The Pixies

With your feet in the air and your head on the ground.

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For a band that may not be a household name, the Pixies’ influence has been far-reaching ever since Frank Black, Kim Deal, Joey Santiago, and David Lovering cut a swath through the scene in 1986. The Pixies are indubitable godfathers of alternative rock. Setting the stage for more famous super groups such as Nirvana and Radiohead, their combination of punk, pop, surf rock, and lyrical performance art that plays with Spanish as well as taboo subject material, the Pixies were a welcome addition for those tired of the “wake me up before you go-go” 80s and working class corporatism of Springsteen’s Born in the USA.

The Pixies were refreshingly dysfunctional, un-corporate, and their music has maintained a dynamism that stands up well over time. So, when the band abruptly decided to call it quits after five albums, there was a sense that they had more to do yet. The ‘92 Vancouver show was one of their casualities, on the eve of the breakup. Cancelling by fax no less. Nostalgia mixed with the newly disposable income of a demographic of thirty-somethings is a sure fire combination for second success, so bring on the Pixies! With their melodic primal screams, clawing riffs, and messed up lyrics, the world again needs the visceral rants of a band scorned.

It was a fortunate group indeed who managed to buy tickets in the three minutes that it took for them to sell out for all venues of the western Canadian leg of their ‘warm-up’ tour. The bonus: the band offered concert goers a copy of the night’s show on CD, fresh off the presses. Catering to the desires of a generation where instant gratification is mantra. If you listen closely enough, chances are you might identify your own primal screams amongst the cacophony of sounds.

The Pixies begin with the cheeky, “La La Love You”, only to be cut short by Black asking the audience for their approval to start again. The crowd loves this. They walk off stage, re-emerge, and before launching into the song for the second time, Kim Deal announces endearingly, “We’re the Pixies!” as though she had to remind herself of this fact and of this moment. An unforgettable sight is to witness a sea of people simultaneously mouthing the lyrics “I got no lips I got no tongue/Whatever I say is only spit”. It leaves you feeling somehow that you are a part of some inexplicable tribe. The show ends with “Into the White”, but the band, rather than walk off stage without an adieu to the crowd (as it seemed to do that long decade ago), remained, nodded and waved to their appreciative audience, genuinely grateful for all that had transpired. Our Pixies, all grown up.

Joey Santiago, the Pixies nimble-fingered guitarist, and his posse turn up at a local bar. Excited and happy from the pure joy just bestowed upon him by one of his favourite bands, brother Geoffrey proceeds to sit down with Joey (not recognizing that it is the Joey) and tells him all about the Pixies and how he should go and check them out the next night. “Yeah, I heard the Pixies were in town”, is Joey’s easy reply.

Sometime later, our playfully horror-stricken superfan realizes his mistake and attempts to explain himself to Joey. Joey does not give Geoffery much shrift though, and avoids him completely for the rest of the night. In an effort to console, I suggest to him that now that we are in our 30s, is it not infinitely cooler to be snubbed by a band like the Pixies, rather than be taken into the fold as a groupie? He agrees, quotes Frank Black in “Nimrod’s Song”, “The joke has come upon me”.

Photo courtesy of Chapman Baehler.


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August 1, 2004
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