There's something inherently gratifying about driving three and a half hours to see a musical hero that 95 percent of your casual peers have never even heard of. "Oh yeah‚ Pavement's like a metal band right?" "Does he jam?" "I don't get indie-rock." Never have other people's ignorance made me so bliss.
For some reason‚ the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art‚ or Mass MoCA‚ is located in the middle of nowhere. Utilizing one of North Adams' abandoned wool mills‚ the potential of the space itself took far priority over the location - 10 miles from the Vermont border‚ and a good 40 miles from any actual highway. It is an amazing space though: ideal for large‚ if not enormous‚ pieces‚ several on display that I heard great things about but admittedly did not arrive early enough to check out. The music hall is a large black box‚ with a three-foot raised high-school stage at one end. While the setting was perfect for a Malkmus show‚ I was hesitant as to how it would all sound in such an enormous cube.
Thirty seconds into the opener‚ "Dragonfly‚" all hesitations were already quashed and long forgotten. The room sounded amazing‚ but more importantly‚ so did the band. My only previous live S.M. Experience was at Bonnaroo two years ago when The Jicks awkwardly stumbled through cuts off Face the Truth in front of a small crowd half composed of people trying to get a good spot for Sonic Youth's upcoming set. At Mass MoCA‚ the intent and focus of 1200 true fans created a far more welcoming vibe that instantly transferred to the stage. This band was far more comfortable‚ light years tighter‚ had some better songs in their repertoire‚ and most notably had Janet Weiss on drums. The Sleater-Kinney drummer has helped turn this from a solo act into an actual band. She friggin' drills that snare‚ instantly locking everyone in‚ yet she also goes right with Malkmus on his weird tangent jams and fake starts.

There were plenty of miscues and false starts throughout the night‚ but they nailed every tune‚ and the hiccups only made it all the more real. I think they may have played every song off the new album‚Real Emotional Trash‚ and they all crushed. Shred-attacks came hard a few times‚ especially on the new stretched-out rocker "Hopscotch Willie." My favorite off the new album‚ "We Can't Help You‚" was beautiful‚ with Weiss providing background vocals. For some‚ the simpler ballad tunes aren't their favorite Malkmus tracks‚ but for me they completely rearrange my genetic structure. I tried to not let the hipsters see me wiping the tears away on this one.
A few older ones were thrown in during the solid 90-minute set‚ mostly off of Pig Lib‚ including its opening track‚ "Water and a Seat." This was definitely one I didn't expect‚ partially because I didn't think the band would be tight enough to pull off its rhythmic obscurities. But again‚ Miss Weiss on the drums brought it all together. The set ended with "Real Emotional Trash‚" and I don't think it was until this point in the night that I actually took a look around and noticed how everyone was into it just as much as I was. Silence of admiration held the room throughout the evening‚ and left space for Malkmus to be quite talkative all night. "I feel like we're in David Byrne's house." "Fuck the suits who don't think it's a single." "We don't have rooms like this out West. In fact all there is west of the Mississippi is crystal meth and Rick Rubin." Everyone in that room‚ both on and off the stage‚ had the biggest smiles on their faces.

I didn't expect an encore‚ and instead we got four. A new track left off Real Emotional Trash was equally as powerful as anything else of the evening‚ and was preceded by Malkmus singing that "you can't introduce yourself if you're cool." The last cut of the night was drastically extended until the band fizzled out‚ and it was apparent that everyone could have rocked a few more. Old ladies working security and cheap cocktails only added to the intimacy of the evening. I left a new venue once again with the familiar feeling that great music can truly stop time and make everything else not matter. As my girlfriend and I walked past the band's van and U-Haul trailer‚ everything was still.