Shitty dancing, friendship, awkwardness, staring, confusion: Like a middle-school dance, these are the consistent themes of Pavement’s music videos. I know this because I watched them all, and then — four plastic dinosaurs, two yellow ponchos, and one soggy bowl of cereal later — I made one myself. Last week, reunited indie-rock legends Pavement, who have inadvertently amassed a rabid cult following in their 11-year absence, announced a contest alongside Jimmy Fallon: Submit a video of yourself playing guitar, win a chance to perform alongside Stephen Malkmus and friends on national television. I decided it would be a good idea to win.
Adhering to the judging criteria of “50% Originality and 50% Creativity,” I enlisted resident alt-rock expert, friend, and esteemed drummer Arian Murati to assist in the conception of a 90-second video showcasing my abilities on the guitar. Here are the initial ideas we came up with:
1) A Pavement fan from 1993 vs. one from 2010. Naturally, the 2010 fan is that guy who has debates about Pavement’s best album, even though the band broke up before he could grow armpit hair.
2) The world’s greatest, most hardcore Pavement cover band of 1998 makes a video advertisement in hopes of playing bar mitzvahs/birthday parties.
3) A disgruntled Guitar Center employee, who is frequently ridiculed for his Pavement obsession, gets his revenge by playing “Gold Soundz” on every amp and guitar he tests.
4)An intense Pavement fan goes into a coma sometime in 1993, misses the band’s show that night, and wakes up now thinking he’s still going to the same Pavement show.
Ultimately, we decided to do a variation of #2: After Weezer cover band Tired of Sexaholics cancels their gig at (presumably) a birthday party, the world’s greatest Pavement cover band, who “only plays parts of Pavement songs,” is hired to fill in. The band is called Segment. They are virgins.
Thus, to decide the songs we’d perform at our “concert,” an hour-long Pavement Video Analysis Session ensued. It is during this time that we made the list of Pavement tropes: shitty dancing, friendship, awkwardness, staring, and confusion. “I guess I can see why they became so popular,” remarked Arian while watching the Santa Claus-costumed band run around with bow and arrows in “the Gold Soundz clip.” “They kind of started that whole ‘being weird and comfortable with it’ thing.”
Segment was born out of the realization that Pavement songs require Stephen Malkmus to be good — few of their riffs are instantly recognizable without the disaffected, occasionally roused voice of their singer. So we yanked the intro from “Shady Lane,” the chorus from “Stereo,” and the verse from “Carrot Rope,” learned and practiced them for under an hour, and then drove to Rite Aid to buy milk, cereal, and two ponchos for our recording. We would be paying homage to the “Stereo” and “Carrot Rope” videos.
A Mom in line behind us at Rite Aid to pay for her four toilet scrubs: “So, you boys preparing for Hurricane Earl?”
Me: “Nah, we’re going to be famous. The ponchos are for a music-video competition.”
The Mom: “That’s very nice!”
Me: “We have a chance of performing with the band Pavement on national TV.”
The Mom: “Oh how nice, I haven’t heard of them…My daughter would know, she’s so creative, she once made this video for a contest to have her own spot on the Oprah channel, but then she lost. Good luck you two!”
And with The Mom’s blessing, we drove home and recorded. To introduce our video and replicate the gushing cereal close-ups in “Stereo,” I poured Annie’s Homegrown Bunny Love Cheerios knockoff cereal and milk all over my hands. There’s a talking squirrel in “Stereo,” but we only had Arian’s mute, plastic dinosaurs. They would have to do. Using the large, blue tarp discovered in my basement, we recreated a scene from “Carrot Rope” in which the band performs while wearing yellow ponchos in front of a blue tarp. “Hi, we’re Segment,” announced Arian. “We play parts of Pavement songs.”
Without further adieu, here is the result:
Perhaps Pavement will enjoy this video. Perhaps it will remind them of when they were young, running around, doing weird stuff, making weird faces. We may not have been able to grow armpit hairs when Pavement broke up, but man, “awkwardness” and “shitty dancing” are universal.