For those who slept through the 90s, the band Pavement were near-kings of the alternative slackrock court. It’s been about 15 years since the five-piece (Steve Malkmus, Scott Kannberg, Mark Ibold, Steve West and Bob Nastanovich) broke up and about 16 years since I last saw them perform together. Last week, the band – reunited last winter for a one-off series of tours - made the West Coast stop, and Bob and I arranged to meet up. Bob Nastanovich, it has to be said, is the nicest, most generous singer-drummer-MC-former-jockey-agent-horseracing-expert-turned-back-rockstar on the planet. For reals.
We met just after soundcheck. Here’s what happened….
We head up to the 30-somethingth floor at Bob’s mate Drew’s place, near the Queen Elizabeth Theatre where Pavement were playing. This is Nathan (l), a friend of Drew’s, and Bob, looking over Vancouver. It’s a perfect spot to indulge in brews, cigarettes and have Bob regale us with stories of horseracing characters called Orange Hat, Curly Q and Sneeze and his “little shack” near Churchill Downs. He used to be a jockey agent, and has us in stitches. ”Orange Hat”, it seems, was a soldier in ‘Nam (I think). And is bald. And never takes off his hat. “Except he sneaks to the bathroom and takes off his cap during the national anthem at the races”, says Bob. ”I also know women who’ve tried to sleep with him to see if he’d take it off then.” And? ”Nope.”
That’s Drew on the left. His family are the Forsters. Horsey people. To hear Bob talk of the modest place that he co-owns with Drew’s brother near the Churchill Downs, you’d think it was just a little hostel near a famous spot where they race horses. To hear Drew talk about people coming and going during the Derby, how everyone hangs out there, how the Downs is just “spitting distance” away and the general vibe and excitement, you’d know it’s a lot cooler than that. “I’m gonna come visit one day,” I say to Bob. “Yeah, sure, anytime! You can have our room. It’s just through the door and on the left.” In this pic, we’re just goofing around. Something about where Nathan was pointing the camera.
Had to be done. Bob, Drew and Nathan (doing the “Guitar Pick Hand” ) doing the rockhands for your dining and dancing pleasure.
A lot of times on this tour, Bob’s in charge of the Pavement setlist. He wrote this one out on a business card he got in Oregon. Bob says I can have it. It becomes my new favourite treasure. Until I lose it in the flat. Drew finds it again for me. I practically staple it to my forehead from that point on. ”So,” I ask Bob, “how is it been touring?” “What, with the other guys? Yeah, it’s good.” “Are you getting along?,” I ask. “Oh yeah!,” says Bob. “It’s just that some of us don’t really talk to each other. It’s more, like, ‘hey, man, how’s it going? See you up there. You know, on stage.’”
We head back to the Queen E. ‘cos Bob has to hand in his guest and setlist. He pridefully shows off the tourbus – a slick and enormous beast. He offers us fruit. Shows us his bunk. ”This is the largest bed I have ever been on on tour.” The band has two buses. The crew – many of whom have been with the band since t’beginning – travel on a separate one. The Pavement tour bus is neat. Civilized. I resist the urge to find Steve Malkmus’ bunk and wrap myself in his sheets. Things are grand on the bus. Until the next day when I hear from Bob…the bus broke down in Butte, Montana.
Bob takes us on a tour of the stage and his set up at the theatre….
…and shows us Malkmus’ guitars. He holds the white one up, saying something about how Steve bought it for $15 and it’s still his favourite.”Here,” Bob says, holding it up, “feel how light it is!” I say: “Bob, there is no fucking way in hell that I’m touching Steve Malkmus’ guitars right before a show.” Wise move, as we run into Malkmus backstage, quietly sitting with his MacBookPro. He’s polite. And has that sneaky smile. “We have to leave the singer alone,” Bob jokes. I pop my head back before leaving. We chat. This is the most I have ever heard Steve Malkmus say in my life.
We eventually get our spots near the front, and Pavement come on stage. At this point I am surprisingly and ridiculously excited. WOULDN’T YOU BE? It’s been 16 years. Will it be shining? Shambolic?
Shining. I did a proper review of Pavement live in Vancouver here. The show was, as I said, actually amazing.
Brit Kwasney took some stunning pics at the show for us. Check them out.
Here’s the setlist, though they ventured off-piste a bit when – gasp! – Steve decides to do a fan request “Feed ‘em to the (Linden) Lions”. Bob happens to be wearing a blue Linden Lions baseball cap tonight. MAGIC.
After the show, the smokers hang outside. “See, I told you there’d be dancing up front,” I say to Steve. “Yeah, you were right. Was good.” Fans are terrified to approach him. But he’s in top, relaxed form. I recall telling one guy that he should go chat with Malkmus cos “he won’t bite.”
Meanwhile, Bob, suitably refreshed and buoyant, hugs every single fan who comes to talk to him. He asks what they do. Introduces us around. Tries to get us to sign the posters they want him to sign. (“Uh, Bob, they don’t give a shit about us.” Bob: “BUT THEY SHOULD!” ) He introduces me as “Mikala, she owns Vancouver and rock. She has a music website you should check out.” I tell Bob that the show was was surprisingly tight and that it looked like even Mark Ibold was having fun. “Yeah, he did, didn’t he?” Bob says, grinning. “Awww, see, we really do love each other as brothers, you know…”
The ageless and likely cryogenically preserved Steve Malkmus and the Backstage Rider. Malkmus is smiling. SMILING! (Yeah, and I’m grinning like a loon. Like I said: WOULDN’T YOU BE?)
What would the BackstageRider be without an aftershow pass? Soon, it’s time to head backstage to talk about the olden days with a polite Scott Kannberg, who’s whisked away quickly by his new bride, a lovely Streve West and a chatty but serious Mark Ibold (and his younger, handsomer, taller brother Jay, who lives in the San Juan Islands and who made it up for the gig). Bob introduces me to openers Quasi as well. And offers to mix me a Hendricks. Malkmus (who’s on fantasy basketball and hockey teams) and Drew and I talk hockey. I tell them my story about meeting Brendan Shanahan during the Olympics. He is suitably impressed. My work is done. I resist the urge to ask him if I can wrap myself in his sheets.
Pavement, you were missed. \m/