Live Review: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks; The Faint brought to you by Kohl’s (and there’s no such thing as selling out anymore)…
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
We got there early for last Friday’s Stephen Malkmus show at The Slowdown so we could sit along railing, but as 9 o’clock began to roll around and opening band Nurses took the stage, I realized that this would probably be another in a series of disappointing turn-outs for an act who’s following is anchored by his past in a classic ‘90s band. Malkmus has been doing his own thing for a decade now, putting out solo albums along with his backing band, The Jicks, that can hold their own with anything Pavement released (or at least released toward the end of their run). He’s made a name for himself, but he still can’t sell out The Slowdown, or even draw a crowd large enough to require opening the balcony.
Or maybe everyone was just arriving late. Nurses came on just after 9 playing to a half-filled floor. We sat around after their set trying to figure out who they reminded us of. The consensus: Vampire Weekend meets Tokyo Police Club with the vocalist from Band of Horses. There was nothing terribly unique or striking or identifiable about their sound, other than it epitomizes the same sort of “vibe” music that was popular a couple years ago (and I guess still is today, at least on Sirius XM).
Malkmus and Co. hit the stage at their scheduled 10:15 start time. Despite being in his mid-40s, he still looks and acts like a guy in his late 20s, early 30s fronting a northern California indie rock band in his worn T-shirt, jeans, Adidas and winged, fly-away haircut. He opened with “Jenny and the Ess Dog,” a song he had waited until the encore to play the night before in Denver. And other than “Tigers” and “Gorgeous Georgie” off the new album, I couldn’t tell you the names of many of the other songs he played, though they all sounded familiar and good. Live vs. recording, Malkmus takes short songs like “Tigers” and “Senators” and “Baby C’Mon” and stretches them into longer jams that lean heavy on his own slinky guitar solo prowess. With three backing Jicks, the songs sounded lean and mean, with plenty of room to breathe.
By the end of his set, I’d noticed the floor was now completely filled. He came back and did a couple more songs including a loose, half-ass version of “Wild Thing” that reflected the loose, half-assed — and above all — fun vibe of the entire evening, a casual set of music played by one of the better indie songwriters of his generation.
* * *
Do you think in this day and age that anyone will ponder whether The Faint “sold out” by licensing the use of their 2004 song “Desperate Guys” for use in a new Kohl’s commercial (above)?
My take: Who in the hell cares? How do you expect anyone to make a living making music these days when you can’t sell your CDs and Spotify “pays” you 1/100th of a penny each time someone streams your songs? The Kohl’s commercial is no more or less tasteful than your typical music video, and how else is the band going to get their music heard, especially since they no longer perform live (or at least have no plans to in the immediate future)?
With the music industry on life support, licensing is one of the last bastions of income for bands, and even that will eventually go away when Madison Avenue realizes that bands will pay the advertisers to use their music in commercials. Better get in on it while you still can. Instead of their fellow musicians pointing an accusing finger and saying “How dare you,” they’re more likely to ask “How did you?” or “How can we?”
* * *
Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.