The Pixies Are Dead

Jeff points to the sad honest truth. The Pixies are sellouts. Big time. Their ticket prices are aprocryphal (anywhere from $35-60 a show). And this concert rider illustrates that the Pixies are no different from any other bloated band making the rounds.

“Veggie platter with hummous and sour cream dip?” Exactly 48 bottles of non-alcoholic beer? Fuck you, Black Francis. Eat me, Kim Deal.

I have, in the face of several opportunities presented to me, resisted the impulse to plop down such a staggering sum of cash for a Pixies show in 2004 and 2005. It hasn’t been easy. But now, after this unexpected hummous news, it’s a slam dunk decision. The Pixies are dead to me.

It would be one thing if the Pixies were honest about their avarice. Perhaps calling this “The Pixies Retirement Fund Tour” would come closer to the truth. That’s essentially the approach the Sex Pistols took a few years ago and I resepcted John Lydon for his unapologetic and forthright commercialism. Which was more than you can say for most reunions that hide behind the shady veneer of “We’re getting together just for old time’s sake!”

But if you were of a certain age about fifteen years ago, the Pixies encompassed a sound and a feeling that was uncompromising, independent, and sui generis. The Pixies demonstrated that goofiness and rage and bitterness and carrying on with a strange optimism could stem from a carefully produced guitar sound that nobody else cutting records back then came close to — a sound that, in fact, Kurt Cobain unapologetically pilfered.

They built up their audience with impressionable listeners like me, who lapped up Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, knowing that what was on these albums was genuine and unadulterated. So in the Pixies’ case, it’s especially a shame that these days, the Pixies are more about replaying the greatest hits and cashing in, rather than how it used to be: giving a good show and evolving their sound.

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10 Comments

  1. the 2004 tour WAS informally but publically called “the pixies sell out” (some of the t-shirts even said so) and in pretty much every interview they’ve done, they’ve clearly come out and said they did it for the money. They’re having fun and rocking hard, and if every band was as honest and self-mocking as the Pixies, the world would be a much better place. They’ve recieved almost unanimously positive reviews for the shows from fans and critics, and I, too resisted at first and passed on all five of their 1994 shows in Chicago, but I finally cracked and had the pleasure of seeing them a couple times this year (as well as in ’89, and ’92). They’re maybe not in 1989 form, but the two shows I saw this year were both tighter and more fun than the Trompe-Le-Monde era show I saw. If remaining sober during their shows means they’ll continue getting along and playing together for years to come, that’s a good enough reason for me. Rants are fun, but do a *little* research first, OK?

  2. Statistically improbable phrase: unexpected hummous news

  3. Brian: All fine and dandy. Their musicianship was never under question (although their stage antics of throwing instruments when someone fucked up have mellowed down considerably). But let’s take a look at recent Pixies interviews:

    MTV: no mention of selling out.

    Salon: Evades question pertaining to lucre, no mention of selling out.

    Live Daily: No mention of selling out.

    Austin City Limits: No mention of selling out.

    XFM Online: “We don’t have any vision or plan.” No mention of selling out.

    You’re right about the informal appellation of “The Pixies Sellout Tour.” But that’s not what was printed in the newspapers or the ticket listings or anything else — which is what ultimately matters. And I’m certainly with you on a band remaining sober, as Trent Reznor’s recent sober soiree through mid-sized venues certainly attested.

  4. Forget selling out. Paying > $20 for any one show is a pretty big line to cross (for me at least), and only done in special circumstances.

    Right now, I am considering doing so for the $25 Arcade Fire at the SF Weekly Warfield. (Supposedly a second night was added, but I don’t know how/where to get tix yet).

    Arcade Fire, should you be reading this, if you put me on “The List”, Tito Perez + 1.

    As you were.

  5. Come on, the rider’s not that crazy. No “M&Ms with the brown ones removed” or anything. I doubt that it’s any different from a typical rider for any band touring decent-sized venues — or, for that matter, from the Pixies’ existing rider from back in the day.

    Not that I’m defending their relevance or anything. I loved their records, saw them a couple times at their peak, but not even nostalgia could tempt me out to see them this time. Surfer Rosa still holds up pretty well, I think, but as much as I dug Doolittle at the time, I can hardly even sit through it now. And everything after that was pretty iffy even at the time.

    Not sure what you mean by “aprocryphal,” but if it’s that the ticket prices are asininely bloated, no argument there.

  6. It saddens me to see that they have gone down that road, but I will never stop listening to them. I will, however, pass on seeing them.
    As for Arcade Fire, they will be playing the Download Festival with The Killers, Modest Mouse, and the Doves October 8th at Shoreline. I think Lawn seats are only $39? A much better deal if you like all of the above.

  7. This crass professionalism boils my blood to such a degree that I think I’ll go out and buy a used reviewer copy of “Doolittle.”

  8. Regardless of any philosophical issues with the current tour, it’s madness to claim that rider is evidence of their greed. In comparison to every other rider I’ve ever seen, it’s downright *humble.* They just want some basic food & beer — I don’t see what’s so wrong with that.

  9. Antoinette Marino August 5, 2005 at 8:55 am

    You, sir, are a moron. Frank Black has said on numerous occasions that the tour was formed because, and I quote, “We could all use an infusion of cash in our lives.” (GQ feature, last spring) Just ’cause you can’t hotlink it doesn’t mean it’s not out there, or hasn’t been said. I’m beginning to think reunions are a better way of ferreting out the fans of the music, and not the elitist snobs who liked it ‘back when,’ than never getting back together and doing, and again I quote FB, “their jobs.”

    By the way, FB’s new album, Honeycomb, rocks, and sounds almost nothing like the Pixies stuff. If you weren’t so busy frothing at the mouth, you mighta noticed he’s still doing whatever he wants to…

    All the best.

  10. Antoinette: Thanks for pointing me to the interview. I too dug “Honeycomb.” Just wanted some corroborating evidence on the “we need cash” front. I still find the relative secrecy (compared with the open greed of the Sex Pistols or, for that matter, Eric Idle) of this annoying though.

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