September 20, 2010

Rock Over Boston: 90s Redux | Pavement | Agganis Arena | 9.19.10

Pavement 94 tixNo matter how successful we may or may not be at keeping up with the hip new tunes that all the kids like, the fact is that we all have our defining musical periods in our life, and those periods were most likely in our youth. The bands you somehow managed to get into a club to see even though you weren't yet 21 (or 18, even!); the bands you heard as you struggled to keep the big city college radio station tuned in; the band whose records or tapes you spent hours scouring the city's record stores for; the band you were driving to see packed dangerously into someone's car with 5 of your friends; the band you listened to while you were getting lost; the band you were listening to when you fell in (and out of) love - those are the bands you'll always go back to, no matter what.

You don't really realize it when it's happening, but all these years later, here I am to tell you about how great the early 90's were. And this week is my lucky week, since the Self-Curating Early 90's Festival is finally hitting Boston.

Kicking off with last Saturday's Pavement show, and continuing Tuesday with Superchunk and Versus at Royale, Thursday with Bettie Serveert at TT's, Saturday with Teenage Fanclub at Royale, and concluding Sunday with Come, this is an amazing week for "college rock"-ers of a certain age (and this isn't even including other period bands like Fountains of Wayne and Guided By Voices that are coming around later in the fall).

Some ten years after their dissolution, it is no surprise that Pavement has become one of the elite bands to transcend their generation and get discovered by the younger fans who are seeking out the roots of the bands that Pavement influenced. Like the Pixies, who they are a few years behind, they have come back headlining much bigger places than when they left.

Though perhaps not quite as strongly as the Pixies, as the Agganis Arena was about 2/3rd full for their visit on their pretty intensive world tour that culminates at the stupid-dumb Matador Records 21st Anniversary party in Vegas at the end of the month that I didn't even want to go to anyway. I must admit that I was ambivalent about this one: Pavement were a bit hit-or-miss as a live band back in the day, depending on Stephen Malkmus' mood, and especially as their career waned. How wrong I was - these guys are focused, and the months the band has spent on the road this year has whipped them into a formidable live unit.

These are arena-rock anthems, as it turns out. Weird album tracks like "Conduit For Sale!" are transformed into ginormous, raging, fist-pumping rockers once the Marshalls are turned up, the nostalgia kicks in, and utility man Bob Nastanovich starts lurching about the stage shouting "I'm tryin'! I'm tryin'!" Pavement's records are full of lo-fi pop and/or clean jangle, so it's been easy to forget what kind of life these songs take on when they've been liberated from their 4 tracks.

The set was front-loaded with energy, hits, and earlier, stronger album cuts and lost a little steam while going past the 60 minute mark and they explored some of less familiar deep cuts and later meanderings. For a band with only 5 albums, Pavement sure has a deep bench when you start adding up EPs and whatnot. When they closed with Slanted and Enchanted's "Here," with it's refrain of "everything's ending here," the crowd seemed satisfied. I was.

"These guys should be huge!" is a common battle cry among the passionate supporters of an under-appreciated band or scene. I'm always cautious about saying it, though, because with that kind of success comes compromise. Why would you want to go see your favorite band in a giant, sterile arena, when you can keep seeing them in whatever club is your second home? It's selfish, of course - Pavement deserves at least this much for the soundtrack they've provided us. For all but the very most successful, being in a band is more about following a passion, and passion often won't pay for your retirement.

- Michael Piantigini

Pavement: Intertubes | MySpace

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You really hit the nail on the head. Each year that passes, I've gradually been listening more and more to the music I listened to between Jr. high and high school. Oh the 90's, how I miss you, and, especially, Pavement.