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Pixies ride ‘wave of mutilation’ to Fox Theater, reclaim authenticity

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MAY 15, 2023

Bands play a dangerous game by playing Oakland’s Fox Theater. The ornate ceiling, intricate wall carvings and golden twin deities with eyes aglow give it a temple feel that’s inseparable from the acts on stage. The Fox makes music spiritual, and to draw an audience away from such an architectural spell requires transcendent sound. 

So it speaks volumes that all eyes (even the glowing statues’) were on the Pixies as they trickled on stage, lit by white UFO beams, opening with “Gouge Away” — a pull from 1989 hit album Doolittle

It seems strategic to start off the tour with a safe bet from Doolittle — a Pixies cult classic. Recent releases, such as Head Carrier and Indie Cindy, have fallen short of fans’ expectations and seem more like nostalgia acts than embraces of the band’s natural evolution. This followed lead bassist Kim Deal’s exit from the band, on accounts of an insistence that the Pixies shouldn’t record new material. And with these releases, many began to think that she might have been right. 

Given this brief misdirection, it doesn’t seem surprising that the Pixies reverted back to albums like Trompe Le Monde, Doolittle and Come On Pilgrim for their performance — a reminder of their peak in the late ’80s and early ’90s. However, the band added its new lovechild into the mix: Doggerel. The Pixies’ 2022 release serves as a redeeming light for them, a reclamation of the band’s maturity. And audiences loved it. 

After opening with some of their more popular crowd pleasers, including “Wave of Mutilation,” “Velouria,” “Caribou” and “Here Comes Your Man,” with each eliciting energetic mosh pits and cathartic sing — or scream — alongs, they followed with a stretch of Doggerel hits. “There’s a Moon On” started the marathon with vibrancy before being followed by “Dregs of the Wine,” with crooning backup vocals from the band’s fresh bassist, Paz Lenchantin. 

If there was one star of the show, it was Lenchantin. Being a vocalist and bassist is no simple task, yet she plucked the strings masterfully while her high-pitched wails siren-called to listeners. She cradled her instrument (which had a red flower tied to its headstock) during her full-bodied solos, a tangible reflection of her affection for her craft. As she bounced around the stage and whined into the microphone, it was clear she has brought the necessary clarity to the band’s new era of sound reclamation.

Her vocals weren’t the only ones capturing the crowd. Lead vocalist Black Francis — though some may know him by his solo career pseudonym Frank Black — had the kind of vocal versatility that only comes with years of experience in alternative sound. Lead guitarist Joey Santiago’s solos shook the statues from their seats, and he arguably should have been afforded more chances to showcase his talent. And drummer David Lovering kept time like the brown leather wristwatch your father wears: nothing flashy, but nevertheless reliable and steady. 

Titular track “Doggerel” was hailed with a stage lit only by deep red spotlights and a slow percussion intro that had the crowd on the edge of their seats. Audience energy was high following the Doolittle pulls “Dead” and “Hey.” It’s safe to say expectations were exceeded by the spoken word vocals of “Doggerel”; its deadpan, monotone vocal style flowed seamlessly with the surrounding setlist. Immediately followed by “I’ve Been Tired” (another “talk-sing” style off Come on Pilgrim), a unanimous monologue was formed, introducing “Doggerel” to the Pixies’ Hall of Fame. 

Perhaps these recorded monologues stand as a replacement for the disappointing lack of banter the band engaged in; the little interaction Francis did have with the audience were cathartic screaming matches. Not only was their stage personality nonexistent, but stage production was bare-boned. Only the rich hues coating the stage set the tone for everything from melodic ballads to punk purges. The minimalism may have been deliberate: in an effort to make such a big sound central and intimate, the band removed all distractions. It was a concert that went back to the basics. Just the Pixies, their sound and an audience. 

Flare was never really part of the band’s trademark. And despite the lack of, Pixie-heads still went home that night in a haze of punky sublimation wondering, “Where is my mind?”

Contact Stella Occhialini at 


MAY 15, 2023