The day of the Stephen Malkmus show your correspondent learned that CBC Radio 2 had finally cancelled the outstanding Brave New Waves in an effort to re-brand the station as “an adult-oriented music service, targeting an audience over age 35.” Also that same day, physicist Stephen Hawking joined together with a group of Chicago-based scientists to announce that we had inched two minutes closer on the Doomsday Clock towards complete annihilation of the human race. The universe was obviously mired in a serious psychological black hole. All forecasts for an awesome show that night were starting to look pretty bleak.
The opening band was a distasteful 70s-style psychedelic group, whose technically flawless performance elicited from the crowd barely more than sour expressions and bored, dull eyes. For a band concerned with “the urgency of life-awareness and death-awareness in a war-torn world” this kind of response must be heartbreaking. It’s the kind of scene which evokes the same emotional progression as watching a South Carolina hamburger eating contest in super slow-mo. As cynical mocking gives way to bored revulsion, and then finally to acute pity, the viewer realizes that the very fact that the participants are so good at what they’re doing is what makes their tragedy so complete.
Somehow, Malkmus and the Jicks managed to reverse the entire atmosphere. With their relaxed stage presence, deep and resonant sound, and with no small help from recently added drummer Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney, his band gave a genuinely solid performance. After the show though, a lot of fans admitted to comparing the Jicks to Malkmus’ former band Pavement and coming up disappointed—which is a serious shame. Had they abandoned their preconceptions they may have seen the show for what it was at heart: a superb rock show and the perfect antidote to an otherwise disheartening Thursday in January.
Best Overheard Adjective to Describe Show: “Shakespearean.”