Friday, July 18, 2008

King of Slack

Concert Review: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Wednesday, July 16
The Phoenix Concert Theatre

The more things change the more they stay the same with our indie rock hero Steve. At age 42 he is still an awkward geek, he still has hair that flops in his face when he is rocking out, and he still wails on the guitar. He and his band The Jicks took the stage while Steve remarked, "This is nice that its not a festival. At least there is air conditioning here." Then they blasted into "Gardenia," one of the more poppy tracks off of their newest album Real Emotional Trash.

The highly entertaining show drew heavily off of Real Emotional Trash, performing all but two tracks. Several songs featured extended guitar jams and improvs, channeling Malkmus's inner stoner-rocker. The musicians really enjoyed themselves, with lots of funny banter between songs. Drummer Janet Weiss, formerly of Sleater-Kinney, was completely focused during the tunes, with her head down, a fan blowing her hair up, pounding out the beats. Mike Clark switched between keyboards and guitar, and at one point was rocking out on top of the speakers. Malkmus also said that they were traveling without guitar techs, and spent a few seconds between each song retuning his instrument. Although I don't play guitar, I have read that Malkmus uses unusual tunings, especially with the new album.

Malkmus dedicated, "We Can't Help You," to Jose Calderon of the Toronto Raptors, and then commented that he is worried about the Jermaine O'Neal trade. It is well known that Malkmus is an avid sports fan. He even did a fantasy baseball preview for eMusic. But I've never heard sports talk during a rock concert before. Awesome.

For their last track, Malkmus became the right reverend of indie rock, preaching, "I would like to quote from Leviticus 74. Thou shalt not fuck with the American dollar." And then lamented the fall of Mike Myers and his crappy new movie Love Guru, before blasting into his classic, "Church on White." Amen brother.

Set List:
1. Gardenia - Real Emotional Trash (2008)
2. It Kills - Face the Truth (2005)
3. Phantasies - Stephen Malkmus (2001)
4. Dragonfly Pie - Real Emotional Trash
5. Elmo Delmo - Real Emotional Trash
extended jam (I noticed some people blatantly blazing up during this song)
6. Out of Reaches - Real Emotional Trash
7. Baltimore - Real Emotional Trash
extended jam
8. The "World Debut" of a new track - missed the name
9. (Do Not Feed The) Oysters - Pig Lib (2003) "that last track was a rough cut, and this one is the Criterion Collection," Jicks mutli-instrumentalist Mike Clark
10. We Can't Help You - Real Emotional Trash
11. Real Emotional Trash - Real Emotional Trash
extended jam
12. Cold Son - Real Emotional Trash
13. Jo Jo's Jacket - Stephen Malkmus

14. missed it :(
15. Alright, Alright, Alright (Mungo Jerry cover)
16. Church on White - Stephen Malkmus

When I was walking from the streetcar stop to the venue, I noticed all kinds of young people going in the opposite direction. Where were all of these people headed? I found out when I got to the Phoenix that Fleet Foxes were no-shows. Lots of people were demanding their money back and being downright surly about it. I was sort of stunned by this reaction. Yeah, Fleet Foxes are a good band. In fact, their song "White Winter Hymnal" is among the most gorgeous songs of the year. But please, these guys barely have enough original music to round out an opening set, and people were going to skip a show by a man who has two decades of rock and probably 200+ original tracks under his belt? WTF?

A local band called Still Life Still filled in at the last minute. I know nothing about them, but according to the box office at the Phoenix, they are project of Kevin Drew's of Broken Social Scene. They looked so young! I was wondering if the two singers/guitarists were even old enough to shave. They said that they were asked that afternoon if they could perform (for Stephen Malkmus? Hells yeah!), and they got a very short sound check. And, it was by far the largest venue they had ever played. The Phoenix has a capacity of 1100, while their gig the following night at Clinton's Tavern has a capacity of 200. Although they had some sound issues and seemed nervous as hell, they gave it their all, and what more can you ask for?

Everyone assumed that the Fleet Foxes got held up at the border, which unfortunately happens to a lot of bands coming from the US to Canada. However, they played the night before in Montreal, so the border was obviously not the problem. Jicks' bassist Joanna Bolme said, "they just didn't show," claiming that they had a long drive from "Alberta," which, I am assuming, is code for Quebec. "We have NEVER had a long drive before," she and other members of the Jicks sarcastically piped in. Then she said, "PLEASE, the king of slack is in our band." Malkmus publicly thanked Still Life Still and their "Canadian work ethic" and said that he enjoyed their set. And then he ripped on Montreal. After a few more quips by the Jicks, Malkmus busted into the refrain from Toto's Africa. Long live the geek king of slack.

White Winter Hymnal.mp3

Buy: Fleet Foxes

I also want to give a plug to J. Tillman, the current drummer for Fleet Foxes who has done some amazing solo work. You can download tracks and purchase his latest album Cancer and Delirium from Yer Bird Records.

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