Saturday, September 11, 2010

Are The Pixies Our Beatles? Or How One Band Might Be That Which Makes Us Look Good

There are, essentially, two kinds of people in this world: those who like music and those who LIKE MUSIC*. The first group is comprised mostly of those who will listen to whatever is available with interest and occasionally buy an album or attend a concert if the band or artist is catchy enough. These are the sorts of folks who make things like top 40 radio and easy listening possible. They want something that is catchy and fun and blends well into the background. Most of the American population is comprised of such people so, obviously, they are not the focus of this post. The second group, those who LOVE MUSIC with 10,000 exclamation marks, are the sorts of people you see twitching outside the record store at 10:59am on new release Tuesdays and overhear bragging about that totally sick super secret show they managed to see one time by accident. These people don't have favorite bands so much as obsessions which can be categorized, sub categorized and cataloged into top and bottom fives by theme, subject, genre, sub genre and key. I find those in the latter group to be fascinating and often quite pretty**, but that is also not what this post is about. This post is about the fact that for most music geeks, there are at least one or two bands that stick with them for their entire lifetime. Despite their fickle, new music seeking, nature, every music geek I know has some perennial obsessions which follow them everywhere.

For me, The Pixies are one of those bands. I can't even remember when I first became aware of them, but it seems as though they have always been there, rotating perpetually through my internal soundtrack and serving as a kind of musical reference point in my personal history. They have, at times, been a source of awe, a source of pleasure and a source of release. What they have never been, until this week, is a band that I have been successful at seeing live. My inability to attend a Pixies show was not for lack of desire or lack of trying, but it just never seemed to work out. Until, that is, a The Dead Guy mentioned to me in passing one night that he wished the Pixies would get back together and tour again (along with Primus and Tool). I laughed at the idea that night and was shocked the next morning to find an email from ticketmaster announcing that not only had The Pixies reformed for a tour, but that tickets for the local show were going on sale in 25 minutes. This news was red alert important to me. So much so that I bolted through the house in my underwear to secure a credit card with which to purchase tickets and purchase them I did.

In the weeks leading up to the show I became increasingly excited and concerned. What if they were too old to be good? What if my seats sucked? What if I was eaten by a dingo on the way to the show? Alas, none of those things happened and I was treated to what was probably one of the best shows of my life. I should point out, however, that they are indeed old, but they definitely do not suck. They don't jump around a lot of stage or engage in wild theatrics, but that's kind of what we all love the Pixies for anyway, right? I should also point out that none of the seats at the Tower are bad, famously so, and that ours were especially not bad. And finally, in the disclaimers section, I need to state that, as far as I know, there are no dingos in North America, so that was never really a true threat.

Anyway, so there I was, seated primly in my big girl seat in a grown up theater and commenting to my partner that I felt so sophisticated seeing a band in a place like that, when stage lit up and Salvador Dali's film Un Chien Andalou began to play at alternating speeds and resolutions as the house lights went down. After 10 minute or so of eye ball slicing and attempted molestations, the screen went blank, the room went quiet and then exploded and the Pixies were on stage. It was at this moment that I realized just how lucky I was to be there, seeing a band that I thought I would never get to see.

In keeping with tradition, I won't say much about the set, except that anyone seeing the tour can expect to hear more than just songs from Dolittle, despite the fact that the tour is billed as The Pixies Perform Doolittle. Instead, I will say that I had a pretty emotional reaction to the show. Basically, this all started two nights before, when I saw the Breeders and was sent into a spiral of gratitude at how far removed I have become from the insecure and overweight 13 year old girl I once was. With the Pixies, I could not help but think about how many times they provided a soundtrack for the adventures and experiences that have helped me to become who I am. They have been with me through prom night disasters, gonzo like explorations of the American highway system, squat house sleepovers and a million awkward, clumsy, and downright embarrassing moments. Their albums and singles have been played, discussed and argued about over beers, in bars, in the woods, at parties and over some elicit substances for nearly 20 years.

It's this kind of longevity that makes them true giants in the cluttered landscape of modern rock fandom. As our generation moves as awkwardly and clumsily through adulthood as we did through adolescence, I can not help but think that The Pixies are, perhaps, one of those bands that will end up like The Beatles or Jimi Hendrix to baby boomers in that they will always be on the radar of our consciousness and the consciousness of those generations which come after us. Our media is cluttered with articles and soundbites about the failure of generations X and Y to move forward, settle down, settle in and grow up. Perhaps, and I truly hope I am right here, we will one day look back on The Pixies*** as one of those bands which are so embedded into our culture that everyone grows up with some knowledge of them, however peripheral, because in a cultural climate which is full of disposable icons and dissipating fads, they deliver something which, I think, all human beings are hungry for: a musical reference point for that which is good about us when most of focus is on that which has failed.

-Shannon (Whose Manta Ray is Alright)

*There is, admittedly a small subset of this group which is comprised of people who claim not to like music at all. They are obviously robots and not to be trusted.

**I may or may not be referring to myself here.

***See Also: REM.

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