Stephen Malkmus/Blitzen Trapper; October 30, 2008; High Noon Saloon
I liked Pavement, at times I liked them a lot. Their opaque lyrics were always buoyed by their gift for catchy melodies and the occasional backhanded dig. I liked Stephen Malkmus’s first solo record quite a bit, I even found a few things to like about his second release Pig Lib. I can’t remember if I ever actually bought the third one, if I did I never listened to it, or maybe an honest review scared me off from even buying it in the first place. Whatever the case, the records have definitely gotten more out there over time, and the live show has followed suit. What I really wanted to see tonight was Conor Oberst at Turner Hall in Milwaukee, but the combination of out of town and broken foot eventually convinced me to stay in Madison.
I should have gone to Milwaukee.
It’s not that Malkmus was bad exactly, he’s just not my thing anymore. I only recognized the peculiar “(Do Not Feed) the Oyster” from his second record in a set that swung from tight songcraft to loose, spacey jams. His band was excellent, mostly due to the presence of Janet Weiss behind the drum kit. Not only does the former Sleater-Kinney kit crusher have the best drummer hair ever, shiny and hypnotic, she is definitely one of the best drummers ever. Too bad I couldn’t actually see her for most of the set. Just off the crutches, but still in the clunky boot, I didn’t feel comfortable venturing too far from my seat at the end of the bar. The show was not sold out, but it certainly felt like it, and unfortunately most of those ticket buyers seemed to be tall dudes.
Opener Blitzen Trapper was the show’s redemption. I was robbed of most of their set the last time they were in town by an early volleyball game and an overstayed welcome opening set from Fleet Foxes. Barely controlled chaos ruled as the band’s six members flung themselves into their set with a flurry of keyboards and tambourine, barely pausing between songs as they genre jumped all over the place. It’s the kind of set that leaves you feeling undeniably happy afterward, even though you don’t really remember exactly why.
I still wish I would have gone to Milwaukee, that new Conor Oberst CD has only left my CD player a few times since I bought it, but at least Blitzen Trapper gave me a reason to not completely regret my decision.