Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at Satyricon, March 4, 2008
Question: Why is a “secret show” advertised all over the Internet?
Answer: ‘Cause we need secrets. We need secrets crets crets crets crets crets back right now!
Pavement jokes aside, I'm still not sure why the Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks show at Satyricon on Tuesday night was given such a hush-hush tag. Even though it was labeled a “MySpace secret show,” the set wasn't much of a secret—which is bound to happen when the news leaks to most of the multimedia world one week before the album sees the light of day. So instead it was more a night of celebration; 200 or so of Portland's biggest Jicks fans gathering nice and close to see the band play songs officially released earlier in the day. Anyone expecting to hear old favorites was probably bummed, but tonight was all about Real Emotional Trash; Malkmus, ever the sly one, played all 10 tracks for the album in a slightly altered order.
It was a little strange that the mood for what was really a free CD release show for one of indie rock's poster boys was relatively somber, almost downbeat. The crack sound system didn't do much for Malkmus' vocals, and the crowd seemed rather timid considering that most of them had to wait in line at Music Millennium to receive a wristband and entry to the show. Almost no one was singing along or mouthing the words, even though the album has been available legally online for over a month (god bless Matador's Buy Early Get Now plan). Where were all the die-hard Pavement fans? The ones that rush to the front and shout for obscure b-sides (Dynamic Calories! The Sex Life of Robinson Crusoe!) instead of “Gold Soundz”? Where was the requisite annoying guy with the “Who the Fuck is Stephen Malkmus” shirt? (Okay, that dude was there.)
And then it dawned on me. Instead of singing along to every word, people loosely grooved along to the music. Lots of eyes were closed. Lots of feet were tapping. The crowd wasn't hanging onto every line about “Hopscotch Willie”—they were worshiping every solo, lick and weird noise coming out of his guitar. Even drummer Janet Weiss knew the score, when she agreed with the crowd before the first song, urging Malkmus to grab his axe and slay away. “Tuning is for pussies” she said matter-of-factly. Listen to the girl, Stephen—let your guitar guide you.
Real Emotional Trash is, more than anything, the Groundhogs-inspired guitar jam record Malkmus has been hinting at in pretty much every post-Terror Twilight interview. Though the album sounds pretty great on record, it really comes alive on stage—especially the longer material, like the 10 minute multi-part epic title track and set opener “Dragonfly Pie”—wherein each Jick was given amble opportunity to show off their chops and Janet Weiss could finally wail away on the drums. On record, the middle section of the title track, “Real Emotional Trash,” wastes almost a minute bridging the song from a slow country quasi-guitar ballad into a rollicking escape from California adventure—but in its live incarnation it was one of the best moments of the night.
My one real letdown with Real Emotional Trash was that Weiss' drums are buried way to low into the mix, slightly detracting from my ability to beat my desk like it's one massive kit. When you see the Jicks up close, you can see that Malkmus has always been lacking that powerhouse drummer—and let me tell you, Weiss is almost as much fun to watch as Malk is, her trademark fan blowing those unmistakable bangs as she hits each snare like the world is about to end. The Jicks new material is unfairly labeled as “jam band” music, and though certain songs tend to meander around and showcase Malkmus' guitar vocabulary, Weiss is always there to keep things in check.
Because the show was free, I didn't really expect an encore, but the band played “Church on White”—a gorgeous fan favorite and a song Malkmus penned about his friend and author Robert Bingham (the title refers to his old address in New York City) who passed away in 1999. Who knows if Pavement will ever get back together (though hints have been dropped as of late), but for one night, that was a secret I didn't even want to know about.
1. Dragonfly Pie
2. Hopscotch Willie
3. Cold Son
5. Out of Reaches
7. Real Emotional Trash
8. We Can't Help You
9. Elmo Delmo
10. Wicked Wanda
11. Encore – Church on White
Pre-show shenanigans and video of "Dragonfly Pie" from Dave Allen of Pampelmoose.com