Maybe we can dance / Maybe we can dance / Maybe we can dance together?
Hey so we saw Pavement again on Saturday, Sept. 11. Last time was the Pitchfork festival over the summer, this time was at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, Mo., a 1,700-capacity theater built in the 1920s, with seats in the back half of the main floor and in the ample balcony. Josh and Jessie of another central Iowa-based blog, Nothing Gets Crossed Out, kindly gave us a ride and booked the hotel rooms-- it's like a two-and-a-half or three-hour drive, but the traffic got really bad-- and Chet Boom came along, too*. There's something about Pavement that Mark Richardson touched on nicely in his three paragraphs hailing "Gold Soundz"-- sort of an underdog single, from the band's 1994 album Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, which also featured the more-often-shown-on-MTV "Cut Your Hair"-- as No. 1 song of the 90s. "Pavement went around like regular schlubs and played messy shows with songs that took strange turns and didn't quite sound like guitar rock songs are supposed to sound," Mark writes. Their bemused, down-to-earth shrugginess was exceptional at the time, but it's not the type of thing that necessarily translates well to non-believers when set up on a reunion-gig pedestal at a festival of younger bands. I was trying my best not to look silly in front of a few other writers by singing along too much during the band's Pitchfork set, but next to the theatrics of Major Lazer or the fiery declamations of Titus Andronicus, I could understand if somebody unfamiliar might've been wondering to themselves: What's the big deal?

"Hey, you're not in Poison Control Center."
Not so Saturday night. Dudes opened with "Gold Soundz", another shrug maybe, but one with a triumphant undertone: We do remember, in September, the August sun. As a group, we're not as empty as we (they) protest. And yeah, consider the past un-quarantined. There was sadly no "Summer Babe"-- as Kansas City Pitch points out-- and no "Two States", but there were plenty of favorites, including songs from my own Pavement entry point, 1997's Brighten the Corners (I found out about them by being a huge fan of Britpop group Blur, who were saying in interviews back then they were huge American indie rock fans): "Here", "Shady Lane", "Stereo", "Unfair", "Cut Your Hair", "Date With Ikea", "Rattled by the Rush", "Conduit for Sale", "Debris Slide". Sorry to name so many songs; these guys just play hit after hit. I never saw Pavement live before their latest tour, but what struck me most both times was not the frontman or the guitarist but Bob Nastanovich-- a familiar smiling face around Des Moines (and supposedly the guy who inspired Blur's "Song 2")-- stalking the stage screaming gleefully like a teenager. Or banging on a tambourine. Or blowing into a harmonica, or some kind of pull-whistle, I didn't get a good look at either. Stephen Malkmus was decked out in a Kansas City Chiefs jersey, which he explained at one point, but I didn't quite hear. I guess this was Pavement's first non-Lollapalooza show in K.C., which is crazy. Anyway, I don't know if the band did much out of the ordinary, but it was the kind of crowd where you can just tell a lot of people actually know the songs and are super happy to be singing along with them or else just watching fondly. As someone who mostly grew up near Sacramento, it was fun to finally be able to shout along to lyrics arguing for the supremacy of Northern over Southern California. For "We Dance", Bob and his wife Whitney, another Des Moines fixture, well, danced. Devin Frank from Ames, Iowa-based opening band the Poison Control Center-- more on them in a sec-- ended up onstage singing along for encore finale "Range Life", which segued into a goofy "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da". How'd he do that?

Only pride.
For the Poison Control Center, this was a huge show. I mean, they were on like the 90th set of their recent tour, and they've opened for Of Montreal and Apples in Stereo over the years, but most of their gigs have still been modest ones in little venues. This was opening for their heroes in front of however many people were there at 8 p.m. (a little too sharp-- we missed the first half of opening song "Monument", in which "the monument was so monumental"-- that's because of traffic, mostly, because the guy at sports bar Outabounds was really quick serving us the crispy taco-night special, and apparently I was the only one who didn't realize, when we came back later and I was sort of dancing in my seat to the Nikki Minaj song with the Enya Annie Lennox sample, that it was a gay sports bar, OK OK I get it) for a pretty anticipated reunion performance. Devin, Patrick Tape Fleming, Donald Ephraim Curtis (congratulations are in order-- I believe someone's getting married next weekend), and Dave Olson were in their usual form, careening across the stage and engaging in unabashed acts of rock'n'roll acrobatics, and there were even a few people I didn't know pumping their firsts to songs like "Pacific Sunrise" and "Cognac Dreams", or not being shy when Joe threw his voice to its highest levels on synth-pop "dance" song "Give It a Try". Those of us who knew the words helped out on the singalong section of "Magic Circle Symphony. In fact, the only sour taste that I could detect came when a man apparently (but, sigh, understandably) misgauged the song's message and cussed at the group, saying, "I have cancer." It totally makes sense that the mere mention of the C word can be extremely hurtful to people, because it cuts through lives, so you can't blame the guy in the slightest, particularly because he's the one suffering. It's just a bummer, though, because in the song, it seems like the lyric could just as easily be "heart disease" if that happened to rhyme with "the answer," you know? Point is the old chestnut that life is short so you should love each other. Bold as love. All you need is love. Love, love, crazy love. Anyway. I'm not sure how the show went over if you didn't know the tunes, but the sound quality was way better than I'm used to from seeing PCC in smaller venues, and it looked like a big step for a fun band that has gone overlooked for way too long. I hope Missourians had a good time, too.

I'm tryin' / I'm tryin' / I'm trying' / I'm tryin' / I'm trying' / I'm tryin' / I'm tryin' and I'll try.
* Oh man did I tell you about when Mrs. Des Noise was running in a 5K and we were walking over to get the little sheet of paper with her number on it so we could pin it to her shirt, and it was a gubernatorially approved 5K, and she points across the street to me and says, "There's Chet!," and I crane my neck and stare and stare and bump into her when she stops to ask for directions, and I say "I don't see Chuck," and she says, "Not Chuck-- Chet," which is good because I was about to scream out, "Chet BOOM," which would have been great if it was Chuck, but it was really Gov. Chet Culver (D-Iowa... he is way behind in the polls against a former Republican governor with a pre-post-ironic mustache) and I feel like the state troopers might have thought I was making a bomb threat. We got the number and the pins were kind of tricky and someone started to sing the "Star Spangled Banner" and Mrs. DN awesomely ran the race-- we aren't runners! I'm trying now, too, why not, an excuse to listen to music mostly undistracted on headphones, unless one of the ear buds dies from the sweat or except when you're trying to keep them from falling out of your weirdly sized ear holes-- while I went and read the newspaper in a coffee shop and ate a "Scotcheroo," which if you didn't know is one of those Rice Krispy Treat things with chocolate and peanut butter on them, but that's what they call them here in Iowa, I can't remember what they called them at Vox Pop the coffee shop slash Truther bookstore in our old Brooklyn neighborhood.

P.S. Wow, a fall preview of some sort is due soon, huh? They did one in The New York Times on Sunday, anyway. I've been to a couple of other shows at the Mews lately and am looking forward to Best Coast with Male Bonding this Friday, Sept. 17, in Grinnell, plus Scout Niblett at Vaudeville Mews Sept. 26, and David Dondero with Darren Hanlon and Derek Lambert there Sept. 28, plus the Strange Boys with Gentlemen Jesse and His Men at the same place Oct. 1. Also coming up: Band of Horses Oct. 1 at Val Air, Passion Pit there Oct. 4.


  1. They played Two States and Summer Babe in St. Paul, plus my fav Father to a sister of Thought. You should have come!

  2. Aw man, so it was worth the drive! Great to hear. Hope you guys had fun. Thanks again!

  3. Sigh, wish I could have. Glad it was worth it. Leah LOVES Pavement but the only time we saw them live was in Minneapolis at the start of the Terror Twilight tour just before they jetted over to Europe, and it was okay, but rather low on spirit, I think the guys were a little burned out on it at that point.

    Also worth mentioning in your preview, and not just because Why Make Clocks is on the bill, is the early (6pm) show September 30 at Vaudeville Mews -- Retribution Gospel Choir -- which involves Alan Sparhawk of Low. We're super excited for it. Folks may get to hear WMC do some of our achy slow numbers that we don't do live as often, but that we're thinking might go over well with Low/RGC fans.

  4. Yes! Thanks for reminding me of that, Chuck. Man, a lot going on.

  5. i think this was Pavement's best set of the tour - they played 3/4 of the watery domestic ep, loretta's scars (my favorite), perfume-v, debris slide. The jersey he wore was of Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs's running back and he dedicated Silence Kit to him - ha ha.