At occasions, the play felt like a ruse for a bigger efficiency involving the viewers itself. There have been technical difficulties early on, which led to an ungainly 10-minute pause between the usual announcement to silence our telephones and the precise starting of the present. The a number of cameras staged all through the theater panned in direction of the bemused crowd whereas we waited for the play to start out. The vibe was Loss of life Grips at Lollapalooza. Was the delay intentional? Have been we fools to suppose that Pavement would approve a musical? However the lights lastly dimmed, and all of us took our seats, ready to be enchanted.
The play opens on “Essem” (get it, like S.M., like Stephen Malkmus?), a raveled rockstar performed by Michael Esper, jamming on an unplugged electrical guitar to “You’re Killing Me.” Esper, a veteran of rock musicals like American Fool, was an excellent match for the function, with a voice that rang out clearly with out dropping the elemental slacker high quality of Malkmus’ drawl. The subsequent track, “Field Elder,” established the setting — a stressed guitarist seeking to “get the fuck out of this city.” It additionally launched Essem’s past love curiosity, the winsome and twee “Anne” (get it, like “Ann Don’t Cry”), performed by Zoe Lister-Jones, in addition to the ensemble, who danced all through the evening with the manic power of a kid actor held at gunpoint. “None of them even seemed like Pavement followers,” my buddy identified after the present. She was proper — I’ve by no means seen a Pavement fan do a field step with a smile plastered throughout their face.
Your complete dialogue of the play was made up of Pavement’s discography, from the hits to obscure deep cuts. They traversed a formidable 30 songs within the hour-long efficiency, reducing every off after a verse or two earlier than leaping instantly into the subsequent track. The plot, as a lot as there was one, adopted Essem from small-town rocker to the intense lights of the massive metropolis, the place he meets “Loretta” (get it? Like “Loretta’s Scars”), a leather-clad hardened punk performed by Kathryn Gallagher and a transparent foil to Anne in her Peter-Pan-collared gown. They fall in love (throughout a lap dance set to “In The Mouth A Desert,” in fact), he leaves Anne for fame, glamor, and Loretta (“Minimize Your Hair”), and he subsequently spends the remainder of the play trapped in a tedious love triangle between the 2. However the story felt incidental to the absurdities surrounding it—the faucet dancing Santas throughout “Gold Soundz,” ribbon twirling to “Ann Don’t Cry,” and driving Ikea procuring carts throughout “Date With Ikea.” The Pavement songs felt like casualties, like they had been preventing a dropping battle in opposition to a thespian enthusiasm they by no means requested to compete with within the first place.
This was the primary evening of the present — for family and friends and various media varieties, not for the general public — which explains why Perry was seen working round theater checking for sound points whereas beaming like a highschool senior who acquired to direct the spring musical for his final semester. It’s not that the actors had been flat or underwhelming — Gallagher specifically gave “Loretta” a dose of swagger and confidence, regardless of battling sound points all through. However Pavement — the band, the music, the lore — is the other of a extremely choreographed, enthusiastically carried out theatrical revue. “Spit On A Stranger,” the closing track earlier than a closing, painfully strained Pavement medley, is gorgeous due to its restraint — the best way Malkmus’ voice nearly cracks in his falsetto, or shaggy drums that may barely maintain the beat. Some songs had been simply by no means meant to be carried out in a four-part concord by overeager actors shouting to the again of the group. Pavement songs buckle below the burden of physique rolls and interpretive dance.
Possibly the awkwardness is the purpose. Possibly it’ll all make sense within the context of some forthcoming Pavement mockumentary. However the picture of half a dozen cowboys do-si-doing to “AT&T” was tragically actual; if I by no means hearken to Wowee Zowee the identical method once more, I’m blaming Perry.