Wednesday night at the High Noon Saloon was a concert well worth remembering. I spent it alone, sucking on the straw of my Cherry Coke and watching other people wildly sway, bob and bang their heads to the good-hearted rock-and-roll of Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks (a cross between a Jagger and a Mick).
The opening band, Tyvek, could be the belligerent teenage love child of Sonic Youth and Blink-182. The leading man, Kevin Boyer, confidently sporting Napolean Dynamite-like, clear-framed glasses and tossed around his battered guitar like a confused drunk, often appearing to be on the verge of keeling over. The band has one homogenous sound: mad punk commentary. With only bass, drums and guitar at their disposal, the trio helps themselves to a creative sound and a love for banging drums (kudos to the talented Beren Ekine) and extended, ranting verses that I had absolutely no shot at understanding. Their time on stage was short and sweet, punctuated with exchanged glances and laughs between the band members.
A good 45 minutes passed after Tyvek left the stage before Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks came onstage. That time, spent halfheartedly chewing on ice cubes and listening to talk of Wisconsin politics emanate from the vast cloud of testosterone taking over the room, was entirely worth it.
Malkmus is a perfect human being. His general disposition lies somewhere between middle school rascal-ness and high school awkwardness: He’s dorky in a cool way, attractive in a greasy way and charismatic in a magical way. Onstage in his old knit man-sweater (Ragstock?), his hair either incredibly oily or wet, he seemed to be having a hell of a time. The band members act like old friends reunited for a garage jam session: They joke and banter onstage like it’s second nature.
Moving through the tracks of their new album, Wig Out at Jagbags, each of the Jicks adopts an onstage ease early on, in their own bubbles of euphoria, rocking out to music they clearly treasure and love. It’s something strange just to watch them, specifically in the instrumental portions of their songs, when they all phase out in whatever happy place means great rock-and-roll, good beer, great friends and a smiling audience.
I knew the band was something special when the simplistic chime of “Lariat” came over the audience. I’m not sure if it was the silly lyrics (“People look great when they shave, don’t they?) or the playful attitude of the band or simply the spirit of the warm Madison evening. But something clicked, and the rest of the night was complete plaid-wearing, indie music-loving, beer-spilling bliss.