BY JAMES DOOLITTLE
10:00 AM / There is obviously a great deal of non-early risers around these parts – at least in regards to the hoards of the unshaven. If not for the giant billboard exclaiming a humongous welcome to Matador 21, the scene looks as I’d guess it does every Saturday morning; sad faced gamblers, the escalating din of spinning wheels and button mashing, and cigarette smoke. Lots of cigarette smoke. For someone who lives in a city were smoking ordinances were enacted years ago, the omnipresent scent – indoors of all things – is nearly as nostalgic as today’s bill, which includes Jon Spencer, Cat Power and Superchunk.
The casino floor is being soundtracked all weekend by a Matador hit list. I eat breakfast with the New Pornographer’s “Letters From an Occupant” echoing across the buffet line. I catch a fleeting conversation where a table is trying to explain to the waitress who these bands are. Later, a tweeter will comment on the juxtaposition of watching the gelled dance set enter the facility’s Playboy Club to the strains of Pavement‘s “Gold Sounds”. Inside they will groove to a set by DJ Pauly D, whose “Jersey Shore” cameras roam freely. Last night I spotted Larry Holmes. The pop culture jumblefuck is intoxicating. And Liz Phair is way short.
4:50 PM / I just remembered something; I wasn’t all that impressed with the debut long-player from Girls. Their playlist obviously suffers the same fate, considering the band’s youth doesn’t leave them an out when it comes to shelving the meh.
5:45 PM / This is where I was going to reflect on how seeing a bunch of Come videos over the course of the last day had me anticipating their third performance since 1995 – but I was so hungry. Starving. Sorry, T.
7:25 PM / I have friends – good friends – who once had Jon Spencer’s discography on repeat for what seemed years. I still can’t embrace what seems so obvious in the schtick department, but do recognize it’s primordial urges. When Spencer launched “Bell Bottoms”, the night truly began. The set also produced the evening’s best tweets, with the gold going to @aclaritymaven: “Jon Spencer just broke the record for amount of times “Blues Explosion” is screamed at a crowd in 40 min. He held the old record.”
7:55 PM / Someday, I’ll fall into Perfume Genius‘ emotionally naked hymnal book and probably decree a revelation. Following Spencer’s bombast, the abbreviated set is incorrectly slugged. This was obviously where Jay Reatard would have played.
8:37 PM / Chan Marshall’s voice is a gift from the heavens. The awkward tentativeness, her sexiest attribute. But considering how long it takes her bluesy growl to get comfy, her outfit seemed to just be hitting it’s stride before quickly exiting stage right. Booooo!
9:26 PM / Superchunk should just stop cutting new discs in the studio and do it live. Everything. The veterans slashed and burned with an exuberance that even made later-era tracks feel as relevant as “Slack Motherfucker.” The night’s pinnacle? Few would argue.
11:05 PM / Officially behind schedule, Spoon [pictured, above] started strong with their patented slow burn, and while the set had highlights (everything from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga seemed built for the hour at hand), the shadow of what Superchunk just executed loomed large. And Britt Daniels is way huge.
12:35 AM / The drapes were changed ahead of Belle & Sebastian taking the stage, the traditional black replaced with a much lovelier red and gold ensemble – a visual tweak that proved most refreshing. Fitting when one considers what the Scottish ensemble brings to the Matador stable; a cultures sense of total happy chill. Whether tossing autographed footballs or inviting up the liveliest for some onstage boogie, head Belle Stuart Murdoch [pictured, below] was perhaps the evening’s most outgoing host, helping the weary remember what they had gathered for; a party, fittingly wrapped up with a gorgeous rendition of “Sleep the Clock Around”. If only we could. Punk rock karaoke, anyone?
[Photos by COURTNEY BIGGS]