DAR Constitution Hall is a fairly big place. It's where they filmed that one Chris Rock special. Dignitaries oftentimes use the Constitution Hall stage for various events, and last night was no exception. A sold-out crowd was on hand for a Pixies show that promised Doolittle to be performed in it's entirety. For the sake of brevity, 1989's Doolittle is the best Pixies album although if I'm a few beers deep then I would make an argument for Come on Pilgrim.
It was like something out of a Michael Cera movie. After hastily parking, and then speed walking down a few blocks, Gary and I arrived. We ran up the stairs, and flicked our cigarettes out on the way. We handed the lady our tickets, and she said, "You're just in time. They're just starting." Our tickets said we were in section B, so we veered right and took the stair well at the end of the hall. The usher took our stubs, and lead us to our seats. He stopped at row D, and pointed at the two seats in the middle. There were two women sitting, but the usher insisted that these were our seats. When informed of this, the two women in question gave Gary and I the stinkeye, and then unfurled wrinkled pieces of paper that they swore were their tickets. The show had just started, and it was dark. Curiously, they didn't offer the usher a better look. We were standing in the middle of the stairwell for an awkward minute, and then the opening chords of "Debaser" rang out and the place went nuts. Instead of arguing with the wenches, we took a spot in the next section over.
The atmosphere was electric, even though just about everybody knew what the set-list was. The Pixies attract an interesting crowd. There were those who were actually listening to the band in the '80s, and there were those who started listening after they saw Fight Club. As opposed to some shows were everybody stands around with their arms crossed, only half of the crowd had arms crossed while the other half jumped around and threw their hands in the air. This was the Pixies, after all.
Seeing the Pixies live, I was torn by two thoughts. The first one being the unshakeable feeling that I was witnessing something akin to seeing the Beatles. That's not really even that much of a stretch. In the great pantheon of bands that I've seen, the Pixies are just about at the top in terms of grandeur, and more than that, they're basically the biggest American alternative band ever. In the grand scheme of things, they're up there with Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine as founding fathers of alt rock. Both Kurt Cobain and Thom Yorke have compared the Pixies to the Beatles anyway, so the fact that I'm doing it right now isn't such a stretch. Seriously though, hearing "I Bleed" and "Monkey Gone to Heaven" live in person was like an out of body experience. These are songs and words that I know intimately. When I was a delivery driver, my car only had a tape player. There was never more than one tape in my car at any given time because I never felt like buying more blanks. I would just record something new over what was already on there. Once, I recorded Wowee Zowee onto tape and for three months straight that's all I listened to while in the car. Another time, it was Doolittle side one and Surfer Rosa on side two. I listened to that one over and over again. "Gouge Away" was one of my most favorite songs at the moment. "Mr. Grieves" and "Crackity Jones" are two of the raddest and most fun songs ever to listen to while driving around. On this Monday night in the nation's capital, I heard them up close.
The other thought which I could not escape during the show, was the feeling that at any moment the band would completely self-destruct and the show would be over. This sentiment mostly has to do with the documentary film, loudQUIETloud- A Film About the Pixies. In that movie, the band is preparing for the first go round of the reunion tour but they just come across as a sad sack. The drummer has just lost his father, and responds by drinking tons of wine on camera and is presumably gobbling pills when the camera isn't rolling. There's one part where they're playing live, and the song ends but the drummer keeps going. He's in the midst of a serious drum solo, and everyone else is just looking at one another like, "What the fuck?" However, no one ever really confronts him about or anything like that. No one says anything. They just seem to have this incredibly tense relationship. It reminds me of this one pocket of my extended family that lives in New York. Even if there just sitting still, it just seems like everything is going to explode.
There really wasn't any reason to feel so concerned about the state of the Pixies. After a few songs, Kim told the crowd that they were halfway through side one. And then after a few more songs, she announced the end of side one. It was kind of funny, but one kind of got the impression that Black Francis wasn't so crazy about it. Every time she did it, he would gesture at her and then she would gesture back. It was hard to tell what they were talking about, and it's entirely possible that they were talking about something different, but given their history it's at least plausible that he was telling her to can it and get back to business. This was a super minor wrinkle though, and may have been constructed solely through paranoia.
It does bring up the subject of Kim Deal. I didn't really grow up in the '80s, so I never went through that phrase where bros fall in love with Kim. It was a little before my time. At the age when this happens, I was crushing on Gwen Stefani. ANYWAY, this happened to people and those people were at the show as well. Kim is also very popular among the ladies. I think it's some sort of female empowerment thing. Any girl's favorite Pixies song is "Gigantic". I had always had a hunch this was the case, and it was confirmed last night when they played it during the encore. All the women in that place started going bananas. All the cameras were focused on Kim, and her image covered the enormous screen behind the stage. Even those two skanks, who stole our seats, were dancing during that one. It was hard not to get excited. Kim had been so awesome all night already, but now she had everyone's attention. They had played "Where Is My Mind" right before, and that got a huge crowd response for obvious reasons, but when the opening notes of "Gigantic" started filling the auditorium and the gallery erupted it seemed like anything was possible. I even started to think that they would play "Ed is Dead" next.
In short, the show was excellent. The Pixies manage to sound as sharp live as they do on record. On a more personal note, I hadn't been this giddy at a show in quite some time.
Dancing the Manta Ray
Weird At My School
Wave of Mutilation
Here Comes Your Man
Monkey Gone to Heaven
La La Love You
(Writer's Note: I never knew the drummer sang on this one. After hearing this live, it's a new favorite which is silly since it's the Pixies and all the songs are great, but I really dug this one live.)
No. 13 Baby
There Goes My Gun
(Writer's Note: Apparently, this is the big track off the album. Everyone was singing along, and I got the impression it was because people generally love this song and not because the words were being shown on the screen behind the stage.)
Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)
(Writer's Note: I swear I heard someone boo when they started playing this since it sounds so much like the other "Wave of Mutilation". I'm fairly certain that it was only one person, and they were either 12 or drunk, so let's give them a pass, just this once.)
Into the White
Where Is My Mind?
(Writer's Note: I had wanted to hear "Ed is Dead", but I had no problem settling for this one.)