Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rock and Roll Is Not Water Soluble

A moment after a duly ordained representative of Summerstage in Central Park, perhaps the second-best job in the New York City Parks Department after whatever job Jerry's cousin (Uncle Leo's kid) had in Seinfeld, informed the drenched crowd of mid-20s-to-mid-40s indie rock fans that Pavement's set was being halted for the safety of the band, the ever-inscrutable Stephen Malkmus retook the microphone to inform us, with that sweet sarcasm that may be his trademark, that the officials were, of course, worried about our safety as well.

Perhaps. I mean, they did eventually inform the increasingly waterlogged crowd that the metal bleachers toward the rear of the space were not ideal seating locations due to their lightning-conducting capabilities. We were also informed that the unexpected free time would be best spent purchasing beer and souvenir T-shirts. Considering that the sky above the park looked the final act of Ghostbusters (although I'm pretty sure that Dana lived on Central Park West), the enforced break was probably for the best. As instructed, I purchased a round of unopened beers can for my date and myself.

Unless you happened to grab one of three and a half spots under the umbrella at the City Winery stand (and then managed to not be pushed out by the older couple hiding from the weather in full rain gear and wondering aloud, "Why can't the band play in the lightning storm?") then you were soaked. But, for the most part, nobody seemed to mind. Which was nice. This was as unaffected a crowd as I've been around for a concert in any of the five boroughs in quite some time. There were "oohs" and "ahhs" as the lightning forked through the night sky but no exodus, no one (that I noticed) worried about their shoes getting wet or their vintage Shawn Bradley jersey getting soaked. Such an unaffected, hipster-free vibe at an NYC concert was even more refreshing than the rain after the wooly humidity that enveloped me when I left my Midtown office to hike up to Central Park. Maybe E. 69th street is too far to travel from Williamsburg and Park Slope?

When they came back out, Pavement rampaged through a hit-filled setlist (read: most of the songs that I, admittedly not a superfan, knew) with what may have actually been enthusiasm - something missing from most of the shows they played toward the end of the 1990s. I'd never seen these guys play live, but having heard about the vaguely antagonistic shoe-gaze fuzzfests that they were prone to before they hung up their instruments in 1999 and being a little weary of reunion shows in general, I was super-duper please with what I saw and heard. It was a great show.

I'm probably going back for the finale of the four-night run on Friday thanks to a friend with extra tickets. And friends with extra tickets are in abundance, because of the way the shows were announced, so if you have any interest in this band or would like to go see some live music this week then get up to 69th and 5th and you will find a way in for less than cost of a round of unopened beers can inside.

(Image is lifted from Brooklyn Vegan, where there are many pictures and more musically-inclined commentary)