Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Pixies at the Bowery Ballroom

Joey Santiago and Black Francis of the Pixies
The Pixies became perhaps the pioneer alternative rock band when formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1986. Vocalist/rhythm guitarist Black Francis (born Charles Thompson IV) and lead guitarist Joey Santiago met when they lived next to each other in a suite while attending the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Francis and Santiago spent 1984 jamming in a warehouse, with Francis composing songs on his acoustic guitar and writing lyrics on the subway train. They recruited bassist Kim Deal (although she had never played bass before) and drummer David Lovering and began playing bars in the Boston area by 1986. Four albums later, the Pixies spearheaded and greatly influenced the alternative rock boom of the 1990s but enjoyed only modest success in the United States; the band was more successful in the United Kingdom and Europe. The group disbanded in 1993 under acrimonious circumstances, but reunited in 2004. The group currently consists of Francis, Santiago, Lovering, and new addition Kim Shattuck, who replaced founding member Kim Deal this summer. The Pixies released its first new music in 22 years on September 3 with an EP entitled EP-1.

At the packed Bowery Ballroom tonight, the Pixies’ music blended a range of pop and rock sounds, including indie, noise, psychedelia, punk and surf rock. Hardly saying a word to the audience, the musicians did not hesitate to rip into song after song, making the one-hour concert seem much longer. The uniqueness of the vintage Pixies remained intact, a peculiar yin-yang dynamic where the songs were simultaneously laid back yet rocking. Francis sang passionately without brooding or shouting, while Santiago’s psychedelic garage-band guitar lines added a little sting to the songs. Verses often led to catchy, singalong verses, especially in “Where Is My Mind?” Mixing the dreamy with the sweaty, the live performance showed how the Pixies influenced the 1990s sound of Nirvana, Radiohead, Pavement and others, with the music sounding vital enough to likely influence future bands.

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