The Pixies, Best Coast Bayou Music Center February 27, 2014
Thursday night at Bayou Music Center, The Pixies came out swinging. After a quick wave to the audience, it was head-first into "Bone Machine" and "Wave of Mutilation" and other fast, noisy songs that get the blood moving. It was such a roaring beginning that it seemed to take the crowd by surprise; you could feel that nervous energy that happens when a large group of people are waiting for someone to make the first move that leads to mosh pit.
It was an unexpected beginning from a band that formed almost 30 years ago and whose members' average age hovers around 49 at the present. Or maybe it was exactly the type of Pixies opening you hope for. Expectations are a funny thing.
Whereever you fall on the expectation spectrum, it was an impressive way to kick off a show.
Before The Pixies began their aural assault, the night started with a very strong set by Best Coast. If ever there was a band built for outdoor festivals, it would be Best Coast; to watch the band play their brand of California-beach pop/rock indoors at night seems almost wrong.
Except it's not wrong at all; it's actually really great. Rather than focus on the experience of hearing these breezy songs drift over you on a hot summer day, you can focus on just how well-written they are, and how good the band is at performing them.
The songs may be light musically -- you won't even notice the lack of bass on some tracks -- but they're catchy and they never overstay their welcome to become annoyingly catchy. As their set went on, the crowd seemed to get more in to their performance, the band gaining more cheers every few songs. They made for a nice quiet to The Pixies loud.
The Pixies look old, but at the same time they really don't; perhaps "seasoned" would be a better word. Looks aside, the reality is that when they step up to their instruments the age fades away and what you're left with is a group of musicians who can absolutely deliver their work. While the show may not have been flawless, the band sounded tight, regularly impressing with the amount of energy they brought to the stage.
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Black Francis can still belt it out, his screams sounding downright primal at times. When the band launched into "Crackity Jones" he looked more demon than man. By that point the crowd had finally come around, bodies bouncing off each other close to the stage, other bodies trying to push their way forward to get in to the melee.
The Pixies currently on the road have an interesting chemistry. For one thing, they actually look like they're having fun on stage. They react to each other in ways that make it easy to believe that they might actually enjoy each other's company and aren't just touring to make a buck. People smile on stage. It's rather refreshing from previous tours where the body language made it feel like things might fall apart at a moment's notice.
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Touring bassist Paz Lenchantin is a solid addition to the group. Musically she's right in step with the rest of the band, but she brings an infectious happiness, for lack of a better word, to the proceedings. She radiates as if she's stumbled in to a dream gig.
It was a dense show, pushing somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 songs. The songs may have slowed down from time to time, but the energy from the band never seemed to drop. If anything, as the show neared its conclusion, it felt like it was the crowd that was running on empty. But hey, better a crowd exhausted from having a good time than one that's apathetic and chatty.
As a band gets older, the line between "being a band" and "being a nostalgia act" gets thinner and thinner. Some bands keep pumping out new releases as an excuse to go out on the road, and some put out new music because that's what musicians do. Some may argue that the Pixies need to hang it up, but it's hard to watch them in concert and think they've become the stereotypical "classic rock" act.
Is EP1 as strong as Doolittle? That's for you to decide. But if you're are or have ever been a fan of The Pixies, don't hesitate to give their show a shot. They're still very interested in "being a band," and they've got the energy to back it up.
Personal Bias: Although I did shell out the money to catch the Pixies on the Doolittle anniversary tour, this was really an excuse to go see Best Coast.
The Crowd: Skewed older, very loud when they knew the words, respectful when they didn't. A surprising number of leather jackets.
Overheard in the Crowd: "When did Kim Deal get so hot?"
Random Notebook Dump: My +1 (Happy Birthday!) and I spent part of the show being amused by the person next to us who clearly was on that Molly. Imagine every silly rave dance you've ever seen in the club, but done to Pixies songs. He almost cried when they lights started flashing different colors during one of the songs. Who would have guessed that a Pixies show would be the first time I saw someone who I absolutely knew was rolling?
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