Tag Archives: post-punk

Concert Review: Pixies

At long last, little earbuds, I write up my review of seeing the Pixies last month at the Tennessee Theatre. It was my second time seeing them live, and I must admit, it was a slight letdown.

When I saw the Pixies for the very first time at a music festival in Atlanta in 2005, it was amazing. Mind-blowing, even. One of the best concerts of my life. My friend and I went running to the “alternative” stage, having just caught the opening of Tom Petty at the “main” stage. (I love them both, but Pixies almost always wins out in my book, so we compromised by watching Tom do one song, then ran like our butts were on fire to make it back for the Pixies.) It began raining and I heard the opening strains of “Debaser” as we flung our bodies down the asphalt hill. Once at the stage the adrenaline never stopped. The Pixies sounded as fresh and incredible live as on any of their albums. Hearing so many beloved songs performed live was incredible. I thrashed and danced around so hard that I lost my star necklace. Basically, it was AWESOME. I knew that it would be hard to top that performance. But this was a smaller venue, and I procured kick-ass seats! And the Pixies were performing Doolittle in its entirety, one of my fav albums of all time! How could it be anything other than stupendous?

To begin with, the band just seemed kind of… tired. They’re now on the second year of their Doolittle Lost Cities tour (playing towns they’d never played before), and while I appreciate finally getting to see one of my favourite bands play so close to home, I was also hoping for more energy. Back in 2005 they were freshly reunited and not hemmed in by a set playlist. There was fire in them and in the air that night. Not so last November. At first ten minutes of avant guard footage that resembled German horror pornography was projected on a screen behind an empty stage. I get it, you’re post-punk and weird and cool, can we get on with the show now? After making the audience endure that, I figured it would all be worth it to hear the blazing opening strings of “Debaser” live once more. This was not to be the case. Once the strange film faded out, the band nonchalantly shuffled out onto the stage and picked up their instruments. “Hey, we’re gonna play a B-side now,” said Kim Deal. None of the three guys even looked at the audience. Then the Pixies proceeded to play four B-sides I’d never heard before.

"I like the pretty lights..."

My own energy was flagging by this point. I wanted to hear “Debaser,” damn it, not these watery renditions of songs that even the band seemed to hate listening to as they played. But at least Kim interacted with the audience. David Lovering made a few comments before “La La Love You,” but otherwise the guys couldn’t give a f**k. I get it, y’all are super hip and all, but I paid a truckload of money for my tickets, could you maybe acknowledge the audience just a teensy bit once in a while? Otherwise I might just as well have stayed home and played your albums really loudly. But Kim Deal was awesome. Loved her, loved her grey sweatshirt, loved her straggly hair, loved her whole onstage persona. As my older sister said, guys in alterna rock don’t have to dress up, why should she? And I agree.

The one, the only, Kim Deal. Always the best part of any Pixies concert.

FINALLY they launched into “Debaser” and the rest of Doolittle. They still seemed a bit lacking in the energy department, and this continued until they completed Doolittle and its subsequent singles. The music sounded good, they were just lacking in stage presence as a whole. Their show seemed to rely mostly on the huge screen behind them and the pre-filmed visuals they projected onto it. Then there were funky lights sometimes, and other times they performed half of their songs in the dark! If I wanted to watch weird videos set to Pixies songs, I’d just watch YouTube. I was there and I wanted to see their faces, not some art school project.

"Hey, who is that up on that darkened stage?" "Dunno. The Smiths, maybe?"

The crowd was an odd mix of people. There were old hippies who seemed intent on drinking and smoking pot (the latter of which is the dumbest idea ever in a theatre as small as the Tennessee, because you willbe caught), then there were the “free spirits” who insisted on belly dancing in the aisles and knocking into anyone and everyone in their vicinity, and finally there was the ever-present contingent of fist-pumping frat guys. I was pretty surprised to see the latter, but I guess in a town as football-heavy as Knoxville, if someone’s serving beer, frat guys will appear. I couldn’t help but giggle at one couple, though: a girl was pogoing and throwing the devil horns and rocking out, and her fratty-looking guy friend sat by gloomily playing on his phone the whole time.

Joey Santiago does some fancy guitar work as Black Francis smiles creepily. If he ever smiled like that at me, I'd just turn around and run.

Still, all of that aside, the Pixies are still the Pixies, even on an off day. It was great to see so many songs that I’ve loved for years performed live. I was completely stoked and revved up for “I Bleed” until a group of people with the opening band stood in the aisle directly in front of me and my sisters, blocking our view. However, I literally screamed so loud that they moved. (I don’t relish it, but I can be obnoxious if the occasion arises.) Once the band was through with Doolittle they played a couple more singles, including one that I didn’t know but was kind of cool because the lights were dimmed and the entire theatre was filled to the brim with fog. Then they played the slowed-down Pump Up The Volume version of “Wave of Mutilation,” which was a nice bonus, then they were done with all things Doolittle, and the band seemed as though they were shrugging off a heavy burden and breathing in huge gulps of fresh air. They launched into a buoyant version of “Caribou,” which was so cool to hear live, followed by the classic “Where Is My Mind?” during which the stage set-up actually enhanced the song with the swirling universe of stars in the darkened auditorium. They ended the show with “Gigantic,” which is as great a closing number as anything.

Not a scene from a horror movie, just a really cool concert moment.

Overall, I’m glad that I went to the concert. I could never have forgiven myself if the Pixies played my hometown and I didn’t go. And yet, I saw The Psychedelic Furs and Dolly Parton earlier this year, and both put on far better shows, in my opinion. Dolly did the incredible and seemingly impossible feat of filling the biggest stadium in Knoxville with sound and energy, so much so that it brought me to tears. She made it feel cozy and intimate as well as rollicking and welcome all at once. Dolly Parton is a phenomenal performer, and if you ever have the chance, definitely see her live! Equally as impressive were The Pychedelic Furs, at the other end of the spectrum, playing one of (if not the) smallest theatre venues in Knoxville. The show wasn’t even sold out, but the Furs made the entire place light up as they filled the room with vivacity and sexiness. Granted, Richard Butler is way sexier than Black Francis in his demeanor alone. (I always got the distinct impression that Black Francis is something of a dick.) However, the Furs were also on a single album tour, playing all of Talk Talk Talkplus their greatest hits, and they were amazing. Even the songs that I wasn’t familiar with sucked me right in. I don’t know if it’s because the Pixies have been on tour for so long or if the cold of Knoxville just took it out of them, but I was hoping for a bit more from one of my favourite bands of all time. Maybe they just need to break up for another decade, then reunite again. If that were to happen, I would recommend seeing the Pixies as soon as they got back together, before the weight of their own greatness drags them down once more.

"With your feet on the air and your head on the ground, try this trick and spin it, yeah!"

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The Sounds Of Inspiration, Part V: And Also The Trees

Today we come to the close of this series of inspirational music, little earbuds. Hopefully by this point your beloved Miss Pink has, well, a 50,000-word novel under her belt. Regardless of the outcome, I know that I have tried my best! When in need of a scene or a character or a feeling for my novel, you can be certain that I have turned to one or more of the songs that I’ve shared with you this past month. When it comes to today’s selection, there is no question that I listened to this band many times during my writing process, because And Also The Trees have been one of my favourite bands of all time since I first heard them on a mixed tape as a junior in high school. This song in particular means a great deal to me, and that’s the one that I’m sharing with you now. It’s called, “Belief in the Rose.”

And Also The Trees is a British band formed in 1979 (the same year I was born, by coincidence). Their moody and atmospheric albums didn’t make much of a splash in the US, which is a shame, but they did find some success in their native Europe. They formed a friendship with The Cure and even toured together, which sounds like my concert version of heaven. Both bands resonate with a gloomy post-punk sensibility, but And Also The Trees is its own wondrous kind of music. When I listen to them I’m right where they created this music, in a small village in Worcestershire, reveling in the gothic romance and myriad ghosts of that island nation. On the band’s own website they profess that “AATT were influenced almost exclusively by the landscape & history of the rural environment that surrounded them, an influence that has remained throughout their entire existence to this day.” It’s extraordinary how true that statement is, especially for anyone who has traveled through England. I can clearly see those grey skies and rolling hills whenever I play one of their albums, perhaps more so than with any other band that creates music about a specific place.

The album that this song is found on, Farewell to the Shade, is phenomenal. It positively drips with ambience and mood with its nods to classical literature and pagan landscapes. But this song, “Belief in the Rose,” is something that I find to be truly special. I have several scenes that come to mind when I hear its delicate waltz and deep, lilting vocals, but one in particular springs to mind, and it is my personal refuge. I connect to this song so deeply that I can’t even fully express in words what it means to me, but it’s on the level of past lives and remote dreams. I’ve tried writing specific stories while listening to “Belief in the Rose,” but it becomes too deeply personal for me to get much past the details. Still, I know that if my creative well has run dry, I can listen to this song and instantly be somewhere else. Anything that shakes you up and takes you out of the norm is good for creativity, and every now and then it’s good for the soul, too.

And that’s my series of inspirational songs! I hope that you’ve enjoyed them, and perhaps been inspired yourself. See you next week in real time again!

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The Sounds Of Inspiration, Part III: The Cure

The Cure are one of my favourite bands of all time, hands down, no question about it. Despite the fact that I don’t make a conscious effort to play them that often, they remain my most-listened-to band on Last.fm. I don’t even bother mentioning them whenever someone asks about my favourite music because they are so deeply ingrained in my psyche that I assume everyone can tell that I love them just by looking at me. And I, in turn, tend to assume that everyone else loves them, too. Who doesn’t love The Cure? Seriously? There are many songs from many different eras of their monumental career that inspire me, but no matter what mood I’m in, I always come back to “The Funeral Party.”

The title alone is terribly brooding and gothic, but when the actual music plays, something surprising comes through: hope. The slow, steady drums and simplistic waves of keyboard notes always put me in mind of a rainy day, but one of those rainy days where you can see pools of dull light breaking up the monotony of heavy grey clouds. I hear somber tranquility in the deliberate heartbeat and ghostly vocals of this song, and the juxtaposition of darkness and light inspires me to no end. “The Funeral Party” is from their seminal album Faith, an album admittedly filled with gloomy anthems ranging from the melancholy “All Cats Are Grey” to the echoing cries of “The Drowning Man.” On such an album, it’s funny that the brightest ray of light would come from a song with “funeral” in the title. Then again, you can’t have “funeral” without “f-u-n.”

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The Sounds Of Inspiration, Part II: New Order/Joy Division

Today’s musical nugget of inspiration comes from one of my favourite bands of all time, New Order. The song is called, “In A Lonely Place,” and I first heard it as a cover by Bush on the soundtrack to The Crow: City of Angels. I was instantly taken with the song, and used to play it over and over again. Later on I bought a collection of New Order songs and discovered that the original is even more haunting and beautiful.

I knew that New Order consisted of the remaining members of Joy Division after singer Ian Curtis’s tragic suicide, and I loved many songs by both bands. However, I was surprised when I discovered that “In A Lonely Place” was actually one of the last songs written by Joy Division before Ian’s death. Since the song’s artist was always listed as “New Order,” I never questioned its origins. Yet it makes sense that such a brooding, sad, and beautiful song had Ian Curtis’s hand in it. The lyrics speak to an aching loneliness which surely must have been surrounding Ian in his final days.

This song puts me in the right frame of mind for creative melancholy. It makes sense, as I am most productive when I’m “in a lonely place.” Thousands of stories and settings spring to mind whenever I hear the dark opening notes: love lost, love rekindled, darkened rooms, echoes at night, somber rituals, suffering and pain… this haunting melody leads me down so many different roads. It speaks of an emptiness that I immediately long to fill with my thoughts. When I am at a loss for words, or when I simply wish to be alone and meditating on my emotions, I reach out to this song and the lonely ghost of Ian Curtis for inspiration. Neither ever fails me.

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I Was A Short Fuse Burning All The Time

Earlier this year, around the month of January, my sisters found their Chinese zodiac predictions for the rest of the year while glancing through a magazine. Despite the questionable validity of the source of the information, both were impressed by its accuracy to describe how current events were shaping up for the both of them. Later they told me my prediction as well, that this year would be one in which I focus on my family. Then I discovered my current yearly prediction based on my birth chart, which described how I’ve been living with my head in the clouds for the past few years, but this year I would finally move back down and become grounded in reality. Depending upon what sort of person you are, that may or may not sound like an enticing prospect. Usually I freely and proudly admit to being a perpetual dreamer, but there is something to be said for having concrete resolutions and achieving one’s goals.

Interestingly enough, though it is only March, I have seen evidence of both of the above predictions coming to fruition. In fact, both can be illustrated in one decision which I made just this weekend: instead of taking my third yearly trip in a row to Germany for Wave Gotik Treffen, I am staying stateside this year and vacationing with my family. Since WGT is in June, a high travel month, instead of its usual date in May, airfare, hotels, and the like are extremely pricey. Usually I don’t really take such things into account. Not to say that I have the funds to ignore cost, oh no, quite the opposite. However, I’m not good with denying myself, or with thinking about future consequences. I am like the grasshopper who sings and dances all summer long without thinking about where I’ll find food in the cold winter months ahead. So to suddenly do so, to debate the wisdom of my choices and the possible future outcomes, is somewhat novel for me.

There will be sadness, to be sure, especially when WGT comes and so many of my friends are partying without me, watching a great deal of amazing bands perform, and dancing and drinking that wonderful “Viking’s Blood” mead. But saving for tomorrow is filling me with an odd and newfound satisfaction. I feel the promise of tomorrow outweighing the party of today, and it is strange. I almost feel, dare I say it, dear reader, like one of those fabled “adults” I keep hearing so much about. (Not that this feeling will last, so worry not for Miss Pink! One of my planned family excursions will be to Disney World, and I wear mouse ears and run eagerly from ride to ride with just as much [if not more] vigor and excitement than any child.)

All of this really has nothing to do with music, unless you think of all of the bands that I will not be seeing in concert. But this is my blog, and it is about how I connect to the world through music, and so as I debate about my decisions, this song has been running through my head all day:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

New Order really are one of the most amazing bands, in my opinion. They have a song appropriate for just about any mood, from the highest high to the lowest low. No offense to the late great Ian Curtis, but I actually prefer New Order to Joy Division (blasphemy, I know!). Joy Division are a seminal band, and they influenced some of my favourite artists currently producing music today. But I’ve never had the urge to roll down the windows while I’m driving on a warm sunny day and blast “She’s Lost Control.” But give me “Age Of Consent,” “Ceremony,” “Temptation,” or “True Faith,” and that’s a road trip scene straight from any good movie. As for this video’s song, “Regret,” I can still clearly remember the first time that I really listened to it. I was working at a terrible job that I hated, my worst job to date. I honestly felt like it was sucking my will to live. I was depressed and felt like my life was moving nowhere. Then I heard this song on my car’s stereo courtesy of a free CD that came with a music magazine I had purchased, and the lyrics moved me nearly to tears. My heart suddenly filled up with hope, and I knew deep down to my core that things would get better. And they did.

Anyway, that’s all that I have for today, dear reader. Growing up. Weird. I’ll try it for now, but I make no promises that it will last.

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