Friday, May 17, 2019

Stephen Malkmus @ Lodge Room - A Concert Review

Stephen Malkmus @ Lodge Room
May 15, 2019
By Rebecca Gross

Walking into the Lodge Room, reflections of different ages of myself looked back at me. Myself in different iterations of my life –– all ages, completely in love and infatuated by Stephen Malkmus’ music.

I was 14 when I fell deeply into finding meaning in Malkmus through Pavement. I see that self stare back at me through the eyes of teenage boys wearing jeans belted to adhere to their belly button region, Doc Martens planted insecurely on the floor beneath them: relatable.

I see other versions of myself now: twenty-somethings drinking a beer, waiting for the man that was writing Pavement albums as we slid through the birth canal. They (or should I say we?) wear flannels and t-shirts with witty phrases and vans in an effort to appear of a certain moment  –– one we were born too late to really be a part of.

And then there are those who were part of that generation, lining the walls of the Lodge Room, sitting and relaxing before Malkmus takes the stage. Beards graying with 20 years of post-90s-alternative melancholia, comfortable shoes and good conversation intact, they are the most worthy group of being at this show: Perhaps they saw Malkmus in his Pavement days, or the Kim’s Bedroom days, or the early solo days. These were the true fans, who have followed Malkmus through different projects, landing here, at the Lodge Room in Highland Park, in Los Angeles.

And who knew exactly what to expect last night at the Lodge Room? Certainly not those loyal to Malkmus for the last 30 years. After Malkmus came out with Groove Denied, his latest solo record, who could know what to expect? This was nothing like what Malkmus’ earlier work has been like.

In an effort at making a Bowie-esque electronic dance record, Malkmus half-succeeded. The entire record is brilliant, but at least half of the record sounds more like Pavement songs than it does like “Let’s Dance.” Yet, walking into the Lodge Room and taking one look at the stage, you would presume Malkmus was about to perform an electronic-heavy set. One guitar. A computer. And a shit-ton of pedals. What would he open up with? What would he close with? What would he play?

Perhaps in the fullest essence of playing as himself, a multi-generational Indie Rock legend, and to the bright smiles beaming from the diverse ages in the crowd, Malkmus traveled in time between the ‘90s and the present. Opening with “Spit on a Stranger,” he fluidly transitioned between his Pavement music and his recently released music on Groove Denied. Blending boundaries between the nostalgic ‘90s Pavement songs (last night we not only heard “Spit on a Stranger,” but also “Blackout,” “Frontwards,” and “Fight this Generation”) and the late ‘70s / early ‘80s dance music, Malkmus created a distinctly 2019 sound right in front of our eyes, to our ears’ delight. Through the unmistakably 2019-time-stamped computer-generated beats, Malkmus somehow managed to create a contiguous sonical image of his past, a further back past, the present, and perhaps what is to come for his music and a new kind of genre.
Without a doubt, the show last night was a hit. When Malkmus didn’t come out for an encore, you could just feel a cloud of depression role over the crowd. We wanted more Malkmus. We wanted more of this timelessness he was creating and preserving all at once on the stage. He will be back at the Lodge Room tonight, but for a soldout show (don’t get your hopes up).

This is one of Malkmus’ most interesting concepts, though, and feels prescient in its meaning: connecting us, despite differences. I never thought I’d be writing that Berlin house music could seamlessly bleed into ‘90s guitar and cracking vocals. But it did. And it worked. And as usual, Malkmus is a revolutionary in creating unique (and timeless) music.

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