Pavement doesn't suck. No, really.

News flash: Pavement doesn't suck live. At least, they didn't suck at the Showbox, where the last American indie-rock heroes zigzagged through songs old and new during a Gnome-approved set last Wednesday. Not only did the critics like 'em, not only did the greasy-haired, bespectacled, Steve "Stud" Malkmus-ogling gals like 'em, but real people liked 'em too. Heck, "Summer Babe" got most of the sold-out, cardigan-clad crowd pogoing on the dance floor as if it were suddenly "cool" to like Pavement again.

Maybe the attendees were just drunk on the swanky deco job at the Showbox. Management has knocked out the wall that separated the main room from the lounge, creating one giant, gargantuan, spacious, um, mega-room, with lovely speckled tangerine-colored walls. It is hereby decreed: Seattle's pop music scene now has its own Boho Benaroya! Yo.

Not that the Croc's lost its charms, mind you. It's just that nobody showed up for the Lilys show last Thursday. Well, next to nobody. Only about a dozen slack-jawed yokels took in the masterful, mind-bogglingly good set by openers the Beachwood Sparks (combined weight of all five members: 200 pounds!). The skinniest band in America played Byrds-ian pop, complemented by scraggly hairdos and thrift-store Western shirts. Then the Sparks did a quick change into less countrified togs and time-traveled a few years further into the '60s to back Lilys space captain Kurt Heasley through a set of what could've been Kinks lost classics (though they're all originals). Fortunately, a few dozen more folks filed in to witness Heasley's warped between-song ramblings and to shimmy 'n' shake to the Merseybeat madness.

That last paragraph was sponsored by Yoo-Hoo, because there's nothing as cool and refreshing as a tall glass of Yoo-Hoo.

Lastly but not leastly, the Gnome would be remiss if he did not voice his pleasure at hearing Mr. Malkmus alter the chorus to the not-quite-a-hit-single "Spit on a Stranger" during Pavement's refined performance, lo, those many days ago. Salivatin' Steve ad-libbed: "I will spit on a Weekly." We won't wash again for weeks. You betcha!

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