There’s something personable about witnessing the final show of a long, country-spanning tour. By the time Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks rolled into town to perform their final show with Speedy Ortiz at The Neptune Theatre, both bands exuded a feeling of palpable camaraderie. Partway through Speedy’s set, The Jicks’ Mike Clark equipped himself with a cowbell, thus transforming the group into the short-lived (but obvious fan-favorite) the Mike Clark 5. Though he only helped out on one track, the band’s hallmark “Taylor Swift,” the performance was lively and extra rambunctious as Clark jumped around the stage, stopping occasionally to tap on the cymbals.
Stephen Malkmus is the human embodiment of “chill,” strolling out with The Jicks, seeming so comfortable onstage he may as well have been performing in his room. As they started into “Cinnamon and Lesbians,” the crowd seemed to grow by the second, every person filled with outright excitement. They played an assortment of Jicks’ related tunes before Speedy joined them, forming yet another group called “Babement” in order to perform “In the Mouth the Desert,” originally by Malkmus’ old band Pavement. It’s unclear if Malkmus is a laidback dude, but allowing the up-and-coming band to tread on such hallowed ground is a testament to the trust between both groups. Despite touring for three months, they were doing something different while visibly having a great time, which reflected in the crowd’s mood, too.
After some recent trouble with crowd-related stupidity, this show was a major breath of fresh air. Even during the end of Speedy’s set, when some loser started booing them, he was met with at least a dozen boos by the people around him. When Babement finished their Pavement cover (?), and the same dude yelled profanity at Malkmus, he was miraculously ignored. Rather than engage, most likely putting a damper on the whole night, the band played louder and the crowd drowned him out by simply enjoying themselves. It took the slacker-rock ethos of an indie pioneer to drive home the importance of just letting negativity roll off your back and making the most of the situation, and they even made it look easy. Not since my first time witnessing the riff-worshipping japery of Diarrhea Planet have I been so enthralled by a rock band’s live performance.