Grousing The Aisles: One-Off Pavement

The second time Pavement played the Bay Area was just few months later (late Autumn 1992). This time they had a slot opening for Sonic Youth at the Warfield Theatre. In the months following that initial show at the Kennel Club, Pavement had been road-tested, achieved a greatly-improved confidence and stage presence, and even perhaps a “swagger” (oh, and Malkmus had grown his hair long). It was a short opening set, but one of the best sets I had seen in my life to that point. In that same late-1992 timeframe, the band released the EP called Watery, Domestic, which I still believe is their single best commercially available release.

Late 1992 was absolute critical mass for me and Pavement. They had blown my mind in concert. I got to meet Steve Malkmus, Bob Nostanovich and Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg at a Thinking Fellers Local 182 concert at the Covered Wagon in San Francisco, which added to my sense of personal connection to the music. Every recording they made was an improvement over the last. It was just fucking perfect, and then…

…they kicked their acid-fried middle aged drummer, Gary Young, out of the band.

Gary was an X-factor for early Pavement. What other smart-assed College band had a freaked out — perhaps even scary — hippy in their band? His drumming was erratic and wild and gave the music an unpredicatable and slightly unhinged sound. When I reflect back on the situation (from my perspective 15 years later), I would have kicked the hippy out of my band, too.

In concert he would forget how songs started, he would get up and walk around, and he’d cause either false starts or would yell for a huddle so the guys could explain to him how the song “went”. Sometimes they’d even play air drums in an attempt to “show him.” Still, I was pissed off when Gary was kicked out of the band. I fucking hated ‘Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain’ when it was released, primarily because of the fat, booming and “conventional” drumming. It felt like devolution to me. Why change one of the essential differentiating elements of the bands’ sound and character? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, truth be known, I guess it was sort of broke.

The concert I’m posting here occurred at the Great American Music Hall on April 23, 1994. It was the first show in the Bay Area since the band had opened for Sonic Youth back in late 1992, and it was the local debut of Steve West on the drum kit. The band played an “early show” and a “late show.”

A 26-year-old ‘Sociable Chappy’ is in the audience for this performance, which was the early show that night. I was still happy to be seeing my favorite band, for sure, but at the time this show left me feeling a bit resentful. A lingering sense that something was missing. I guess I had really taken the break-up with Gary pretty hard.

In hindsight, this show is absolutely insane. Full of everything that made Pavement the best band of the ’90s (IMO). The flippant wit and youthful irony is in full effect. Guitars in non-standard tunings, shimmering, angular, abrasive and hooky — the band in full command of the music’s ethos and architecture, yet somehow the whole enterprise also teetering on the brink of collapse. The audience was full of young, hip, primarily male, educated, white kids. Looking back, the scene was not very diverse, but at the time it felt like a communal affair. It felt like the most important artistic “happening” of our day. I think one of the very positive aspects of the music scene’s evolution over the past 15 years has been inclusion. As the sounds have evolved, so too has the demographic. When I look around at shows these days, I see a wonderful mix of gender, age, culture and lifestyle. But, alas, I digress.

So, once again, I am posting a show that I now believe is something special indeed. Pavement before they lost their way. Still hungry. The creative momentum almost palpable, and a sense that they were in love with what they were doing. And of course, the Great American Music Hall.

Part 1:
Part 2:

01. Box Elder
02. Brink Of The Clouds
03. Brinx Job
04. Fork Lift
05. Heaven Is A Truck
06. Unfair
07. Cut Your Hair
08. Angel Carver Blues
09. Debris Slide
10. Fight This Generation
11. Grounded
12. Black Out
13. Silent Kid
14. 5-4=Unity
15. Summer Babe
16. Conduit For Sale!
17. Two States > Gold Soundz > Maybe Baby

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