By Jacob Sprecher
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Pixies? Arguably the most influential rock ‘n’ roll outfit of the last 20 some-odd years, contending only with Fugazi and Nirvana, it really doesn’t matter how you want to classify them. “Alternative,” “indie” and “college rock” are just words and phrases, and when your tentacles have extended as far out into the musical strata as the Pixies’ have, classification is an afterthought.
With a fan base that ranges in age from 40-something to 14, the general excitement brimming in and around Oakland’s Fox Theater was plain to see and feel Monday last. Reuniting for a Doolittle tour (their most revered album, released in ‘89), it was comforting to know we minions would be treated to particular favorites that might not usually make the live cut.
But hold the phone: the Fox Theater. Recently remodeled and tricked out to the nines, the Fox is quite simply as fine and beautiful a venue you will ever come across, anywhere, period. With walls adorned by Eastern carvings and décor (as in gigantic golden Buddha statues) and house lighting that drifts through an assortment of neon glows to make the hexagon ceiling something akin to a mushroom trip—well—let’s put it this way: when finished with my gum mid-Pixie set, I took it out of my mouth and stuck it on top of my shoe.
Opening the night’s festivities was No Age, a two-piece of slapdash pop-punk based out of Los Angeles and inked to Sub Pop. With drummer Dean Allen Spunt singing lead, the duo was unable to grab hold of the audience, in large part due to lackluster stage presence. The limited banter which Spunt slung the crowd came off as pompous (bad casual swearing) and in the end No Age was overwhelmingly forgettable and better left
But what the hell did any of that matter? Thirty minutes later the Pixies hit stage affront a projection backdrop that woulda made Trent Reznor proud. With each member dressed in casual black, the gang of four launched straight into “Manta Ray” to begin a four-song block of Doolittle b-sides. Renown for live precision, it was obvious from the get go that the Pixies were still top of the pops, exemplified by Joey Santiago’s signature tone and Frank Black’s spot-on weasel screeching in “Bailey’s Walk.” When “Debaser” rolled around to kick off Doolittle proper, the crowd practically shat their pants with flagrant joy, hollering along with every “Ha ha” and “ho.” Further down the line Santiago made the switch to hollow body for “Here Comes Your Man,” a definite highlight and grand ol’ sing-along (damn if that chain-smoking Deal sister doesn’t lilt backups like an angel). The quirky “La La Love You” was also roundly nailed and gave due attention to drummer David Lovering, while “There Goes My Gun” rang eerily menacing.
Post-“Gouge Away” the Pixies took a not-so-final final bow, walking about the stage wishing well to the hordes. It’s worth noting that when you take in the physical appearance of each member, all notions that rock ‘n’ roll icons need in some way be glamorous are utterly slain. Frank Black fixed the leak under your sink, Joey Santiago coaches soccer down at Mid Valley High, Dave Lovering just did your taxes and Kim Deal is your mom.
With the crowd stomping the floor in unison and hooting like amphetamine-buzzed owls, the Pixies reappeared after a short break and brought forth another smattering of b-sides. “Wave of Mutilation (U.K. Surf)” stole this short set; the tune is so hypnotically dreamlike, it would not have surprised me one bit to find that warm feeling channeling through the building was actually mass urination resulting from the extreme state of shared relaxation. Exiting stage right after the quick two-song blast, the Pixies returned once more to serenade with a choice selection of non-Doolittle material. “Where Is My Mind?” came first, and oddly enough did not meet the uproarious response one might expect. Perhaps we’ve all heard that one a few too many times… But “Vamos” kicked things back into gear with its rollicking Spanish flavor before Kim sent everyone home with a smile and a hard-on by way of “Gigantic.”
Twenty-four songs and two encores? Here’s to the Pixies! What a big, big love indeed.
photo by Bill Fishkin