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Coachella 2010: Pavement slants and enchants

April 19, 2010 | 12:26 pm

The seminal indie rock band Pavement played close and tight on the main stage at Coachella on Sunday night. In fact, members played so close together and with such an easy intimacy that it felt as if they were playing on a small stage at a little club in the early 1990s, when the album "Slanted & Enchanted" drove a stake of joy through the heart of every emotional kid in high school or college with multiple piercings.

I was one of those kids, and that record is still the touchstone of my youth. I discovered it in the vast Tucson desert of my teens and played it over and over again during snowy Boston nights in college, pining away over some boy in some band that I would eventually spend the next 10 years of my life with.

So when I sat in the grass to watch Pavement at Coachella, more than just an hour of my life was at stake.  I was subjecting myself to a journey of reminiscence. And that, after all, is what the best music is about. Your past, and if you can still connect with it as you age, your future. 

Fortunately, Pavement, from the looks on the faces of the devoted crowd, was successful in helping its fans take that journey. Stephen Malkmus' lilting vocals modulated from high notes to low notes to a playful growl at the drop of a dime, while the guitars ripped and soared with tender sorrow, and when the band launched into the anthemic "Perfume-V," the audience was reminded why Pavement still matters: It makes us feel OK.

As the set concluded, Malkmus asked, "Are you happy to see Pavement again?" The crowd screamed the affirmative. "We're happy to see you," he replied. At that moment, the couple next to me grabbed one another around the waist and melted into a deep kiss.

They had first kissed, long ago, they said, to a Pavement song.

-- Jessica Gelt