Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reliving Other People's Pasts

Fairfield County, Connecticut, November 1988.

A band from Boston is in a studio in Stamford, putting the finishing touches on what would prove to be its quintessential album.

A few miles away in Norwalk, hardcore kids are bouncing off the walls at some of the final shows at a club that had by then grown out of a Stamford basement.

And in the woods to the north, a middle-schooler (whose family had moved from Stamford just before his birth) sat in his room in a split-level house, most likely playing with baseball cards.

At age 13, I had no knowledge of any music other than what was played on MTV or the pop radio stations. I vaguely remember a girl writing "Sex Pistols" and "Echo & the Bunnymen" on a school bus window, and thinking, "Whatever that is, I'm afraid of it. Where's my Huey Lewis tape?" It would be years before I discovered punk and indie rock; that there was a band called the Pixies or a club called The Anthrax.

This weekend I went to "retrospectives," essentially, of both of them.

Friday we were visiting friends in New Haven, and one of them mentioned something about The Anthrax going on that night at Cafe Nine. Since I'd known about the upcoming book about the legendary club (with trailer!) thanks to this blog, I knew exactly what she was talking about and we headed over. I've been to Cafe Nine a few times, but I've never seen it like this. So packed you pretty much walked in and stayed in the spot you found yourself in. It was so hot, and the show band was taking forever to start, so we just watched a few songs and took off. So if you want an actual review, I'm guessing One Base on an Overthrow will have plenty of that [update: here it is. Since he took pix from pretty much the exact spot I was standing, you get the feel of what it looked like from my perspective. But I'm not in the pix because he got there right around when I left]. I was just psyched to see a lot of friends I hadn't seen in a while. People older than me who'd actually been to The Anthrax, and people younger who, like me, only wished they had.

Then last night, Kim, Kara, Smoochy, and saw the Pixies perform their 1988 album mentioned above, Doolittle, at Boston's Wang Theatre. Again I was playing the role of "guy who wasn't actually there back when it was really happening but who has since come to appreciate it." Granted, I had become a fan a few years after the record came out, but the three people I was with, and most of the crowd judging from its age, lived it in their late-80s college-y worlds. Again we played "look for people we know," and I scored three points. First I saw this dude from Danbury whose name I totally forgot. Then when we got to our seats, about five rows in front of us was Kelly from Sitting Still, who I also seem to run into at every single Red Sox game. Couldn't get her attention so I didn't get to talk to her either. I also knew looong-time reader and fellow blogger and Providence-ian-ite Ryan M. would be there, but I didn't see him....until he tapped on my shoulder from THE SEAT BEHIND ME. Amazing. Despite actually having passed each other on the streets of Providence more than once but not saying anything to each other as we weren't quite sure we had the right guy, we'd never met in real life. So it was good to officially tear down that wall.

But anyway....the Pixies (all four original members--the only ones who've ever been in the band) played and it was really cool. I'd seen them on their first reunion in '04 in NYC, (and I'd seen the bass player's band, the Breeders, open for Nirvana in Omaha in '93 and on Lollapalooza '94 on some airport runway in Rhode Island (one of the few times I ever came here in my life before moving here last year)), but my memories of that show are fading, so it was good too hear all the classics again. Especially in that manner that a lot of old groups are doing now, playing an album beginning to end. The hometown crowd was very into it--as into a concert as you can be when forced to sit in assigned seats, anyway.

They started with three B-sides from the Doolittle era, before going through the whole album. For some reason I figured that would be it. But fortunately they came back out and did a bunch of non-Doolittle tunes (Isla de Encanta, Nimrod's Son, Where is my Mind?, U-Mass, Into the White). So we got our SIXTY freakin' dollars worth. (I wish I could've combined the two nights and seen the Pixies play Cafe Nine for five bucks.)

Oh and the dude next to us totally had weed. God, what an awful smell. I've always accepted it as part of a concert experience, but this time I really wanted to tell the guy to take it to the Phish show or something. Plus, when you think of the Wang Theatre, you don't think of mary jane, usually. Fortunately they had massive amounts of smoke blowing from the stage during the encore, and that kind of drowned out Cheech's "aura." Oh and the band had a video screen behind them which had a few cool things, like scenes from the movie Debaser is based on, and later some pre-filmed shots of the band members just mugging for the camera, which you could tell even they felt awkward about.


[Bonus update: I found the post in which I mentioned the '04 Pixies show in my early days of blogging. The "Anthony" I went with was one of the "Connecticut friends" we were visiting this past Friday that we went to that New Haven show with.]

Arrggh! Sorry to have missed saying hello! As soon as I started reading I thought "I can't believe I didn't see him..."!
Right when we sat down, between bands, I saw you go up the aisle to my right. So I was able to see where you went when you came back, but it appeared to be right past the usher checking tickets. But even if I was able to get past her and go the aisle route to go say hi, I then would have had to somehow get your attention over the people in your row between you and the aisle. Our only chance was to yell your name over 5 rows, which we kept saying we'd do between the songs playing over the PA, but...we didn't. Anyway, hope you liked the show!
I'm with you on the Phish comment. Wang Theatre just isn't the place for that...
Yeah. At least if you're outside, the smell has somewhere to float to.
So, I missed the Pixies for the opposite reason - I was too old. But my kids, like you, got into them in the early 90's and introduced me. I found them pretty good for, you know, YOUNG people's music :) They, the kids, also got me into Dinosaur Jr and a few other such bands. Not bad stuff. Not bad at all.
Nothing at all wrong with participating now, even if you weren't around the first time through.

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Location: Rhode Island, United States