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The Pixies! ‘Doolittle’ Lost Cities Tour
I wouldn’t risk my life to see just any band, but as I drove from Western Mass. through the snow and around the fallen trees that littered Springfield, the only feeling I was aware of was an incredible unworthiness (well—that and a worry I’d arrive late). Hordes of people who’d spent the angst of their adolescence jumping around to the Pixies’ then-new sound were beating down doors (websites), throwing hard-earned money at the prospect of seeing one of the defining sounds of their generation—and then there was me.
The Pixies first formed the year I was born (as opposed to when they formed the second time – the year I entered my senior year of highschool) and went, for many years, unappreciated by me except in the foundations of much of the music I did listen to. But I grew up, and came to appreciate the huge influence The Pixies had, so I was a more than a little awe-struck approaching the gig; the Atlantic at my back, rising and falling and rising the way the Pixies are so well known to have done in their music and their lives.
The Casino Ballroom at Hampton Beach (warning: not an actual casino) with its metal mesh ceiling, high stage, and background screen, was made to make bands to look larger than life. Getting in the door and seeing them, standing tall on a smoke-filled platform, I pushed my way through the room (a difficulty akin to being born), watching each of the band members, hoping to catch a glimpse of what they felt looking out at the lights and the arm-waving fans. I might have just been seeing what I wanted, but it really looked like they were enjoying themselves. First there was Joey Santiago, leaning back and playing with his always-cool air, as if he weren’t on a stage at all, but with friends in a small jam session.
Making my way across the room, I watched Francis Black pour all that he had into the mic, screaming ‘tame!’ to a group of young people who were leaning forward on the divide, banging their heads as if they didn’t have brains to damage (and I salute them for it).
David Lovering moved with an amazing speed and energy (as drummers do), quipping with Kim occasionally from the back between songs. Kim Deal was the last Pixie I came to. If there was any doubt that the others were having a good time, it couldn’t be said about her. She played and waved and led the between-song banter, asking the crowd for New Hampshire’s state motto, and taking mock guesses difficult to hear over the shouts of “live free or die!”
They played the Doolittle album straight through, and though it’s a good album, a feeling of disappointment stirred in my mind when Kim announced they’d finished side A, and the show was half over. It was a show I really wanted to last for a very long time.
Looking around about halfway through, I was surprised by how tame the gathering was. It had all the types: there was the man who shouted “fight!” (despite that there was no fight) then apologized vigorously for spilling beer on my suit coat (a quick way to start a fight,) and tried to wipe a neighbor’s leather jacket dry with his sleeve. There was an angry young woman who tried to push our photographer down a flight of stairs, and a small handful of people dancing, but most of the crowd stood, waved their arms, and bobbed their heads, and I couldn’t help but feel that the band was somehow cheated by the lack of energy.
Once the album’s second side was played, the band exited the stage, and the crowd, like a sick man realizing death is near, was whipped into a lively frenzy previously unseen, stomping and whistling and shouting. The band let this go on for some time, so that I began to doubt they’d play an encore, but at length they did. A cloud of smoke I have to think was accidental obscured my view of anyone but Joey Santiago as the band finished the Doolittle album. The fans’ energy, which had now finally reached shirt-throwing levels, continued on through the second encore.
The concert ended with a too-soon “Goodnight.”
Speaking with the denizens of the concert hall, many of whom loved this band back before my arms were strong enough to hold a guitar, I came to a late realization. I listened to the fans go on about the music and how much more amazing it was to see the Pixies live than to sit back at home and listen to the albums. As they talked, I knew that these people did sit back many evenings and let the Pixies take them away from their troubles, making any love of the Pixies I harbored look like that of someone who vaguely liked the soundtrack of Fight Club.
The Pixies haven’t come out with a new song since the early nineties, and their sound isn’t new anymore, but like so many things old and powerful, their effect is deep, and sound of their rising and falling will be relevant for a very long time.
Photos by Jay Remy