Last night as I entered into a completely new and unfamiliar territory, Philadelphia, a person asked me whether or not I wanted a ticket, or knew anyone who, I told him no, I had traveled alone from Baltimore. It was at that point, an eavesdropper, some 30-something gave me a high-five and said “hell yeah, you did that shit for Pavement, so its all good.” That was the first sign that my night at the Mann Center was going to wonderful.
The Mann Center is sort of set up oddly. And its right next to a pretty hardcore Philly ghetto, or at least what appears to be one. It holds about 14,000 people, and has a traditional pavilion set-up, with some incredible differences. The first one is, there’s a balcony set right smack dab on top of the inside of it. Its lined entirely of wood on the inside, and very dusty. But anyways, as I entered, bought my Pavement shirt, and prepared to head in, “Norway” by Beach House, who I saw last week played. Odd little segue.
But anyways, the opener was Kurt Vile. I’d seen him at the more intimate Ottobar before Real Estate back in July and I sort of had no urge to see him at the point when I saw him. I enjoyed him at the Ottobar, but something about him playing before one of my all time favorite bands was just disappointing.
Finally, the fivesome walked onto stage, with a tremendous roar from the sold out 14,000 started. Dropping down Christmas lights, fulfilling the DIY aesthetic Pavement have always been known for, shone on and off, while the opening two notes to “Grounded” set off the night. Afterwards, Stephen Malkmus apologized to all those who were still getting drinks, and said they should’ve played a song from Terror Twilight instead. Early on, the band seemed completely focused on the music, following “Grounded” with “Cut Your Hair,” perhaps their most famous song amongst non-Pavement fanboys (or rather men; the show seemed full of 30 year old men wearing flannel who have waiting 10 years to see their favorite band) . They eventually broke the ice with the crowd, with Bob Nastanovich giving his famous shouts and walks around the stage. At one point in the might they introduced Bob’s Wireless Microphone as “viagra for backing vocalists,” to the laughter of the entire crowd. Another key point was before playing “Unfair,” dedicating the song to Eagles Quarterback Kevin Kolb (Pavement are pretty big sports fans, quite an oddity in indie music).
A key highlight was “Conduit for Sale!” a standout track from Slanted and Enchanted with Bob screaming “I’m tryin’!” and the breakdown in “Silence Kit.” Truly beautiful moments indeed. The setlist was fairly even between the albums, except for Terror Twilight, which I’m guessing either is difficult to play live, or the band simply doesn’t like. They only played “Spit on a Stranger” from that. They even threw in a wonderful version of “Frontwards” from my favorite EP ever, Watery Domestic. They ended the main set with “Range Life” complete with the ever classic insult to the Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots.
Musically, the encore fulfilled and surpassed all of my expectations. “Date with Ikea,” “Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite At :17,” “Stop Breathin'” and of course, the greatest of them all, “Gold Soundz.” The entire crowd sang aloud the lyrics in the way that Trekkies recite Shatner quotes. They ended with my the always wonderful slower “Here.” The opening lines “I was dressed for success, but success never comes” sent chills down the collective spines of Philadelphia. Afterwards, I snagged a setlist from the stage, said a few words with Scott Kannberg and Bob, who signed the setlsit. It was a great night.
If you had told me at this time last year I would be seeing Pavement twice in 2 weeks, I would punch you and call you a filthy liar. But now, this dream has come true. I really couldn’t be happier for this, and if I seem fanboy-ish, its true. I love Pavement, but I never really considered them to be a band “I could get obsessed with” a la Radiohead or Animal Collective, however, with this show, I could see it happening real soon.