Some of the biggest names in the music industry are downright crazy about the Pixies, yet the band has never really enjoyed mainstream acceptance. Their unique brand of punk, pop and guitar rock almost single-handedly created the alternative music movement that flourished in the late 90s. They served as the blueprint for a host of new artists, including Nirvana.
“I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies,” Kurt Cobain once said.
The quiet/loud dynamic that has dominated alternative radio for the last 25 years can only be attributed to the Pixies, who helped bridge the gap between indie and mainstream.
Is it possible to be more underrated? Probably not.
From 1987 to 1991, the Pixies took their fans on a short yet intense ride, producing five albums in five years while touring non-stop, culminating in the infamous breakup that would last until 2003.
Unwilling to officially call it quits, they reintroduced themselves to fans from the old days and a new generation of devoted listeners during a 2004-2005 reunion tour, continuing to make appearances through 2006-2007. In 2009, the Pixies launched a tour celebrating the 20th Anniversary release of their second album, Doolittle. The Pixies gained momentum in 2013, and have been touring ever since.
Fast forward to The Agora Theatre in Cleveland, where a sold-out crowd came to hear the Pixies powerhouse through a 31-track spectacular set where lead singer Black Francis howled songs of incest, lust, biblical violence, death and UFOs. Backed by Joey Santiago (guitar), drummer David Lovering (drums) and bassist Paz Lenchantin, a perfect replacement for the indispensible Kim Deal who quit the band in 2013.
Black Francis, Courtesy John Randolph
The Pixies are known for coming out on stage, kicking ass, taking a bow and leaving the stage after the encore — all without uttering a single word to the audience. And that’s exactly what they did. Staying true to form, they winged the set list, opening up the show with the only planned song of the evening, "Wave of Mutilation,” igniting the crowd with screams and applause.
They performed tracks from their 2016 release, Head Carrier between dozens of classics such as “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Gouge Away,” "Cactus,” “No. 13, Baby” and “Where is My Mind.” Every song was applied in a raw, grungy, intense take-no-prisoners approach proving that the never self-conscious Frank Black learned how to scream before he learned how to sing. His vocal style and the band’s sound hasn’t changed over the years and that’s what makes them so great. The Pixies are non-pretentious in a way that seems natural and cool, making it hard to take your eyes off of them.
The evening brought together three generations of Pixies fans, many who have been followers since Surfer Rosa — and some who were introduced to them in the last few years through alternative radio and possibly while perusing through their parents' music collection. Most notable were the youngest fan base (18-25) whose favorite Pixies album is their latest release, Head Carrier — singing along to the lead single “Um Chagga Lagga,” “Classic Masher,” “Talent,” “Head Carrier,” and the encore, “Into The White.”
The Pixies don’t know owe anyone anything. Their commercial under-appreciation in the U.S. was criminal, but they will always continue to perform with a not giving a fuck attitude. The Pixies will continue playing it cool, entertaining and satisfying their cult following while gaining new fans along the way.
Heidi Ellen Robinson Fitzgerald - herfitzpr.net
About Jennifer Broderick
Jennifer Broderick photographs, and writes reviews and articles for NID Magazine.