Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks / Pinetop Seven : Vic Theatre, Chicago

Steve Malkmus plays an hour-and-a-half set that can be best summed up as indie-pop play-school...

An interesting conundrum is presented to Pavement fans tonight: attend this show by Stephen Malkmus, the band’s ex-lead singer, or skip across town to the Double Door club and seePreston School Of Industry, the project of Malkmus‘ former bandmate Scott Kannberg (a.k.a. Spiral Stairs). The Double Door is offering two bucks off entry with a Malkmusticket stub, so apparently fans don’t have to make a tough decision. But more on that later.

Pinetop Seven are up first tonight. The Chicago-based collective boast a rotating line-up of musicians that create cinematic sounds in the Handsome Family / Calexico vein. Their set is plagued by sound problems, so they hustle through eight songs in just 30 minutes. A shame considering that the band needs time to properly ripen before listeners can fully appreciate their beautifully drawn-out tunes.

By the time Pavement member-turned Malkmustour manager, Bob Nastanovich comes onstage to introduce the band, the crowd has filled-in considerably.

Malkmus bounds puppy-like to a mic adorned with a large white silk flower and launches into a hour-and-a-half set that can be best summed up as indie-pop play-school.

So acute is the silly, high-five-slapping stage antics between Malkmus and his bandmates, one wonders if they notice the crowd at all? ButMalkmus, a consummate song and dance man, is just as playful with his fans.

He treats them to animated versions of Lou Reed ‘s ‘Satellite of Love’ drumming while drummer John Moen sings, and Led Zeppelin’s ‘What is And What Shall Never Be’, plus a half-assed attempt at America ‘s ‘Muskrat Love’

There are plenty of his own songs too, notably Technicolor renditions of ‘Phantasies’ and ‘Vague Space’ , an encore with one of 2001’s best ditties, ‘Jenny & the Ess-dog’, and a searing visit to ‘Church on White’.

Malkmus dedicates ‘Church on White’ to Preston School Of Industry and urges his fans to go check out the band’s show later (So Steve does this mean you’ll be going as well?). After he and his Jicks have left the stage, more than one kid in a well worn ‘Slanted and Enchanted’ T-shirt is seen sprinting toward the exit.

Scott Henkemeyer