Friday, May 2, 2008

Bob Nastanovich, Rockist and Racing Legend

Tomorrow's the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby, which for a native Kentuckian is quite the deal. The other Rockists have professed their faith in the gospel of mint juleps, sun dresses, and betting on ponies, and we all try to go all out for the event.

But we're not the first Rockists to do so. Not hardly. In fact, each year when spring rolls around, and the rolling hills near my childhood home in Central Kentucky turn a deep kelly green, I'm reminded of a true Rockist and Horse Racing legend, Pavement's Bob Nastanovich. As many of you (hopefully) know, Bob was Pavement's "drummer" in their early stages, though his role may be best described alternately as "assistant time-keeper" and "resident court jester". I don't mean to make light of his musical contributions -- which included backup vox, auxillary percussion, and "effects-based keyboards" -- but I don't think I'm entirely inaccurate in saying that Pavement's music (though not its spirit) might not have been altered much in his absence.

Now all of us Rockists came into the game too late to ever see Pavement (a sad fact of history lamented to varying degrees by each of us), but concert footage and music videos seem to prove some initial hunches about Bob: he is freaking hilarious, and he takes his role as a sideman with the perfect mix of seriousness and irreverence. He'd woo-hoo like hell on stage and make the most out of banging the crap out of a tambourine -- think those guys in Arcade Fire without the pretense. And, if you're like me and I imagine many other not-so-musically inclined Rockists out there, this is the role you can see ourselves playing.

After Pavement broke up (someone give G.L. a tissue, or five), Bob tour managed Steve Malkmus and the Jicks for a while before settling on his other passion: horse racing. He became a jockey agent for the successful Greta Kuntzweiler, who unfortunately got convicted on meth charges last year and is on probation for a long time. He also started a website, Lonely on the Rail, as an avenue for his twin passions of racing and writing (the site's no longer up). He's done some breeding too from his home in Louisville, and right now he's working as a chart caller -- the guy in the press box who figures out the distance between horses during the race, for example -- for Equibase.

You all that have seen the Pavement doc Slow Century may recall the debaucherous Derby weekend the band spends at Nastanovich's place in Louisville, messing around with the fellow revelers and generally getting goofy in his house. It's the best of both worlds -- rockisting and horse racing. We Rockists will attempt similar and similarly-inspired feats tomorrow. Happy Derby Day, folks.

*To Mr. Nastanovich: if you would ever like to do an interview or -- even better -- come catch some races with us at Keeneland or Pimlico or wherever, please email us at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

y'all saw this, right?