Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net
The Pixies' Black Francis. Credit: Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net

When the Pixies show at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace went on sale a couple of weeks ago, the excitement of local music fans was evident: The show sold out quickly.

When the doors opened for the show on Thursday, April 17, and the people began flooding in, attendees could feel that excitement: Pixies fans spanned every age range and every walk of life, including punk rockers, hippies and even a few Rastafarians.

The opening act, Syd Arthur—a band from the United Kingdom—was a little hard to place, genre-wise. The sound reminded of Destroyer, who use some jazz elements in combination with psychedelic folk and rock. The band suffered through technical issues during their set, as the drummer kept pointing to microphones in between songs while trying to catch the eye of the sound technician. During the end of a songs, the sound technician actually pushed his way to the front of the stage to get a closer look at the setup. Nonetheless, Syd Arthur put on a good show.

During the setup for the Pixies, the band appeared on the side of the stage as the crew made the final preparations—and it became evident the band had no setlist. The group has been through some recent turmoil within the last year, with original bassist Kim Deal leaving, and replacement bassist Kim Shattuck being terminated; Paz Lenchantin is now playing bass. A bass-line cheat sheet was placed next to her pedal box.

The minute the Pixies took the stage, and the illuminated sign in the background lit up, the sold-out crowd came alive and were ready to sing along with frontman Black Francis, who seems even more intense live than he does on video. When the band played “Bone Machine,” from the 1988 debut album Surfer Rosa, it was obvious: This was going to be a good night to see the Pixies.

It was great to experience a Pixies live tradition: During “Vamos,” guitarist Joey Santiago put on a show for the audience as Paz pounded out the bass line, and David Lovering kept the beat. Santiago held up his guitar as if it were a rifle, put it down on the stage and leaned on the top of the guitar neck, inviting the audience to take photos.

The first half of the nearly two-hour performance included songs such as “U-Mass,” “Isla De Encanta,” “Bag Boy,” “Caribou,” “Broken Face” and the title track from the band’s upcoming album—the first new Pixies album in 23 years—“Indie Cindy.” When they played their classic track “Nimrod’s Song,” some of the people in the crowd looked as if they wanted to start a mosh pit. “Distance Equals Rate Times Time” got a similar reaction.

The Pixies, thanks in large part to Black Francis, really know how to work an audience. He sang in different languages, and always seemed to know when to play slower or speed things up. A Pixies live show proves how well-crafted and creative of a unit the band is.

Toward the end of the show, the band played their cover of “In Heaven” (Lady in the Radiator Song) from the David Lynch movie Eraserhead. It felt a little eerie—which makes sense, since it’s a creepy song in general.

Of course, “Where Is My Mind” was played toward the end of the set, before the band decided to do what I’ve heard Eddie Spaghetti of the Supersuckers refers to as a “fake encore”: The band members acted as if they were going to leave the stage, and then decided to stick around. They closed with an energetic performance of “Planet of Sound” that got a few people near the front of the stage roughhousing with each other.

Various local and semi-local musicians were at the show, such as Jerry O’Neill, the former drummer of Voodoo Glow Skulls; Shawn Mafia from Shawn Mafia and the 10-Cent Thrills; and Travis Rockwell from the Hellions.

What was Rockwell’s perspective of the Pixies? “What’s not to like with the Pixies?” he said. “There’s a lot of heart in these songs.”

Photos byGuillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net

Brian Blueskye

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Brian Blueskye moved to the Coachella Valley in 2005. He was the assistant editor and staff writer for the Coachella Valley Independent from 2013 to 2019. He is currently the...