Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, March 7, 2008 07:25pm | Post a Comment
When Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks took the stage to legions of hoots and hollering and a very crowded floor, it was clear that we were in for a rare treat. Malkmus is known for a few bands he’s been in such as Pavement, The Silver Jews and The Crust Brothers. Just last month he was the recipient of the Plug Awards’ Impact Award; known among it’s recipients as the “Indie Grammys’ Lifetime Achievement Award.”
The Jicks (a hybrid of “Jerk” and “Dick,” or Mick Jagger’s name backwards ...) are composed of drum maven Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney and Quasi), Bassist Joanna Bolme (Elliott Smith and The Minders), and Mike Clark on guitar and tripped out keyboards. Fresh from a secret show in Portland and a Sonic Boom, Seattle in-store just before that, Amoeba WAS their San Francisco post-record release show (that is, if you missed them in December at the Great American Music Hall) and the legions of fans and curious folks who crowded the aisles for the 45 minute plus performance couldn’t have been witness to more electric and often psychedelic magic.

With a heavy attack of electric guitar (a la Hendrix) the band grooved into the first song on the album "Dragonfly Pie." The band was on from the start, seemingly commanded by Janet Weiss’ super tight style on the house drum kit, “the best borrowed kit I’ve ever used,” she commented.  However, throughout the performance, all eyes looked to Malkmus for cues.

There had been a bit of equipment talk prior to starting – Malkmus pointed out that his guitar was plugged into the amp Jack White of the White Stripes was notorious for using. “Let’s see what we can do!”  He even joked,  “can we pass on the store credit and keep some of this equipment?”

They proceeded with the second song from the album "Hopscotch Willie," in which they admittedly “explore(d) two chords to the biter end.”  A great prog/indie/psych swirl engulfed us. . . and we all slid out of it, altered for the better. Real Emotional Trash is constructed with various depths and tones, and the live performance illustrated this strength beautifully. It’s a great feeling to be taken somewhere tremulous and on the edge and then safely brought back to harbor with skill and finely tuned craft.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a band perform live where they actually seemed to embody themselves as people on stage. It was refreshing and somewhat of a privilege to be privy to such stellar music geek stage banter. Retuning their instruments between songs, The I-Beam stories started flowing (a well-loved nightclub at 1748 Haight Street from October 1977 to July 1992) – Stephen recalled seeing Firehouse and Sonic motherfucking Youth!”  Janet had the fortune of seeing the Butthole Surfers, The Naked Ladies AND The Replacements in quite possibly their “best show ever - they remembered the words to all the songs!” she overheard a roadie say after the show in amazement. Joanna had seen Primus with a few of her friends, “because they were so cool.”

"Gardenia" came on with Janet’s Beach Boys backing vocals and upbeat tempo. It’s a song that makes you feel the sun on your face. Followed up by a nice contrast with the seemingly sweet and perfectly ironic "We Can’t Help You" -- a great strength of the band’s composure lies in its even ratio of the sexes, the perfect balance for this right-on-time record of work. Complex, fun, with many nods to the Allman Brothers, The 13th Floor Elevators, and Sonic Youth, among others, this new album has a little something for everyone.

Jaded indie rockers be damned, this foursome with many years of DIY/indie cred under their belts (not to mention their contributions to the very foundations of indie rock and riot grrrl) delivered in a big way, and if you missed it ... well ... you missed it!  Quoth the Matador site, “Did Stephen Malkmus not offer the eternal promise of ‘perfect sound forever’?” I believe he did, and the Jicks seem to be the perfect fit.
Many congratulations to Stephen Malkmus and his wife, artist Jessica Jackson Hutchins on the birth of their second bundle of joy!

reviewed by  d.a. johnston

Relevant Tags

Sleater-kinney (16), Janet Weiss (3), The Silver Jews (1), The Crust Brothers (1), Pavement (9), Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks (2), The Minders (1), Joanna Bolme (1), Mike Clark (1), The I-beam (1), Jessica Jackson Hutchins (1), Elliot Smith (2), Quasi (3)