Live Review: Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks with Speedy Ortiz at the Neptune Theatre, 4/12/14

all photos by Bryan Anton (view set)

So, here’s the thing: I love the ’90s. I really do. Like, I score really, really high at those Buzzfeed “How ’90s Are You” quizzes. It’s my favorite era of music. So, I was pretty stoked for this show, pairing a ’90s-influenced band with the King of the ’90s, Mr. Malkmus.



Speedy Ortiz:

Even though Boston band Speedy Ortiz aren’t from the ’90s, they certainly take a lot of inspiration in that sound, calling to mind the fierce guitars of Archers of Loaf, the too-cool girl vocals of Mary Timony of Helium, and even the slightly harder sound on the second Drop Nineteens album (fellow Beantowners). They were rocking out so hard, I kept waiting for a mosh pit to start. (No such luck.)

The Seattle show was the last night of the tour, so to commemorate the moment, Speedy Ortiz brought out Jicks secret weapon, multi-instrumentalist Mike Clark, to rock it out on the cowbell. That was some furious cowbell, dude.

Despite a day job as a college writing instructor at the University of Massachusetts, frontwoman Sadie Dupuis came off a little ditzy, but maybe she was just tired after the long tour. She introduced a song with, “This next one is called ‘American Horror,’ even though we were just in Canada for a week…” Her bandmate quickly countered, “Canada is in North America.” Sheepishly, she replied, “Semantics.” Good thing it was the last night of the tour, ’cause you know there was a “band meeting” in the bus later that night.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks:

After Speedy Ortiz left the stage, the in-house music kicked in, and it was a weird mix of Foreigner’s ’80s prom ballad “I Want to Know What Love Is” to the psych-rock of Pink Floyd’s ’70s track “Fearless” to Willie Nelson covering “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”… uh, WHA? I’d like to think it was Malkmus’ own iPod on shuffle, but I also really wanted to believe this was his Twitter account.

(Note: it’s not.)

But then finally, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks took the stage, opening with “Cinnamon and Lesbians” from their brand-new release Wig Out at Jagbags, out now on Matador Records, a song he says is about their hometown of Portland. But then just a few songs in, Malkmus remarked, “It’s weird when the bass gets farty,” as bassist Joanna Bolme frowned at her amp. While Joanna and the sound techs worked on fixing that, Malkmus grabbed the mic for an improvised piano-only track with Mike Clark, swaying back and forth like Bill Murray’s lounge singer character from Saturday Night Live.

At one point, Malkmus asked the crowd, “Did the lead singer of Macklemore go to the U-Dub?” The audience roared, “Noooo…” with someone piping up, “He went to Evergreen!” This seemed to throw Malkmus off. “Really? Evergreen? I wouldn’t have expected that… Know who didn’t go to Evergreen? Ryan Lewis. ‘Cause those beats are FILTHY! Beats like that don’t come from Evergreen!”

“Those beats won more Grammys than you ever will,” snapped Mike, setting off an “OoooOoooh” from the audience worthy of a sitcom laugh track.

So, here’s the thing: Malkmus loves the ’70s. He really does. Like, if Buzzfeed had a “How ’70s Are You” quiz, he wouldn’t even take it because he’d be high in the basement listening to Yes or something. I had admittedly forgotten how proggy the dude can get, and during his Hendrix-y guitar solos, I swear I could almost SEE the gelatinous blobs of a lava lamp dripping. And then during the encore, they busted out a cover of the 1975 Rush song “Fly By Night.” My thoughts went like this: “Oh god, they’re covering Rush… OH GOD, I knew it was Rush!” Fact-checking cuz, indeed.

But, oh no, his love for the ’70s didn’t end there. During the encore, they also tackled the first verse/chorus of Wire’s “Outdoor Miner” leading seamlessly into Roxy Music’s “Mother of Pearl.”

I won’t lie: I was kinda hoping for more Pavement oldies, and I only got one during the encore. The band brought Speedy Ortiz back out for a cover of “In The Mouth A Desert,” sung by Sadie Dupuis, who apparently used to front a Pavement cover band called — get this — Babement. It warmed my heart when the audience did the call-and-response to the lyrics “It’s what I want…” (“WHAT I WANT!”), but I admittedly missed Malkmus.

So, sure, I guess we’ve all got our nostalgic periods, and I’m glad we could both get something out of ‘em that night. It was definitely a fun show, but not exactly “what I want.” It’s my own dang fault for getting my hopes up for more Pavement though (especially after their Los Angeles show).

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