Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
Echoplex, Los Angeles
25th July 2009
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks played to an audience brimming with the intoxicating scent of bearded, checked-shirt sporting aging rock dudes. I will admit that this review is not the most complete. Normally, I would have the whole setlist for you, reader, and be able to tell you about every speck of the performance of this man gracing the stage, but it wasn’t my intention to write about the show originally, and then, once the music started, all of my good attempts to capture the moment for you were lost in the transfixed gaze and hum of the fuzzed out guitar.
Malkmus took the stage with short salt-and-pepper specked hair, looking young and trim but pleasingly mature. He gutsily broke into “Dynamic Calories”, a sadly forsaken song from the Pig Lib era, relegated to that album’s bonus CD. This sweet little piece was probably the shortest and frankly poppiest song of the night, which was dominated by long guitar jams and big builds. He continued to toss out a variety of tracks off of 2003’s Pig Lib and 2008’s Real Emotional Trash, including the sardonic “(Do Not Feed the) Oyster,” “‘Elmo Delmo”, “Gardenia”, “Dragonfly Pie” and “Witch Mountain Bridge.” New songs included “Cribs” (although spelling may be “Cribz”), “Pub Rock,” “Senator” and “Bill Fay,” all intriguing, that brought his audience to a near fervor.
“Senator,” which had a pretty ’70s prog rock feel, was especially fun with its refrain of “I know what the Senator wants.” “Pub Rock” was punky, frenetic and close to his Pavement days. Janet Weiss’s always adept drumming, and Joanna Bolme’s bass, strongly supported Malkmus’s lead guitar. I sadly can’t say more about the second half of the all-too-short 1hr 15min gig except to say that I couldn’t look away as Malkmus kept pulling out one after another from his catalogue. Even the normally stoic East L.A. hipsters were occasionally setting off an air drum solo or full-body dance jiggle. It had clearly been a long time since Malkmus was in such form and the devotees were pretty excited to welcome him back.
Still, the gig wasn’t without technical fault — Malkmus’s amp had a Spanish radio feed pouring through it and he quipped some barely intelligible phrases about a new pedal before breaking into another song. He also pointed out, rather snottily (but helpfully) that if you were directly center stage front, you’d miss the sound because the amps were directed away. From the setlist perspective, it was disappointing to not have something like “Church on White”, “Vanessa from Queens” or “Baby C’Mon” take a turn, but the new songs made up for any absences. With the rumors of Pavement reforming for one of the upcoming All Tomorrow’s Parties, I imagine the chatter of devotees will continue to build momentum for the Jicks’ next album pressing.