On the Pavement documentary Slow Century (Matador, 2002) there's fantastic footage of them playing the song "Fight This Generation" at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, GA on April 8, 1994. In the slower live intro to the song, Stephen Malkmus adds extra guitar riffs that didn't end up on the version recorded for Wowee Zowee (Matador) a year later. It's a magnificent few minutes of live footage, recorded with an amateur video camera directly in front of the tiny stage.
I saw them play for the first time in Tampa two days later, at the Ritz Theater in Ybor City. It was one of the best concerts I've seen in my short life. I had only really listened to their low-fi cassette Westing (by Musket and Sextant) (Drag City, 1993) before seeing them that night so I wasn't expecting the tight melodies and amazing guitar riffs scattered into punk weirdness, all perfectly played and mixed with an ambitious wide sound.
The Ritz theater has a slanting floor, so the audience seemed to lean into the band. When they first took the stage I realized they had been the ones standing nearby in the crowd before the show started, talking amongst themselves and drinking beers, unnoticed by anyone in the audience. I remember time being deliciously warped by their songs, loudness echoing itself against the walls of the seatless theater. I eventually found a spot to sit on against a back wall and watched them with amazement throughout the concert, overjoyed by how a great rock band can embody whatever it is I seek in art and poetry.
I've always felt ambivalent toward my own generation, particularly once we were identified and marketed as Generation X. But I've written here before about a certain unrepeatable era I know I lived and learned from immensely, located somewhere between 1990 and 1994, approximately. I suppose the above song's title/chorus is emblematic of that generational ambivalence for me. An acknowledgement of place and time as sacred, filtered through the deathly hype that surrounded a certain age group from before we even began to create whatever distinct art defined that "era."
My notebook entry from the day after the concert reads:
"Monday, April 11 
Writing w/ a needle. Pavement last night @ the Ritz. Sounded good. Guitarist [Malkmus] stared at me weird look towards the end of the show while down tuning his guitar, the show was not full, crowd-wise. But the music 3-D you can feel live. Ran into Hairball outside: "No one ever wrote a masterpiece on their first try. Except Rimbaud." Tuesday night at 10:00 writing/literature discussion group to meet at his apt. We've talked about it for over a year.
Concert is big communal communication. Communication in a wide open cube. Filtered through electric sponges. Whereas writing, I'm now back to myself and the page. The pen the bridge between us. Now, figure out what's at either side of the bridge."