Josh Bis

After a discouraging report from Hole's "EndSession" early in the day, it seemed probable we'd be in for "Psycho Mess Courtney" at Hole's Mainstage performance at Bumbershoot on Sunday. (I think about half the crowd was hoping to gawk at a train wreck, while the other half was hoping they'd really rock.) But Hole nailed it. Courtney Love talked a bunch of crazy shit, of course, but it was brilliant, funny, sharply referential shit. And her singing voice was raw and powerful, cracked and damaged, able to turn from exhausted croak to purgative howl on a word. (Her four-piece backing band was just fine.) It was a reminder that before she was some tragic mess on Twitter, she was a wildly charismatic woman onstage—and she still can be.

The set was front-loaded with "Miss World" and "Violet," both of which were as powerful as ever. The last song they played before I split for Pavement at the Paramount was "Asking for It." The song sounded great, but I caught myself thinking about that version of the song that leaked to The End shortly after Kurt Cobain's suicide, the one that featured him singing backing vocals with his wife, sounding deadened yet somehow hopeful, and what a great duet they made. Love was the one who ended up living through it, of course, and if some small part of us wants to see her die onstage every night for that sin—for surviving—she didn't give us the petty schadenfreude thrill on Sunday; she killed.

I hear that Weezer, despite everything, put on a really fun set, but for me, skipping out on Bumbershoot to go see Pavement at the Paramount was a total no-brainer... I mean, for the banter alone.

Bob Nastanovich, spirit animal, played the affable goof to Stephen Malkmus's wry smart-ass, warming up the crowd, asking if we'd all been drinking whiskey, shouting out (Spiral Stairs' bar) Gainsbourg and the Emerald Downs racetrack (the Nast being a big fan of the races). Introducing the slow dance "Here," Nastanovich asked, "Do people still hold hands at shows?" Malkmus, without missing a beat, deadpanned, "Yeah, Sunny Day shows."

After singing "Kennel District," Spiral Stairs said something about a girl with a tattoo (in the audience? A tattoo of that song?), and Malkmus quipped, "A girl with a tattoo? That's a good idea for a book."

Beyond the banter, the band sounded simply outstanding. The sound was loud and clear and as good as I've ever heard it at the Paramount. The band was rough around all the right edges, jamming out sloppy on some songs, spiking others with unexpectedly amped-up riffs or little undercurrents of noise. The stage of the Paramount was decked out with what were basically giant strings of Christmas lights, as if they were specifically trying to re-create the experience of listening to Pavement records in your college dorm room. The set list stretched from "Frontwards" to "Spit on a Stranger," encompassing too many high points to list here. It was sweet.

I left the Paramount elated, singing the songs to myself on the walk home. I would see this reunion show over and over again. recommended