There were two mics on stage at Thursday night's Stephen Malkmus show at The Kitchen, but, perhaps to some disappointment, the second mic wasn't for recent collaborator Kim Gordon (though the event did feature posters designed by her, and her old bandmate Lee Ranaldo was in the house). Instead, Malkmus alternated standing and sitting, using the two mics interchangeably throughout the set and, on more than one occasion, bumping his head on them as he shifted his stance. The show, in support of Groove Denied, was intimate and standing-room only, with a set up that felt almost like a high school talent show: one low riser and a folding table with a laptop and a OP-1 synth. When Malkmus stepped on stage for the first of two shows that night, clad in a psychedelic floral polo shirt, he seemed equally exhausted and excited: "Still preparing," he said sheepishly as he fussed with his Ableton setup before the show.
The intimate show, which sold out quickly but felt empty enough that most audience members had a direct eyeline to Malkmus, felt directed at a certain type of intense Malkmus fan, one who knew Pavement deep cuts and found humor in his awkwardness. Case in point, the set began with a cover, a charmingly stripped down performance of The Velvet Underground's "Ocean." In case there were any hesitation that Malkmus could still shred after his electronic debut, his riffs, outsized and far louder than his tinny drum backing track, quieted any doubters. The show was a bit start-and-stop, with tracks that began and ended suddenly, and an electronic interlude that Malkmus dubbed his "Kitchen song," in reference to the avant garde rep of the venue, but when he was locked deep in the middle of a guitar solo, he would close his eyes and nod his head, as if entranced by the groove.
He also played a few Pavement songs throughout, and seemed to recognize that the romanticism of songs like "Spit on a Stranger" stands the test of time, band hiatuses, and even age: "Still got it," he said quietly after the stripped down performance of the Terror Twilight tune. He also performed a rousing rendition of "Fight This Generation," and closed with "Frontwards," two early tracks aimed squarely at Pavement superfans. And though he struggled to pick out the riffs in "Frontwards," the earnestness in his voice as he sang its main refrain, "so much style that it's wasted," brought some sentimentality to a night that, at times, could feel like a bit of a free-wheeling experiment.
Malkmus' solo tour rolls on, hitting the Boston area tonight. Setlist from the early Kitchen show, plus a few Instagram pics and videos, are below.
SETLIST: Stephen Malkmus Setlist (The Kitchen, 7 PM Show):
OCEAN (Velvet Underground Cover)
FORGET YOUR PLACE
A BIT WILDER
SPIT ON A STRANGER
COME GET ME
FIGHT THIS GENERATION
RUSHING THE ACID FRAT