Arts Devo

Arts DEVO tells that Pavement story … again

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Perfect Sound Forever This Friday, Jan. 29, Scott Kannberg, co-founder of indie-rock godfathers Pavement, is playing a show at Duffy’s Tavern with his current project, Spiral Stairs, and the show is being promoted as Kannberg’s first time playing in Chico since Pavement sneaked into town back in its heyday to play at the same downtown bar in 1992. And the story of that show also happens to be one of the defining stories of Arts DEVO’s life—one that I’ve told in these pages before (Nov. 24, 2011) and reprinted below to get you excited for what promises to be another fun show—with locals Donald Beaman & The Spirit Molecules and The Empty Gate opening (find Arts DEVO on Facebook for more photographic evidence):

The story starts on Sept. 24, 1992, with me and my Chico crew road-tripping to see one-time indie kings Pavement open for Sonic Youth at The Warfield in San Francisco. It was Sonic Youth’s Dirty tour, and Pavement was riding high on the wave of praise following the release of its debut full-length, the nonpareil Slanted and Enchanted. If the story ended right there, just with witnessing those two bands at the height of their powers on the same night, it would rank as one of the best moments of my life so far. But it didn’t end there.

While standing around in the upstairs bar between bands, Pavement’s then-drummer, Gary Young, shuffled by and we somehow summoned the courage to stop him and slobber on about how much he ruled the universe. Before letting him go, one of my indie-rockin’ cohorts of the era, Sean Harrasser (leader of such notable Chico groups as Harvester and [Western Divide]), tore out a personal check—which had his contact information printed on the front—handed it to Young and said something along the lines of, “If you ever want to play Chico, call and we’ll set it up.”

And, a few days later, while sitting around Harrasser’s apartment, Pavement frontman Steve Malkmus did call. A date and an insanely reasonable monetary arrangement were proposed, and on Oct. 11, 1992—a couple weeks after the S.F. show—we hosted our favorite band in the world at the Whispering Clam Room (the cozy performance venue that used to be connected to Duffy’s Tavern, in the space now occupied by Melody Records). And, to add to the indie-gasm, both of our bands—Harrasser’s Disaster Scrapbook and my Pinecone, playing its first show ever (!)—got to open … for Pavement!

Needless to say, that was about the most DIY-affirming experience a 22-year-old music nerd could possibly have. And if I include the fact that the future Mrs. DEVO and I attended the show together and were engaged one month later, that fall included the two catalysts for basically everything that’s happened in my life since.