Tuesday, September 7, 2010

PAVEMENT - McMenamins, Edgefield, 9/3/10

McMenamins' Edgefield Manor, Troutdale, OR
Sept. 3rd, 2010
9 out of 10

A while back, I made a bucket list of 14 bands I needed to see perform live before my time on this mortal coil came to a close. This list consists of bands I've already seen and could cross-off (Lilys, Elliott Smith, The Shins, Pixies, Yo La Tengo, The American Analog Set, Pixies) and those I have not (Spoon, Belle and Sebastian, My Bloody Valentine, The Clientele, Guided By Voices - whom I'm seeing this October in San Francisco!). The 14th band to finalize this list would be Pavement, who I thought I would never be able to catch since they broke-up in 1999.

Then an interesting message made its way to my email Inbox from the Oregonian nick-knack hotelier and craft brewery gurus, The MeMenamin Brothers; Pavement would be kicking off their U.S. tour at the Brother's Troutdale, OR compound, Edgefield Station. Seeing Pavement play live, in a small town near Portland (AKA, my favorite place in the world)?!? It took me exactly 10 minutes to secure tickets, plane fare and hotel accommodations.

Edgefield Station is a sprawling estate, done-over in typical McMenamin Brothers fashion; a rehabilitated space (in this case, possibly an old mansion) whose walls are adorned with custom fresco artwork, tchochkies, show posters and any number of bars, restaurants or pubs to soak down the made-on-premises suds - all of which are bursting cozily at the seems. The smell of old wood mingled with beer and cigarette smoke sneaking in from outside (Portland recently banned indoor smoking). The Brother's definitely have a vision, and from one facility to the next (The Kennedy School, Ringler's, The Baghdad Theater, etc.), they've found a business model engages and enchants and intoxicates.

The show itself took place inside a fenced-in enclosure ("No I's Or Outs") steps away from the hotel's eastern wing. Once inside, stands selling craft foods, beer and show merch greeted at every turn. It was like summer camp for scensters. The main event was past this concourse, where the tree-framed Lollapalooza-like stage sat at the bottom of the inclined and green-grassed hill. Beautiful and lithe indie-rockers pre- and postdating Pavements formative years wandered the hillside, staking out spots best to unfurl blankets, kick-off their TOMS shoes and down PBR by the regret-the-next-morning-ful.

Portland stalwarts Quasi were the opening act (this pleasantly surprising little factoid was not made evident to this ticket-holder until the moment the band took the stage). Suddenly that steep ticket price was worth its wait in gold, if only to watch the incredible Janet Weiss beat her drum kit into submission. Honestly, Weiss is one of my favorite drummers, twice having seen her play with Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. Sam Combs paced the stage while wailing on his guitar, at one point standing atop Weiss's kick drum as he strummed away furiously. From her end of the stage, legendary Portland producer and multi-instrumentalist Joanna Bolme provided the bass duties. In a set that mapped Quasi's storied career, the band closed-out in mini-epic fashion. Witness:

But the night belonged to Pavement. To say that this show was "fuckin' awesome" seems like an understatement. The moment elder slackers-men Stephen Malkmus, Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kannberg, Mark Ibold, Bob Nastanovich, and Steve West waltz onto the stage, the crowd went gaga. "You didn't think it would happen," Malkmus told the cheering crowd. "You never thought you'd have to go to Edgefield for a show. You didn't think it would happen. But it did."

For a band that parted ways in 1999, Pavement sounded as tight as ever. Minus the adult-oriented pudginess, you'd be hard-pressed to distinguish this Pavement from their younger incarnation when they were on top of the 90's alt-rock heap (and given this reunion performance, in many ways, they still are). Here were five guys rocking on stage, as happy to be there as the crowd was to see them.

Culling their set-list from the resent best-of compilation, "Quarantine the Past," each song was greeted by the audience as if they were again meeting long lost friends all these years later. "Cut Your Hair," "Shady Lane," "Gold Soundz" - all of Pavement's standards were on sonic display. And when it came time to play "Unfair," the normally California-adverse Pacific Northwest crowd were more than happy to sing along in unison with Pavement's ode to the Golden State.

Everything about this show was simply in it's right place - all the parts came together flawlessly. The pitch perfect sound mix, the audience in high spirits, the location wonderfully wooded like being away at camp, Malkmus' low-key and hilarious banter ("Twenty-two. You know what they call that on cruise ships? Double swans."), Nastanovich's spastic brilliance ("I'm trying! I'm trying! I'm trying!"), Spiral Stairs singing lead (three times, no less!), and the band as a whole sounding - yeah, I said it before, but it still bares repeating - tight. As the dusk settled into darkness, the hits just kept coming, one after the next (it seemed like the band had played a three hour set). Perfect sounds forever.

This is easily one of the best live concert experiences I've ever seen (right up there with Elliott Smith at the Fillmore, Yo La Tengo at The Great American Music Hall or The Shins at, well, any venue I've seen them play). I wouldn't have missed this Pavement performance for the world - bucket list notwithstanding.