Pixies >> The Masonic Auditorium is an impressive piece of architecture with its palatial marble columns and 12-foot statues. The center was built by the Freemasons half a century ago. The same Freemasons who some might say are really a secret society lurking in the shadows and conspiring to rule the world for the hundreds of years. Well I have uncovered the truth; it appears that the Freemasons have been secretly conspiring to rock the fuck out my ears by hosting the Pixies in their gorgeous auditorium.
We have to remember that Come On Pilgrim, their debut album, landed 27 years ago - when a gallon of gas was 89 cents, when there was 2.2 billion less people on earth, when The Simpsons premiered for the first time. In other words, it was a long fucking time ago. So long ago, that I had just barely figured out how to not piss myself in the middle of the night. The Pixies now are older, fatter, balder and greyer. Yet, as the set opens with the nuclear power chords of ‘U-Mass’ and as Frank Black shrieks ‘IT’S EDUCATIONAAALLL!’, you know that while decades have passed, they haven’t missed a beat. They are not just dialing this in, and that although they must be sick of playing these songs, they respect how much we love them.
Their set was 34 songs including encore. An average song length of like 2 minutes is why they are able to squeeze in so many tracks while still ending before sunrise. Having not revisited their catalog in some time, their set showcased how different each song was while still being undeniably a Pixies song. This is what makes Frank Black such an important figure in music history. He took his own alternative influences, warped in his endlessly malcontent, sexually frustrated mind and produced an iconic, singular sound that sparked the great alternative boom of the nineties. Kurt Cobain once explained ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’washim ‘trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily that I should have been in that band—or at least a Pixies cover band.’ The melancholy verse and furiously loud chorus of alternative music simply did not exist in popular music before the Pixies. They would take pop song structure, turn it on its head, play the quiet parts quieter and the louder parts louder. They would blend punk, indie guitar, velvet underground and surf music and cram all of it into a busy 2 minute track, which would be played over and over again for the next 20 years.
The lineup was noticeably less Kim Deal-y. Paz Lenchantin has been touring with the Pixies since last January. I must admit at first I was a bit skeptical, with the ah ah ahhh of ‘Gigantic’ and the ooo ooooo of ‘Where Is My Mind?’ being some of my favorite sounds ever, Paz did an amazing job. She didn’t try to take her own spin on such iconic vocals, instead remained wispy and ghostlike just like her predecessor. Joey Santiago was chilling as always, one of the world’s most underrated guitar players. He might not pump out 2000 notes a bar, but the way he bends, his command of tone, the efficiency of his rifts, and the way he uses dissonance makes him a true a master. David Lovering held the backbeat, a master of timing which is required by often stop/start/quiet/loud nature of a Pixies song. He had his time in the spotlight providing the lounge-y vocals to ‘La La Love You’. If you are not familiar with many songs and want to hear an obsessively catchy song that also makes you think what the fuck were they thinking? while listening to it, shake your butt to ‘La La Love You’.
The crowd spanned several generations. There were people my age who discovered The Pixies by sneaking into their older brothers rooms and rummaging through his CD tower, I clearly remember holding up Ice-T’s Body Count in one hand and Trompe Le Monde in the other, deciding which to listen to first. Needless to say, I am glad I picked the album with the fish eyes on it. There were aging Gen X-ers, some quietly and awkwardly dancing, some jumping straight up and down as high and as hard as their old knees could handle [I guess that’s what they did back then], an early 40’s couple next to me would grope like they were teenagers, remembering a time when mortgages, Pinot Grigio and 401k’s didn’t matter nearly as much as making out with that chick I just met who plays bass in a Husker Du cover band. They all were struggling to forget they sold out. There were young college kids connecting to the raw, uncompromising, and uninterested in record sales sound that must be such a novel concept for them. To my right was a young, 20-something Filipino kid, wearing a snapback, Jordan’s and big ass headphones, singing along with some rather deep Pixies cuts like ‘River Euphrates’. All of us clearly aware that we are seeing one of the most important rock bands to ever exist. Deep in the mosh pit, as young head-bangers thrashed and pushed their way to 20 year old surf punk songs played faster than death metal on an acoustic guitar, there is a single Gen X-er, starting to grey and having the time of his life jumping and shoving and remembering that although life slows down, priorities change and shit gets real; there was a time, maybe a long time ago, when you were cool, and cool shit happened, that the amazing memories that now seem like a story you once read or a TV show you say… that it all really happened…and to you no less.
Setlist: U-Mass * Debaser * River Euphrates * Something Against You * Hey * Wave Of Mutilation * Bagboy * Bone Machine * Crackity Jones * Magdalena 318 * Mr. Grieves * I've Been Tired * Brick Is Red * Nimrod's Son * Indie Cindy * Here Comes Your Man * La La Love You * Greens And Blues * Isla De Encanta * Rock Music * Distance Equals Rate Times Time * Cactus * What Goes Boom * Monkey Gone To Heaven * Caribou * Gouge Away * The Sad Punk * Tame * Vamos * Where Is My Mind? * ENCORE: Silver Snail * Ed Is Dead * The Holiday Song * Planet Sound