I made it to the Pixies/Mission of Burma show up at Tsongas Arena in Lowell last Thursday. I'd already seen the Pixies back in September at the ACL fest, but it was insanely crowded there, I couldn't really get very close, and I ended up having to leave about 3/4 of the way through the set because the people I was with really wanted to avoid the crowds on the way home (didn't work - the wait for taxis was 3 hours, so we ended up walking back). So with the $45 ticket price, the out of the way venue, and the fact that I'd just seen them a couple months before, I wasn't *that* pumped to go, but I couldn't pass up the offer of a ticket because, well, it was the Pixies. I never thought I'd get to see them even once, so I might as well take advantage of the opportunities that I'm given now, right?
So, I'm glad I did. Tsongas Arena is pretty far from top of my list of good venues for shows, especially early on when the reverb in the place was horrible, but the size was perfect. We got there in time to see the second half of The Bennies opening set. They didn't do too much for me, to be honest. Pretty much cliche-filled hard rock. The lead singer is a little dude in a wheelchair, and good for him for not letting a handicap stop him and rocking out and all that, but the band is Generic City. Oh well. Mission of Burma was up next, and they were really pretty good. I wish I'd been more familiar with their material. As it was they only played two of the three songs by them I'd heard, but a lot of the stuff I didn't know was good too. The sound in the arena was still pretty crappy at that point, and it wasn't really close to full yet, but my improvised napkin earplugs worked well enough that I could hear the vocals and guitar through the mess of reverberating bass and drums. By the end of the set the sound had settled down a bit (I think due to the crowd finally starting to show up).
Finally the Pixies got on stage. By this time it was really pretty full on the floor where we were, but since we'd gotten there relatively early (and most everyone else got there pretty late) we were less than 20 feet from the stage. A far cry from ACL, when I was probably 150-200 feet at least from the stage, and packed in with a ton of drunk sweaty people. The crowd this time was not as physical (except for the Angry Dude next to me who *hated* it when people tried to push past him to the front) and a lot less sweaty, but was made up much more of fans that actually knew the music than was at ACL. Anyway... great set. They didn't really do any of that chronological or alphabetical order stuff they'd done in the past, and just played a fantastic mix. Unfortunately, they were pretty light on Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde material (the only ones I can remember right now were Velouria and U-Mass, respectively) but there's more than enough quality music from the first three albums. They didn't talk much at all with the audience (a bit with each other though), but almost always just jumped right into the next song as people were still applauding for the previous one. I thought I'd miss that communication (I like it when bands interact with the crowd) but I certainly didn't mind them packing in as many songs as possible). The last song of the set was an extended version of Gigantic, and over the end of it the band said goodnight to each other in turn, and all looked a little surprised that the song was going on for so long. After that, they all put down their instruments and came out to the front and sides of the stage, and took a while to wave and smile to the people in the crowd, walking around and trying to make eye contact with as many people as possible. Kim Deal, with her huge smile throughout the show, and Joey Santiago, taking pictures of the crowd and really hamming it up during Vamos, seemed to be having the most fun, but especially in this last little goodbye waving part they all seemed really happy to be there, and almost surprised at the reaction of the crowd. After that they grabbed their instruments again for one last song - an excellent rendition of the obligatory Where Is My Mind?
All in all, a really fun show and well worth the trek up to Lowell and the $45.
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