Matador @ 21:: Days 2&3/Wrap up
Hello there, Dear Reader. Sorry for the delay and filing this report. Stuff happens. Vegas happens. Before we get to days 2 and 3, let’s flash back to the last Pavement show ever. If you’ll recall, I was disappointed with their set. There were some serious bad vibes flying across the stage, and in what felt like a flash back to 1996, Steven Malkmus was clearly not into it. To be fair, there was some significant sound issues. Steve West nearly had a full-fledged hissy fit over what was apparently an issue with his high hat. There were several requests for more or less sound out of the stage monitors, and in what I had originally thought was an SM-Spiral spat, Spiral Stairs nearly lost it after experiencing technical issues durring Kennel District, apologizing several times to the capacity crowd and nearly smashing his guitar in anger. In addition I heard a rumor that SM’s parents were in the audience on Friday night. I guess the man still gets nervous performing in front of Mom and Dad, however this is100% rumor. An old friend of The AGP who was at the show, knows someone, who knows Malkmus’ wife, and she informed this person that Steve hadn’t performed in front of his parents in several years, and that this was the reason for his half- assed performance. Again, this could be complete bullshit, but thought I’d pass along the word on the floor of the Palms last Friday night.
OK. Saturday night. We had a little run at the roulette table @ the Imperial Palace Saturday afternoon that kept us from seeing some of the early acts. However we did see Superchunk, and they killed. They played a great set, mixing in classics like Slack Mother Fucker and Mower with Rosemarie, My Gap Feels Weird, and Learned to Surf from their new (and excellent) Majesty Shredding album. One more thought. I couldn’t help thinking during their set that as owners of Merge Records, home to Arcade Fire and Spoon, that Mac and Laura were arguably the most successful people @ the Palms that weekend. I just really respect Mac and Laura as people who stuck with doing what they love, and hit it big. They still get to make records and rock out like kids, and they have the coolest day jobs that rock musicians could ask for, running their own, very successful label. Also, I saw Laura at the Palms pool on Sunday, and she was very cool. I had to complement her on her Spaceman 3 t-shirt!
On Sunday we made sure to catch Ted Leo + Pharmacists, The New Pornographers and of course GBV. We were on the floor for Ted Leo, and unfortunately the sound was at it’s weekend low. It was just a treble-drenched and distorted mix. This was the only time all weekend that I was forced to use earplugs. This being said, Mr. Leo was in fine form, sounding especially great on tracks from 2004’s Shake the Sheets, Me and Mia and The Angels Share. While almost every artist thanked and congratulated Matador during their set, Ted took it to the next level. Regaling us with stories of going to high school with Chavez’s Matt Sweeny and sharing a bill with Matador’s infamous first signing H.P. Zinker. He also brought the New Pornographer’s Carl Newman on stage to join him in an ode to Matador, covering Nick Lowe’s I love my label.
Next was The New Pornographers, and though I watched from the balcony , I really enjoyed their show. They had their “A” lineup out there, with Carl Newman joined by chanteuse Neko Case, and someone who I imagine gets a hard time passing through airport security, Destroyer’s Dan Bejar. The New Porns kicked things off with My Slow Decent into Alcoholism, which was especially appropriate for this author on such a weekend. They mixed in the best of the new Together LP with their impressive back catalog, with new gems like Moves as well as Silver Jenny Dollar with Bejar taking one of his too few (in this author’s opinion) turn on lead vocals. They played all the hits, Sing Me Spanish Techno and Letter from an Occupant from their 2000 debut, Mass Romantic were especially great, but the best songs of the night were from the bands "awesome coda collection", with Bejar leading the Pearl through the no, no, no no, no’s on A Testament to Youth and Verse and the awesome, spin-tingling Bleeding Heart Show appropriately closing out the show.
Last but in no way least, was the much anticipated reunion of GBV. By Saturday night, the GBV, Circus Devils, Boston Spaceships, and other miscellaneous Uncle Bob shirts started showing up, and I started to get the feeling that I wasn’t the only one whose number one reason for schlepping all the way to Nevada was to see Guided by Voices. By Sunday night, the anticipation was palpable (and clearly evidenced by the amount of visibly sloppy drunk dudes in the audience) for the long awaited reunion of what’s been dubbed the “classic lineup” , Pollard, Tobin Sprout and Mitch Mitchell on guitars, Greg Demos on bass and Kevin Fennell on drums . The band shambled on stage , kicked things off with A Salty Salute and never looked back. While the audience hoisted their beers to greet Pollard and the band during the opener, any beer left in their cups was thrown into the air when the band slammed into their second song Shocker in Gloomtown. The set drew heavily from Propeller, Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes and the band delved into a couple of rare tracks off Crown Prince of The Menthol Trailer EP, including Johnny Appleseed.
All the classics were played. Miller Lites were downed, and per custom, handed to the crowd. The 96”classic line –up looked pretty happy to be doing this again, Toby was his usual mellow self, but the beaming, fist pumping Mitch Mitchell was the happiest guy in the room. He jumped and spun himself -in between windmill guitar moves, all this after almost being punched-out by Pearl security after running on stage during Yo La Tengo’s set. Kevin Fennell and Greg Demos, the only practicing attorney/bass player I know of, anchored the classics, while Bob busted out his trademark big kicks and mic twirls. Pollard made sure to honor Matador by saying “we left because we thought we were hot shit and needed someone else to push our shit, but we came crawling back”
The hits kept on coming at a furious pace, Sprout took his turn vocals for spirited versions a Good Flying Bird and Awful Bliss, while Uncle Bob supplied backing vocals. My personal favorite of the set was a raucous version of My Son Cool. GBV played well past the 1AM curfew and drew the weekend closing's night to a glorious end with what Pollard referred to as “the ballad of Guided By Voices” Don’t Stop Now. Sure, you've heard Pollard perform most of these tracks with various line ups, but there's something extra special about seeing these songs performed by the nucleus of musicians who recorded them to four-track in a Dayton, OH basement nearly 20 years ago.
Matador @ 21 was a huge success and a celebration of one of, if not the most important labels in American indie rock. Ever since Chris Lombardi started Matador in 1989, and then was joined a year later by Gerald Cosloy the two men and their label have been responsible for releasing some seriously great records, not to mention some of our all time favorites. Hey Matador let us know when we can do this again.