Pavement’s Cross-Generational Arrival to Austin City Limits Taping

What a career, career, career, career, career it’s been

Photo by David Brendan Hall

A newly (re)reunited Pavement’s first taped set for Austin City Limits felt like a cross-generational arrival Monday at the Moody Theater.

Decades-long devotees embraced and sang the band’s lyrics to each other, while young Zoomers savored a first-ever opportunity to see the band at all. In the festivity of the band’s first local touchdown in 12 years – following a few Stephen Malkmus solo visits in the intervening years – it was hard to tell whether Pavement principal enjoyed himself as much as everyone else.

Guitarist Scott Kannberg thanked the audience numerous times while percussionist/resident screamer Bob Nastanovich gleefully traversed the stage, face turning red from exertion. Yet, their famously-goofy frontman remained somber throughout the gig, uttering almost zero words to the crowd and shyly avoiding their cheers with a bashful roll of the eyes, then a peace sign.

Maybe Malkmus was conserving energy. After all, the veteran slackers were due for a late-night underplay downstairs at 3Ten that same evening, then a sold-out regular Moody gig the very next night – wrapping their US tour with a historic triple-dip in Austin. Maybe he was nervous, as taping of the iconic PBS program, to air in early 2023, was also live streamed for those unable to make it downtown.

Whatever the reason, despite his reserved demeanor, Malkmus led his band through a steady, career-spanning set, energy unaffected by his introversion. Winding up his guitar like a pitcher, he kept his eyes closed for the bent notes of opener “Grounded.” The moody ballad flowed into “Summer Babe” and the quirky “Stereo.” There, Mark Ibold (in cuffed jeans and a green hat that made for the band’s hippest outfit, for the record) rumbled a dissonant bassline, drummer Steve West held it down, and Nastanovich confirmed that Geddy Lee speaks just like an ordinary guy.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

The alt-originating five-piece’s button ups and baseball caps merged hilariously well with the style next gen indie kids have adopted as their own, joined onstage by percussionist and backing vocalist Rebecca Cole (Wild Flag, The Minders). Six in all, the group built from moody beginnings to a rapturous, fan-pleasing end.

“Harness Your Hopes,” late-Nineties B-side that became an unexpected hit thanks to TikTok teens, necessitating a new 2022 music video, proved essential offscreen. The guitar snarl of “Unfair,” partnered with ham Nastanovich’s intensity, sent a shock of energy to both the crowd and Malkmus himself. From there, the guitarist loosened his facade, kicking his foot in the air before mouthing “fuck yeah” to an equally enthusiastic audience.

So-called “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg got his moment on lead vocals with “Painted Soldiers,” and Brighten the Corners cut “Fin” extended into an instrumental jam. At this point, the crowd finally got a smile out of Malkmus, who led a singalong of Crooked Ran, Crooked Rain classic “Range Life” (minus the lyrical Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots references – looks like Nineties beef doesn’t fly in the 21st century).

That penultimate track led, of course, into “Cut Your Hair” – the 1994 single that put Pavement briefly on MTV and The Tonight Show, marking their closest brush with fame at the time. Over two decades later, seeing the on-again, off-again band perform against cutouts of our city’s beloved skyline, it felt like they’d slowly, surreally surpassed that level with a whole new age range of devotees. What a career, career, career, career, career it’s been.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

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Pavement, Austin City Limits, ACL Live, Stephen Malkmus, Scott Kannberg, Mark Ibold

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