where was his Central Park SummerStage poncho that everyone else in the staff had?). Eventually, a little after midway through the set, following “Stereo”, the venue forced Pavement to stop, due to threat of lightning – Malkmus reassured the audience that the band would be back, and that the venue was also worried about the crowd’s safety as well. Pavement did indeed return, and not only skipped any encore break, but after ending with the great-but-downbeat “Here”, came back a second time to slip in “Conduit For Sale!”, with Nastanovich going extra nuts. If Tuesday had great camaraderie on stage, Wednesday had great chemistry between the band and the loyal fans, out there in the rain (umbrellas were raised during the forced break, but all came down again when Pavement came on again). Pavement played with an urgency born of trying to get as many songs done as they could before the weather turned too harsh, eschewing nearly all between-song banter, a nice contrast with the prior night.
Pavement playing “Conduit For Sale!” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 22nd, 2010:
Two things did hold up throughout the five nights of Pavement. First, that Malkmus would change up how he delivered his most memorable lines – the more memorable, the more he would alter them, such as (about Stone Temple Pilots in “Range Life”), changing “I will agree there isn’t absolutely nothing / Nothing more than me” by making it “you or me” or “they deserve absolutely everything / Everything more than me” (note that he never changed the bands ripped on in “Range Life” – not that Smashing Pumpkins & Stone Temple Pilots aren’t still around, after their own reunions, but there are so many bands out there today who deserve the diss…). After a decade-plus of singing along to the recorded version, it could really throw off fans finally getting their chance to shout it out live & in-person with the band – though, if you’ve been at enough of the reunion shows in 2010, one could learn Malkmus’ new way of saying & get it the same.
Pavement playing “Zürish Is Stained” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 22nd, 2010:
The other constant was that they would mess up and have to restart at least two or three songs each night – restarts that would be hilarious, and only endear you to the band more so. Back in the nineties, Pavement were called ‘slacker rock’ by the genre label-obsessed music press (seemingly taking their cue from the comments made about one of Pavement’s videos on/by Beavis & Butthead – and the New York Times seemed not to have evolved from that view), and it’s true that the band isn’t obsessed with pinpoint accuracy or being airtight. But even when restarting, Pavement was driven to deliver, to put themselves fully behind their songs.
Pavement playing “Box Elder” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 23rd, 2010:
Though if there was a night the band seemed a little less than 100%, it was Thursday night. From the start with the song Kannenberg’s father-in-law [and others] love, Pavement wasn’t as electric as they’d been warming up on Sunday, jamming out on Tuesday, or in the rain on Wednesday. Timing was likely the reason, both because of the way Thursday fell on the schedule (not the first NYC show, not the first SummerStage show, not the last NYC/SummerStage show, not bravely fighting the elements), and because the band had played Late Night with Jimmy Fallon earlier that day (unlike saving Colbert for their day off – QRO Indie on Late Night TV). Malkmus’ thanks to “Cut Your Hair” for moving him from a studio to a one-bedroom (“I’ll always love this song – when it’s in a movie soundtrack…”) and ‘we love New York’ statement after “Shoot the Singer” (where Kannenberg lackadaisically played his guitar over his head for part of it) were particularly lazy, though he mock-added in the same less-than-inspired tone, “Remember to recycle… Stay in school; school is cool… Don’t drink & drive or you’ll end up a bloody mess…”
MP3 Stream: “Cut Your Hair speech”
Pavement playing “Shoot the Singer” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 23rd, 2010:
The attitude did up the ‘slacker rock’ in not a bad way on pieces like “Rattled By the Rush”, “Stop Breathin'”, “Frontwards”, or “Loretta’s Scars”, which Malkmus apologetically introduced by saying, “We’re gonna try this one. It’s not the greatest song in the world, but we haven’t played it.” Malkmus did say afterwards, “That was pretty good – I’ve been there every time we’ve played it, and that was pretty good.” He followed that up by saying he was “sick of you guys [the rest of the band],” but had to add he was “just kidding” and had “nothing but love for you guys”, still adding that people would go and “blog about that” – so they still had some humor in them. But some of the energy was lacking; the band seemed most animated when talking about the smell of the hamburgers or thanking “Steve from Oklahoma City” – the winner of the contest to play on stage with Pavement on Fallon, a.k.a. pretty much the awesomest contest ever.
Pavement playing “Loretta’s Scars” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 23rd, 2010:
MP3 Stream: “sick you you guys…”
To say that Friday night, the last night of Pavement in New York, was a culmination is a bit off-the-mark. They played for just about as long, and though the set list was longer than the other nights, it was only so by one or two songs. Quarantine got slightly less of a showcase than the other nights, but only slightly, and was over half the set list. It was probably the best-attended night, but only because of the day of the week. It wasn’t even their final performance of the reunion tour/the foreseeable future – that weekend they headed to Baltimore for Virgin Mobile FreeFest, and the following weekend the tour actually ended at Matador21, the big twenty-first birthday celebration of their label Matador Records in Las Vegas (QRO Festival Guide).
Pavement playing “Rattled By the Rush” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 24th, 2010:
But to anyone who’d been there all five nights, like the band [or your reviewer], it still felt like a culmination – not just because it ended with Kannenberg jumping into the photo pit and high-fiving members of the audience. The final night did feature Steve Goss, a.k.a. “Steve from Oklahoma City”, not playing guitar on “Unfair” like he did on Fallon, but joining Nastanovich in shouting “I’m tryin’!” chorus to “Conduit For Sale!” – pretty much the best song & place to do a guest-spot with Pavement. And for Malkmus’ “We Dance”, Nastanovich brought out his dancing shoes – and this time the lady he was twirling with was none other than Mrs. Nastanovich (“Sorry ladies … And gentleman…”). “Unfair” was dedicated to the St. Kilda Saints, a perennially struggling club in Australian Rules Football from Melbourne, a favorite of Pavement’s who were playing Collingwood the following day for the AFL Grand Final (the game ended in a draw, and Collingwood won the rematch on October 2nd). There was even a moment for jam, during “Heaven Is a Truck”, and for a non-Goss guest-star, Bryce Goggin, producer of the band’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Wowee Zowee, on keyboard (which he also did on the original recording) on the final song of the night/week/city, “Range Life”. And it ended with the inflatable doll of Mr. Burns coming to the front (brought out by Nastanovich – who else?).
Pavement playing “Heaven Is a Truck” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 24th, 2010:
No, the content of the set lists didn’t vary hugely between the various nights. Pavement played “Cut Your Hair, “Date w/ IKEA”, “Gold Soundz”, “Grounded”, “Heckler Spray”, “In the Mouth of the Desert”, “Kennel District”, “Range Life”, “Shady Lane”, “Silence Kit”, “Starlings of the Slipstream”, “Stereo”, “Stop Breathin'”, “Trigger Cut”, and “Unfair” all five nights, with seven other songs four out of the five nights. One-night only rarities included “Lions (Linden)”, “She Believes”, “Spizzle Trunk”, and Slanted‘s “Loretta’s Scars”, “No Life Singed Her”, “Our Singer”, and “Zürich Is Stained”. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Slanted & Enchanted dominated at just about half of all songs played, followed by Wowee Zowee and Brighten the Corners, with final record Terror Twilight getting four nights of “Spit On a Stranger” and that was it – less songs total than the two “Shoot the Singer” & four “Frontwards” of Watery, Domestic EP (it was interesting that Crooked got more songs than Slanted, as the order is usually reverse when talking about their best albums – though that’s not really true – but Brighten was sorely underused). Just over half of the songs total were on Quarantine the Past. And Kannenberg only got to play the similar-sounding “IKEA” & “Kennel”, usually one early & one in the encore, but got to play both every night. Songs unfortunately never played included the aforementioned “Baptist Blacktick”, “At & T”, Brighten‘s “Embassy Row” & “We Are Underused”, Terror Twilight singles “…and Carrot Rope” & “Major Leagues”, Watery lead-off “Texas Never Whispers”, b-sides “Coolin’ By Sound”, “Roll With the Wind” & cover of Echo & The Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon”, Quarantine‘s name-check to R.E.M. (QRO album review) & sole non-album track “Unseen Power of the Picket Fence” (Malkmus muffed the chance to name-check them on Colbert, too), and Kannenberg’s great contribution to the soundtrack to Kids In the Hall: Brain Candy movie, “Painted Soldiers”.
Pavement playing “Cut Your Hair” live at Central Park SummerStage in New York, NY on September 24th, 2010:
With no plans for more touring or a new album, after this the members of Pavement return to their day jobs (Louisville-living Nastanovich said he had to quit his for a year to do the tour – and Malkmus also demanded, “That I not blow all my winnings on the horses…”), including Malkmus’ Jicks, Kannenberg’s solo Spiral Stairs, and Ibold back to Sonic Youth (it might have Ibold getting that job that finally got Malkmus to agree, since he was no longer ‘the coolest former member of Pavement’…). Central Park SummerStage & Williamsburg Waterfront closed down for the season after September. But for one shining year, and one shining week in New York, Pavement was back and just as good as you’d always hoped.
Pavement playing “Shady Lane” live at Williamsburg Waterfront in Brooklyn, NY on September 19th, 2010:
Audio recordings taken from www.nyctaper.com