Though the Verve were the big Coachella coup of the season, they weren't the only ones crowding my concert docket. The festival also ushered Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks back into town, and that's a ticket I can't refuse.
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, the Fillmore, April 27, 2008: In case you haven't kept count, this marks the fourth time Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks have dropped in on San Francisco in the last year and a half. I've caught three of those shows (I was in New Orleans when they played Amoeba Records), and tonight, Brianne was joining me for her first real Malkmus show. It was also the first time I've seen the band since Real Emotional Trash was officially released.
If I like a band enough, I don't care whether they're promoting new material, trying out songs in progress, or just having fun on the stage. Generally, the second and third categories are my favorites, but it depends greatly on the band in question. The last couple of times I've seen the Jicks, they've put on strong shows--that is, they were engaged and exploratory, and I'm constantly surprised by how little (if at all) Stephen trades on his status as the former Pavement frontman.
From the beginning of the set, all signs pointed to a great gig. Steve came out chatty, loose, and grinning (and hot), and he stayed in that zone throughout the gig, discussing (as always) local sports teams, among other topics. As is also his wont, he seemed to detour from the setlist several times, occasionally alerting his band members when he wanted to stick to the original plan. Not that his records were always so accurate--early on in the set, he announced they would do "Elmo Delmo" next, but Joanna Bolme reminded him that was their opener.
Speaking of Joanna, she and Janet Weiss get a good amount of attention in the band, and it's no secret why. When introducing the band, Steve in all sincerity called Joanna "a very dear friend," and she's not shy about calling him out when he's being particularly silly. But she also handles his musical divergences with aplomb, even when the songs traipse off into Jam Land, and her playing shone on "Baltimore."
Janet is a force unto herself, inspiring cries of "We love you, Janet!" from the audience. One of her major moments in the spotlight was probably in "Real Emotional Trash," as her rhythm drove the bridge. In fact, the whole song sounded like the most complete band effort I've yet heard from the Jicks. It's no wonder why it's the album's centerpiece.
Mike Clark was not to be ignored, either, and I'm not referring to his garish gold jacket (an homage to the 49ers, according to Steve). On "Gardenia," he threw off his guitar to do a running-in-place dance while also playing the keyboards. Unfortunately, this thoroughly messed up his axe, but they were able to get a replacement in a few songs later.
When we were in L.A. the following weekend, we listened to the Jukebox Jury on Indie 103, and I believe it was the critic Ann Powers who noted that Malkmus may be the only person trying to meld punk and prog. I wouldn't disagree with her; in fact, during the course of this show, I kept thinking that Malkmus had not necessarily thrown over his earlier band's influences, but had at least come back to the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival for inspiration. He may also be the only one who can get away with it.
In addition to the songs from Real Emotional Trash, they pick and chose through their back catalog for "Vanessa from Queens," a great, heavier version of "It Kills," and a crowd request for "The Hook," from which Steve sort of distanced himself after they played the song. They closed with a tune by Mungo Jerry, "Alright Alright Alright," with instructions for us to YouTube it after we got home.
The Joggers also from Portland opened. I saw them a few years ago touring with M. Ward; from what I could recall, their sound has filled out somewhat to include harmonies, for example. Maybe their claim to being voted "Tacoma's third-best Three Dog Night cover band" was true after all.
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