Pavement, Slanted & Enchanted (1992)
It must suck to be the opening band. Few in the audience actually want you there; you're just delaying the appearance of the band we paid to see (and, for people my age, delaying bedtime). Over the years I've seen more opening bands than I can remember, some terrible, some good, occasionally some great ones. (The last concert I saw, original Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason's band performing early Floyd material -- which was great, by the way -- had some random British dude with an acoustic guitar playing somewhat cloying indie folk, like Billy Bragg without the politics or decent hooks; I went to hang out at the bar.)
But on very rare occasions, the opening act blows the headliner off the stage.
In '92, my friend Tom and I went to see Sonic Youth at the Warfield. And Sonic Youth was perfectly fine, though I don't remember the show that well. What I remember is this strange new band out of Stockton, California playing a loose, shambling opening set, noisy and discordant (like the headliners) but also full of great, almost poppy hooks, a weird cross between the Fall and R.E.M. and Echo & The Bunnymen. All helmed by the dry, aloof singer Stephen Malkmus.
I ran out the next morning to Aquarius Records, down the block from my Noe Valley apartment, and bought their recent release Slanted & Enchanted. And to this day it's pretty much a defining moment in 90s indie rock for me. So many great songs. The catchy 3-chord blast of opener "Summer Babe," the skewed indie pop of "Trigger Cut" and "In The Mouth a Desert" and "Loretta's Scars," the surprisingly sweet balladry of "Here," the insistent Fall-like rumble of "Two States." And sure, there are some noisy bits that came across better on stage, but even those contribute to a diverse and stunning whole.
Anyway, fair to say this one was a life-changer for me.
Here be "Here":
Here's a live run through "Trigger Cut":
And, hey, long as we're here, how about "Summer Babe" live:
Buy it on Amazon. (Though if you can find it at a reasonable price, you're far better served by the Deluxe Edition, which includes the equally essential Watery Domestic EP, a complete 1992 concert, and loads of b-sides and other odds & ends.)