22 Thoughts On Homecoming 2023, Where The National Reasserted Their Might And Pavement Played Maybe Their Last Show Ever

6. Did Pavement begin with “Grounded” because they found it humbling to open for the National? Did they do it because “Grounded” is the Pavement song that comes closest to the National’s self-consciously cinematic vibe? They probably just opened with it because it’s a fantastic opener, building from one brilliantly simple guitar riff (the high-pitched not-quite-unison guitar drone that opens the song) to another (the string-bend-into-power-chord theatrics of the chorus). Whatever the reason for it, it made for a hell of an introduction. Boys were living on these streets.

7. I caught the 2010 Pavement reunion twice, but I don’t remember the band ever rocking as hard as they rocked Saturday. It wasn’t just the proggy, proto-Jicks buildup of “The Hexx.” It was the explosive chorus and inspired slipshod soloing on “Stereo,” the heavy instrumental break on “Transport Is Arranged,” even the countrified riff that brought some sizzle to the end of “Father To A Sister Of Thought.” (Malkmus: “We were taking that down Covington way!”) Pavement never shed the ramshackle grace that has defined them since the beginning, that feeling that every song is a basket rattling around the rim before sinking through the net. But as heard on this tour, they were a force — as locked-in as they could be without losing their sense of self.

8. No band can sound that polished with an indie-rock hypeman like Bob Nastanovich roaming the stage screaming his guts out. I would’ve liked for them to let him loose on “Conduit For Sale!” one more time, but hearing him go nuts on “Unfair” was almost as satisfying.

9. Beyond his guitar work, Malkmus gave a virtuoso-level banter performance Saturday, from an attempted Meghan Trainor parody (“I’m all about the ride, no hi-hat”) to a tongue-in-cheek monologue about catching MRSA in moshpits that morphed into some actually sentimental reflections about returning to normal life after tour: “I know I got teeth to fill. Bills to pay. This is basically the last 15 minutes of unreality. It fuckin’ sucks.”

10. Pavement’s setlist was about as good as you could have wanted from a 90-minute festival slot. They busted out “Loretta’s Scars” after dusting it off this week for the first time in 13 years, slotted in some fun deep cuts like “Starlings Of The Slipstream” and “Zurich Is Stained,” and made time near the end for the weirdo Spotify success story “Harness Your Hopes.” The latter didn’t seem necessary at a festival where much of the crowd was either paying for a babysitter or college tuition, but whatever. I can think of at least a dozen songs I’d have wanted to hear instead — early classics “Frontwards” and “Shoot The Singer,” but also late classic “Carrot Rope,” which always struck me as a beautiful finale for this band. Still, most of the biggest “hits” were accounted for: “Grounded,” “Stereo,” “Summer Babe,” “Gold Soundz,” “Silence Kid,” “AT&T,” “Spit On A Stranger,” “Shady Lane,” an ending one-two punch of “Cut Your Hair” and “Range Life.”

11. When “Cut Your Hair” kicked in, its falsetto gibberish hook commingling with rich, resonant guitar chords, the finality of the moment hit me. Bands start up each and every day, but most of them don’t build a legacy like this one. Pavement were one of my gateway bands into indie rock. I got to them just after they broke up the first time, and I did it the old-fashioned way: by downloading “Cut Your Hair” from Napster. They quickly became a foundational fixture of my music taste and, by extension, my identity. In college, I repurposed “Silence Kid” as an AIM screen name and ripped off Malkmus’ songwriting in my going-nowhere indie band. They remain a foundational fixture of a genre that has given me some of my most beloved music. So hearing them do that song in the last 10 minutes of their last show — it was a special moment from a special old band.

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