The Pixies Are Going Strong Ahead of Denver Concert With Modest Mouse | Westword

Twenty Years After Reuniting, the Pixies Are Still Going Strong

The iconic alt-rock group plays Fiddler's Green with Modest Mouse on Sunday, June 30.
The Pixies are alt-rock gods.
The Pixies are alt-rock gods. Courtesy Pixies
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Don’t expect to ever nab a set list at a Pixies concert.

When the legendary alt-rock group got back together after an eleven-year hiatus in 2004, the need to write down a preconceived set of songs each night seemed frivolous. So the band never did, according to original drummer David Lovering.

Instead, Lovering, founding vocalist Black Francis (Charles Thompson) and OG guitarist Joey Santiago developed a rudimentary sign language among themselves to communicate and decide which song to play next. For example, if Black Francis puts his hands above his head to form a steeple, then “Alec Eiffel” is coming; if he makes a circular-looking motion, he’s thinking “Planet of Sound.”

“Yeah, we don’t even have a set list. We just wing it. It’s our shtick, if you can call it that. All we know is what the first song is,” Lovering explains, adding that it certainly keeps the lighting and sound techs on their toes: "After that, they’re on their own figuring out what song comes next.”

“It makes it interesting. It’s something we developed over time, and we enjoy doing it. It makes it an adventure. You can read the crowd in a way and change songs and structure the set that way, but it makes it exciting,” he continues. “This is just all that we’ve honed — to make a stage show that we do the first song, then we rip through an hour and a half one after another after another, just banging them out.”

But they always play the Pixies classics, such as “Gouge Away,” “Where Is My Mind?” and “Hey,” Lovering adds.

You can check out a one-of-a-kind arrangement for yourself on Sunday, June 30, when the Pixies play Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre with Modest Mouse and Cat Power.
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A fresh-faced band from Boston called the Pixies in 1988.
Courtesy Pixies
The Pixies began banging out hit after hit in 1986 and have taken listeners on an adventure ever since, despite an eleven-year hiatus through most of the 1990s. The Boston crew, which included bassist Kim Deal up until she left the band in 2013, put out a string of stone-cold classics in Surfer Rosa (1988), Doolittle (1989) and Trompe le Monde (1991) before taking a break in 1993.

The four musicians went their separate ways. Deal had her own band, the Breeders, while Black Francis started Frank Black and the Catholics, which Santiago played in at times. Lovering focused more on his magic (yes, he's a magician) than music, and figured the Pixies were a thing of the past.

But during the alt-rock and grunge boom of the ’90s, the Pixies were consistently named as an influence by the best bands of the day, including Nirvana. Kurt Cobain famously admitted he was “basically trying to rip off the Pixies” when he wrote Nevermind, the 1994 album that broke grunge.

“I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies," he said in a 1994 Rolling Stone interview. "I have to admit it [smiles]. When I heard the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily I should have been in that band — or at least in a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard."

Then the 1999 film Fight Club used “Where Is My Mind?” for the final scene. All of a sudden, the Pixies were cool again. But no one bothered to tell the band.

Lovering says he didn’t realize the impact the Pixies had since the breakup until reuniting and playing Coachella in 2004. “I had no idea of our popularity building,” he explains. “It wasn’t until Coachella that I witnessed it, where there was just a sea of kids that knew all the words. It was eye-opening and surreal. It was crazy.”

Since returning, the Pixies have released four more albums, including the latest, Doggerel, in 2022. Since former Band of Skulls bassist Emma Richardson joined it this year, the group known for perfecting the loud-quiet-loud technique put out a single, “You’re So Impatient,” and a cover, “Que Sera Sera,” this month.

While an official title hasn’t been announced yet, Lovering shares that a new album is coming later this year, on Halloween, and he believes it stacks up to some of those earlier, seminal albums.

“I don’t mean to downplay any albums, but I think the new album that’s coming out in October, in my opinion, is the best one we’ve done since Trompe le Monde,” he says.

That’s a hell of a statement. And enough to get any Pixies fan excited for what’s next, even if they haven’t paid much attention to recent releases (FYI, you’re missing out if you haven’t listened to newer stuff such as 2014’s Indie Cindy).

Another thing that Pixies don’t do, which Lovering would like to clarify, is talk much once they start to play.

“We come out and do what we do, and that’s play the music. We don’t chatter and banter with the crowd,” he says. “So if anyone’s never seen the Pixies, I just want to say we’re not anti-social, it’s just what we do. We come out and play, play, play until the end.

“We don’t even do sound checks. We haven’t done sound checks in, oh, my gosh, about twenty years,” he concludes. “Again, it makes it an adventure. You’re showing up and going on stage and playing. It’s fun. It’s exciting.”

Pixies, 5:30 p.m. Sunday, June 30, Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre 6350 Greenwood Plaza Boulevard. Tickets are $35-$75.
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