An overachieving plastic cup, a trainwreck MC and a non-stop talker: Notes from Matador at 21

Fucked-Up headgear: What is that?!
Photo: Jake Giles Netter

My ears are still ringing from the first night of Matador at 21, but I can't wait to get back for more sonic assault. I mean, when's the next time I'll be able to say I just saw Sonic Youth and Pavement, and my weekend's just getting started?

The Palms is the epicenter of the music universe this weekend. Plain and simple. If the mere mention of Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices, Cat Power, Belle and Sebastian, and The Clean doesn't give you a major woody, you're probably not even reading this anyway. To be part of this experience defies description; suffice to say nothing like this is likely to happen again in our lifetimes. So for those who unfortunately could not be there, here are a few observations:

Jeffrey Jensen? Really? Show of hands: Would you rather hear Fucked Up? Chavez? Or a "comic" whose specialty is prank phone calls? Yeah, didn't think so. In a major misstep, Matador chose to have Jensen, who released a comedy album on Matador, open each act with a variety of "funny" personalities. Just in case you're wondering, no, it didn't work at all. The last thing I want to do is beat up on the guy, but he got almost no laughs, and was at point pelted with ice from a drink cup. Kudos to the guy for muddling through the evening, but seriously, what did he expect? No one was there to hear stale Laverne & Shirley jokes. 'Nuff said.

A plastic cup almost stole the show during Fucked Up. Pink Eyes, the lead singer, began the set up crushing a beer can on his head and spewing suds into the crowd, but then took a plastic cup and crushed it on his head, but it stuck there (by suction, I'm guessing). Thing is, some in the crowd weren't sure what it was. I learned later some thought it might have been another beer can that got stuck in his head by a jagged edge. Whatever it was, everyone was looking at it 𔃐 a lot. But even without that distraction, Pink Eyes was hard to ignore, taking off his shirt and stumbling his way through the crowd, striving to get into the cheap seats. He even helped a lost crowd surfer get back into the crowd by hoisting him on his shoulders and lowering him gently back into the crowd. Amazing set from start to finish.

Technical difficulties started off as cute for Pavement, but turned ugly. First it was a drum-kit snafu that led to a break in the action, but the crowd laughed it off, as did the band. But further into the show, guitarist Scott Kannberg appeared to be having problems with his amps. Either he couldn't hear himself properly, or he was getting feedback, hard to tell. But at one point, he shouted to the crowd, "Sorry. FUCK!" and stabbed his guitar in the air. Later he went off stage and began screaming at someone about the problem, eventually kicking one of his amps sideways. Thing is, most in the crowd were having too much fun to have given a fuck about a sound problem, or if they were aware of it, they were too grateful to be seeing Pavement to care. Kannberg kinda ended the evening on a sour note when he left the stage before the band was even finished. Me? I loved every minute of it. Some of the greatest rock 'n roll I've ever seen live has been messy and unpredictable — isn't that kind of the point?

Note to the pretty woman with the bald guy: LET HIM ENJOY THE SHOW! This poor schmuck never got a chance to listen to any one act for the duration, what with this woman yelling in his ear non-stop the entire evening. For the love of God, stop! This isn't a Lady Gaga show! He's never going to get to see most of these acts again! Leave him alone!

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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