I met Stephen Malkmus on Sunday night. Stephen Malkmus, Pavement frontman and songwriter who was the main reason I thought going through high school in the ’90s like Angela Chase would have been superior to my actual experience. And, ah, I mean, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain? Too good.
During our entire conversation I could not stop gaping at his open fly. Or how much he looked like Jeff Foxworthy.
After a wobbly, semi-coherent solo set at Eastern Michigan’s Pease Auditorium, Malkmus – along with Dave Eggers, Found magazine’s Davy Rothbart and a few semi-famous others – made his way to the Corner Brewery on Cross Street for 826michigan’s Revenge of the Bookeaters afterparty.
My friend and I walked in late after 15 minutes of beleaguered navigation through downtown Ypsilanti, right behind Malkmus in his tapered jeans, Mets cap and ironic facial hair. The indie EMU kids were already forming a small, electric wasp-cloud near him. We went in for the kill.
First of all, don’t be fooled by the sexy confidence that radiates from my headshot. I’m fairly awkward when it comes to meeting people, especially those who I know of and those who I admire. I can’t initiate conversation. I make lame one-liners and attempts at jokes. I fidget.
But chatting up Malkmus wasn’t something I anticipated as daunting. His earlier performance was awkward enough: Malkmus shuffled onstage with a mousy green scarf around his face, clutching an iBook (which he may or may not have read lyrics off of) and a paper plate (where he may or may not have written his set list). He warned the audience – comprised mostly of parents and 826 volunteers – that he would forget the words to a certain song; he did. He filled the dead space with slurry na-na-nas instead. Malkmus played Pavement favorites like “We Dance,” and rambled on about Raymond Carver, how 1989 is a very Carver time as is this year (true).
As he wandered offstage he told the crowd he’d run into them later, “over there,” perhaps “at a kegger because Haloween starts early in Ann Arbor.”
What the fuck.
I mean, I don’t think it’s possible to describe how bizarre the whole thing, and how incorrigibly stoned he seemed. It was crazy.
After my ungraceful approach, we ended up discussing Tigers and Mets baseball for some time, as well as the high points of Potbelly sandwiches (“the oil and vinegar is the best part”) and his view from his hotel room on the 14th floor of the Campus Inn. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting – for him to just spout a lot of indie rock verbiage, maybe. I tried to invite him to a party near my apartment; he asked if it was one of those rock-music frats. The other indie kids had gotten to him earlier, and already invited him elsewhere. There was a band playing, they told him. He told me he was worried it was one of those deals where douchebags would just bother him about indie rock.
– E-mail Chou at email@example.com.