I've never been obsessed with being young -- not even when I was young -- but I've reached the stage where many of my favorites are hitting milestone ages. It's always a gut check, but if you're lucky, it can be a celebration too. Man, I'm glad that Spiral Stairs, aka Scott Kannberg per Pavement, decided to share his 50th annum with us, the unwashed masses.
Spiral Stairs' 50th Birthday featuring Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, The Chapel, Oct. 1-2, 2016: The Clean were the original headliners for Saturday night, but for a reason I never learned, they couldn't make it. Also, Kelley Stoltz couldn't make it because he was touring with Echo and the Bunnymen, which is amazing news for such a talented guy. Thus, it became two nights of Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, along with the accompanying Pavement expectations -- in due time.
For Your Pleasure -- a Roxy Music cover band -- opened on Saturday night, and they were great. They made no attempt to ape Roxy's sartorial style, but the lead singer came close enough to Bryan Ferry's tones, and the rest of the musicians held their own. Their song selection was fantastic, and I loved the hits as well as the deep cuts. ("Mother of Pearl"!) However, I laughed at the guy who complained about the lack of "In Every Dream Home a Heartache."
Honestly, I can't remember the second band from Saturday, and the opener on Sunday was fine, if not spectacular. All you need to know is the various musicians mixed and matched in each other's bands; it was those kind of shows -- basically a big house party with damn good tunes. In fact, as we hung around the back early on Saturday night, we saw various friends approach Scott/Spiral and heard a few mentioning high school.
I've already covered this in the blog, but I'm not a reunion person. Through no fault of the bands, reunion shows now make me sad and feel my age. I loved Pavement like few other bands and jumped on tickets when the first reunion shows went on sale. However, I never made it. I think I was out of town when the dates finally rolled around, but my mind was already made up at that point.
As for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, color me shocked that I haven't seen them since 2008! I know I missed a tour or two because I was too lazy to buy tix to more recent shows, and I think the band took a long hiatus somewhere in there. But I had no idea it's been that long. I've said this before, but Malkmus strikes me as this era's Robyn Hitchcock: the leader of an underappreciated seminal band who goes on to a much weirder later career.
I'd be lying if I said I loved the more recent stuff, and it was hard to dial into the superextended guitar noodling passages that seemed to characterize every song. In fact, I'm not sure they did anything from the first couple of records, which are the ones I listened to the most.
But that's not the point, because this was Spiral/Scott's birthday, and they basically presented him with a musical birthday card. They sprinkled in several songs that influenced his own music career, including tracks from the Clean, the Stranglers, and of course, Echo and the Bunnymen. On the second night, Stephen commented Saturday's proceedings basically amounted to a high-school sausage party -- which we had suspected all along -- but from the outside, it seemed like a very sweet gift to an old friend.
Oh right, the Pavement tracks: Everyone knew they were coming, and several of the more enthusiastic attendees started in with the requests early on. Too bad -- Scott and Stephen had a plan, and they were sticking with it. It took me a few tunes before I realized the criteria: They were doing Scott's tracks, not random Pavement songs. It made sense on every level, so we got most of Scott's titles, along with one from Preston School of Industry and a tune from his new project. "Date with Ikea" made both nights, and one of my absolute favorite Pavement songs, "Kennel District," made the cut. In fact, the song jogged my memory and reminded me that I used to see Scott at a million shows in town. Those were the days.
The two semi-surprises the first night were "Summer Babe" and "Stereo," though in retrospect, I guess the latter gave Scott a great chance to take the role usually claimed by Bob Nastanovich. Neither are Scott compositions per se, but I'll take them both. They were smart enough to mete out the tunes and give us "Two States" the second night, along with fan favorite "Box Elder." By the way, none other than GARY FUCKING JOHNSON joined them for the tune and finished off his portion with the requisite headstand. No, he isn't looking well.
Even I have to admit a reunion show can be a ton of fun, and I couldn't stop singing the songs or thinking about how much I love(d) Pavement. You know how it is -- now that all of my music is on my iPhone, I'm too lazy to swap out songs. It's easy to forget I have the entire Pavement discography at the ready, if only I remember to check some boxes now and again. I'll do that tonight, I swear.
Happy 50th to you, Scott/Spiral. Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us.
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