Pavement, Yo La Tengo Say Happy Birthday To Matador

Even Epitaph Records gets into the act to honor 10-year-old indie label.

NEW YORK — Matador Records' roster of guitar rockers,

hip-hop bands and electronic acts celebrated the label's 10th birthday

over the weekend with three days of stirring — and sometimes wild

— concerts at which the occasional ex-Matador band (Superchunk)

and the odd non-Matador band (the Rolling Stones) also were saluted.

The festival, at Irving Plaza, came to a chaotic end Saturday night

with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion leader Jon Spencer singing an

impromptu version of Superchunk's "Slack Motherfucker"

(RealAudio excerpt of Superchunk version)

with Yo La Tengo.

After that, Brett Gurewitz, head of Epitaph Records, another revered

indie label, came onstage, introduced himself as "Brett F---in' Gurewitz"

and roasted Matador bosses Gerard Cosloy ("a prick and a tastemaker")

and Chris Lombardi ("a notorious drunk"). Gurewitz, an ex-member of punk

band Bad Religion, jokingly claimed he intended to buy Matador, while

sharing an occasional swig on a bottle of gin with Lombardi.

But the real party came from the 17 sets of music over three nights.

Headlining sets were played by techno rocker Cornelius on Thursday,

indie-rock darlings Pavement on Friday and droning guitar rockers Yo

La Tengo on Saturday.

Most bands paid little overt homage to Matador and let their music do

the testifying. But rappers the Arsonists led Thursday's crowd in an

exuberant hip-hop chant of the company's name, which until recently

was associated mostly with guitar-rock bands such as Pavement —

still one of the label's flagship acts — and Superchunk, who

departed several years ago in favor of their own label, Merge.

Friday night was Pavement Night, as that's who most of the audience seemed

to be there to see; the show doubled as the opening of Pavement's U.S.

tour.

Pavement performed behind microphone stands bedecked with bright,

colorful lights. Percussionist Bob Nastanovich played court jester,

balancing the group's solid rock with trills, tambourines and pained

shrieks that echoed singer/guitarist Stephen Malkmus' lyrics and

general buffoonery.

Pavement played songs such as "The Hexx" (RealAudio

excerpt), from Terror Twilight (1999), but reached into

their catalog for two of the set's highlights: "Trigger Cut," from

Slanted and Enchanted (1992), and "Unfair," from Crooked Rain,

Crooked Rain (1994). During the latter, Nastanovich leaped from behind

his drum kit to the middle of the stage to help scream some of the lyrics.

During "Range Life," Malkmus changed a reference to the "Smashing

Pumpkins" to "Smashing Sh--heads."

Those who showed up late on Pavement Night missed funk-rockers Lynnfield

Pioneers, a set of ethereal pop-rock by Chavez, the incoherent raw rock

of Japanese band Guitar Wolf and Cat Power.

Playing before Pavement, Cat Power (just Chan Marshall and her electric

guitar) performed a typically emotive half-hour set, during which she was

forced to compete with loud audience murmuring. She began with a slow,

folksy version of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,"

sans chorus. Marshall also seamlessly flowed "You May Know Him," from

her album Moon Pix (1998), into part of the Phil Phillips '50s

R&B classic "Sea of Love." Her next album, she said earlier Friday, will

be a covers album.

Guitar Wolf singer/guitarist Seiji, clad, like the rest of the trio,

in a black leather jacket and black leather pants, primed the audience

by chugging most of a beer, hurling the rest at fans and standing atop

a stage monitor while raising his pinky and index finger in the rock

'n' roll salute.

With "rock 'n' roll" emblazoned on his guitar strap and in studs on

his belt, Seiji (who goes by only one name) careened around the stage,

screaming in Japanese and flailing away at his guitar on songs

including the title track from the 1999 album Jet Generation

(RealAudio excerpt).

At one point, Seiji brought 18-year-old New York University student Andy

Brower onstage and gave him his guitar. Seiji set an example for Brower

by jumping up in the air and playing air guitar, then he commanded the

teen to do the same. Brower, who said he had never played guitar before,

mostly banged on the open strings, but somehow it still sounded all right.

"I always wanted to be a rock star," Brower, a newly minted Guitar Wolf

fan, said later. He said he came for the full bill because, "Usually,

whatever they (Matador) put out is pretty cool."

Saturday's lineup included experimental guitar band Bardo Pond, Helium

singer Mary Timony, blues-rockers Come and Dutch electronic popster

Solex. The latter, whose new album, Pick Up, features the

Lombardi tribute "Chris the Birthday Boy," said what attracted her to

Matador is that the label's owners, Lombardi and Cosloy, double as its

A&R staff.

At another label, Solex (a.k.a. Elisabeth Esselink) said, "the A&R guy

quits or gets fired, and you're stuck on the label."

"There's a few goofs here and there," Come guitarist Chris Brokaw said,

"but that shows everyone they're a true indie punk label."

Yo La Tengo — the trio of Ira Kaplan (guitar), Georgia Hubley

(drums, keyboards) and James McNew (bass, keyboards) — gave the

celebration a fitting finish Saturday. Their set began and ended in

jams with a horn trio that included noted New York free-jazz

saxophonist Daniel Carter.

In between were plaintive love songs, such as "Nowhere Near" from

Painful (1993), rockers ("Tom Courtenay") and the usual offbeat

covers (including the Only Ones' "The Whole of the Law"). "Nowhere Near"

offered an effective clash of keyboard/vocal harmonies from Hubley and

Kaplan's strangled, atonal guitar massacre, a forceful juxtaposition

next to the love song's soft melody.

Yo La Tengo's encore featured a surprise — Spencer's take on "Slack

Motherfucker," during which he mostly wailed, flipped the bird and cursed

in his New York version of an Elvis Presley voice.

That was followed by Gurewitz's rant, after which a busty woman in a

tight-fitting leopard print outfit walked onstage, took off her skirt

and gave Lombardi a lap dance.

(Staff Writer Brian Hiatt and Contributing Editor Eric Arnum contributed

to this report.)