Wednesday night I saw what is supposedly my favorite band, The Pixies. They performed the entirety of their album, Doolittle, at the Hollywood Palladium. My life is slightly intertwined with this band.
They broke up in 1992 after releasing five albums. In 1994, my friend, Anthony, lent me their last album, Trompe Le Monde. Fifteen is the perfect age to discover your favorite band. I obsessed over their music. A friend in one of my high school classes recorded a cassette for me with three of their albums on it. Dolittle, Surferrosa, and Come On, Pilgrim. I played that tape for over a decade through compact discs and mp3s. It lasted longer then most marriages.
I made friends in college based solely on their love of the band. Instead of discussing Hegel we spoke of the meaning of Gigantic. Could Kim Deal really be so crass as to sing so sweetly about an erection?
Fight Club became my favorite movie in part because as civilization is blowing up and Ed Norton says to Marla, “You met me at a very strange time in my life.” The Pixies’ Where is my Mind faded on to the soundtrack.
Frank Black, the rotund lead singer of the band had a solo career and seemed to shudder at the thought of a reunion. I saw him live many times. Always holding my breath that he might sing a song from our past. One time I saw him in Palo Alto. The venue was Cubberley Auditorium, an old high school auditorium that booked bands. There were about 200 people there and afterwards he signed autographs. I felt bold and asked him to have some drinks with me and my friends. He refused saying he’d already done his drinking.
Afterwards I was walking to my car through the corridor. I heard the footsteps of a man behind me. This was like a surreal dream. I was walking past rows of lockers in an empty hallway with Frank Black. I had to say something. I said the first thing that came to my mind. “What’s your secret?”
He looked at me with grave concern, “What do you mean?”
“How do you write these great songs. I mean they’re from like right out of my head.” He let me keep rambling without saying a word. I obliged. “Is it from hard living? Is it from easy living?”
He laughed at this and thanked me for coming to the show. I got to my car and backed out of the dirt parking lot. I saw him getting things out of his gas guzzling Cadillac and I guess I stared for a moment too long because he had the look of a man scared he was dealing with a stalker. I drove away from that parking lot, which a couple months later would be the setting of another momentous moment in my life.
In 2004 there were rumors the Pixies would be reuniting. The rumors proved true. They played at Coachella out in Palm Springs. Anthony flew out for the momentous occasion. Somehow when they got on stage we were split up, but I was able to share the moment with my friend Kevin, who drove down from San Francisco. From the opening drums of Bone Machine I was enchanted. The only other event in my life that lived up to the unrealistically high expectations I created was losing my virginity.
On the ensuing tour I saw them four more times. And now I got to see them again.
In August as an appetizer Anthony and I went to see Frank Black perform a solo show. It was just him and his guitar. From time to time he bantered with the audience. Frank recognized his asides were second rate and apologized for no anecdotes coming to mind.
Anthony and I have an inside joke that during the band’s downtime Frank and Kim Deal engage in pie eating contests. This dwindles into us doing imitations of Frank Black eating pie.
We joked amongst ourselves that he should talk about pie. But maybe we did say it loudly because then he did in fact start talking about pie.
“I was in Kansas and the waitress asked us if we’d like dessert. We asked if she had pie. She said, ‘We have buttloads of pie’.” For him the punchline was that the waitress used the word, buttloads. For us it was the fact that this round, hairless man somehow has a magical, musical portal into our minds.