Chestnut Station – Detroit – St. Andrews Hall, MI – 2001-04-05

Chestnut Station
Where: Detroit – St. Andrews Hall, MI.

When: 2001-04-05

First off, let me proclaim my blasphemy for the month by stating that I really didn’t have any idea what to expect at this show. I know Pavement is influential and amazing and all, but, quite frankly, I’m not really all that familiar with the band’s music. I mean, I like what I’ve heard, don’t get me wrong, but I just never really felt the need to run out and start buying Pavement CDs.

However, a few weeks ago, my buddy brought in the new Stephen Malkmus disc and told me to give it a spin. I must’ve found something in it that I liked, because a few days later when he went to get tickets for this show, I handed him some cash and told him to get me one, too.

My little posse of five arrived at St. Andrews, and I was pleasantly surprised to find the place already close to half full only 15 minutes after the doors had opened. Seeing as Detroit crowds generally don’t show up until about 30 seconds before the main act starts, I took this as a good omen.

Opening act Chestnut Station took the stage at about 9:05 and played a pretty solid 35-minute set of 60’s and 70’s based indie rock. Nothing about the band was terribly flashy, although the singer would occasionally dance a jig or two while sporting a tambourine and a swank sports coat. The band came across as a capable enough live act with some pretty good dual guitar interaction, although the songs really weren’t anything to write home about. Still, the band’s style was very complimentary live to Mr. Malkmus’ set.

At about 10:15, Stephen and his band finally took the stage to a rousing round of applause. “Hi, we’re the Jicks … and I’m Steve,” was the only introduction necessary, as Malkmus launched the band into a torrid 55-minute set that saw everything from keyboard laced **gasp** pop songs and wild guitar frenzies to intensely tender ballads. Malkmus’ guitar work was really something to behold throughout the show, as he regressed from the thoughtful, restrained playing that opened the set to the wild, flailing, noise oriented approach that closed off the show’s encore.

While Malkmus’ guitar was obviously the focal point of the show to many of those in attendance, the Jicks were a more than apt backing band, meeting Stephen every step of the way musically. The tall, lanky (and extraordinarily cute!) bass player bobbed silently for most of the night, looking back only occasionally to smile at her rhythmic counterpart on the drums. Either a second guitar or a keyboard section also augmented most of the set, both courtesy of what could best be termed a musical ‘utility man.’ The only thing about the band that seemed out of place was the fact that Malkmus’ girlfriend stuck around on stage to play tambourine and add some unnecessary backing vocals.

For as nice as the show was as a whole, the highlights really seemed to be when Malkmus would go off on his extended guitar improvs. His body would twist and contort with every note, as if he was literally trying to pour his own soul out of his fingers and send it out to the crowd through his amplifiers. The Jicks would just continue to plug out the rhythm for the song, laying down a tight foundation for Malkmus to build upon with his remarkably simple, yet effective guitar playing. The band’s encore was a special testament to this, as Malkmus flung his body around the stage recklessly while tearing at his guitar strings with unbridled fury, trying to tear each and every bit of life from the strings before he had to leave the stage.

After the show, my posse and I actually managed to wrangle directly past Stephen Malkmus as he was headed back upstairs to the ‘band room.’ With everyone hooting and hollering at him, he simply turned, gave the ‘rock-and-roll’ sign, and smiled before heading back up the stairs.. As a wrap-up for the night, that really says it all.