Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Day Late - Volume III - Review of Last Week's Pixies "Doolittle" Show

There is a certain type of music fan for whom the Pixies are a heroic band.

After all, the Pixies were, by all accounts, outsiders. None of them are particularly good looking. None of them ever went out of their way to display a decent fashion sense. None of them have great hair. And their music was....a little weird.

Not totally weird, mind you. But weird enough to defy convention and make them inaccessible to those of us who like our hooks served up fresh and simple. And, thus, this made them perfect for the oddball kids who were perfectly comfortable to live at the fringe of college and high school norms.

So, yeah, I wasn't a huge Pixies fan back in the day, which shouldn't surprise anyone. I had no opinion of them, in fact, because they weren't really relevant to my existence.

It's not like I wasn't an outsider. I just wasn't a *cool* or *smart* or *quirky* outsider. I was just a kind of lame, middle-of-the-road outsider.

(Maybe that makes me a legitimate outsider-outsider. Hm....score one against the cool kids AND the smart kids!)

((I guess...))

I did catch onto the Pixies at some point, but it was really late. I mean... embarrassingly late.

I know this much -- My old band did cover "Gigantic" at a party some time in the late 1990's (hosted at the Ruppert's art gallery on 7th street - adjacent to the spot where the Warehouse Theatre would one day be, and across the street from a hole in the ground this is now the D.C. Convention Center). And I'm sure that I knew the melodies to "Debaser" and "Here Comes Your Man" for years before I knew the titles or the artists for either song.

But simply put, the Pixies were never on my radar until maybe six or seven years ago.

So, given those facts...and my general disdain for the "classic album as setlist" tour may seem surprising that I attended this show.

However, the Pixies are the favorite band of my girlfriend. And despite her best attempts to covert me, "Doolittle" really is the only album that ever stuck. Having struck out on tickets the last few times the Pixies reunion came to town, this seemed like a good choice for both of us.

And despite some reviews that seemed somewhat crotchety (as though the reviewers were bitter that people like me - the fans who were not TRUE fans back when it mattered - were getting this opportunity) I had a goddamned blast.

The seats were excellent - a box directly above the light booth - positioning us for excellent sound. (Yes, yes, I know that boxseats are not very punk rock).

With the band unexpectedly starting with a collection of b-sides, the crowd was understandably timid. But by the middle of the second tune, a lot of folks started losing their inhibitions, and I have to admit that it was a glorious thing to see. Folks were absolutely geeking OUT, and it was beautiful.

And after four tracks I'd never heard, Kim Deal finally began the opening to "Debaser". While I fully expected the place to go crazy, the mood was almost one of relief - as though the plane taking you to vacation had finally taken off after an unexpected delay. (Don't get me wrong, nobody thought that the b-sides were bad. But it was sort of like having a girl take you back to her place at the end of the night, only to suggest that you play with her cats for 20 minutes....its fun, but its a lot less fun than what you were expecting).

This entire mood changed with the emergence of track # 2 - the mighty "Tame", performed at an absolutely breakneck pace that highlighted the fact that David Lovering is one of the most underrated drummers out there. People were really coming to life, and that's the way it would stay for the remainder of the night.

Other highlights included "Here Comes Your Man" (a track I'd momentarily forgotten was on this album....i know i know, fuck you), "Hey" and "La La Love You". But really, it was more or less a buffet of whatever you liked best from the record, which I guess is the beauty of these album tours.

The other highlight was the sparse stage banter from Kim Deal, who may or may not have tumbled off the wagon. (She was drinking quite a bit from green glass bottles, and grinning madly throughout the show. I hope that she is in a happy place).

After a short encore that included an alternate take on "Wave of Mutilation" and "Into the White" the band left the stage only to reemerge to do a quick second set of material that I think was largely from "Surfer Rosa".

I must admit that I didn't know much of it, but it didn't really matter. Closing out the second set with "Where is My Mind" and "Giagantic" made up for it all.

(I should point out that the opening to "Where is My Mind" was a complete high point of the show - and arguably a high point of any live performance I've ever seen. All the house lights were up, and just about the whole damn place was singing along to Kim's ethereal "oooooh-ohhh" vocal. For a few days, just the memory gave me goosebumps. In fact, it still does. Sounds corny, but it was one of those live concert experiences that doesn't really translate on paper).

On the way back to the car, there was a lot of talk about people's memories of listening to old Pixies records back in the day. And it got me thinking:

It is an indisputable fact that I will never be able to go back in time and be the cool kid in high school with ridiculously awesome taste in music. I'll never be the smart, hip, geek-chic 19-year old, either. It just wasn't in the cards for me.

But when your girlfriend is so goddamned cute that the lighting guy has no problem handing over his copy of the setlist at the end of the night, I guess that means that life turned out ok anyway.

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