This was THE CONCERT of the year for me: the Pixies with Mission of Burma at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Massachusetts. Prior to the show, I kept looking for information about the Pixies’ concerts and was disappointed in the quality of the writing that I found. After last night, I understand; the show was so INDESCRIBABLY WONDERFUL that any attempt to describe it would be FUTILE. But I’ll try anyway, fanboy slobbering aside.
The crowd at last night’s show was an odd mix. Lots of college kids, a bunch of people my age or so, a few gray heads and more than a few high school kids. But all of us seemed united in one thing—none of us seemed like we were typical concert goers; all of us seemed in disbelief that the show was really about to happen. “If they just play ‘Dig for Fire,’ I’ll be happy,” said one fan behind me on the floor. His friend replied, “I’ll settle for ‘Bone Machine.’” His friend said, “Actually, I’d settle for ‘Crackity Jones’…”.
The warm-up act, the Bennies, elicited some surprised laughter when they wheeled out on stage. Yes, wheeled; the Bennies’ lead singer, Jeremy Dubs, is a little person who’s confined to a wheelchair. But he rocked hard when they came out of the gate, at one point headbanging so hard that his glasses flew off. The group played a tight set of mostly short songs, many of which betrayed the Pixies’ influence through frequent meter and tempo changes (though lyrically the group was a lot less surreal than their ticketmates). I’ll look forward to finding their album when it’s released.
Then Mission of Burma took the stage. They started hard, with “The Setup” from their new album, ONoffON, and didn’t let up throughout a hard-edged set that alternated new tunes like “Falling” (which was spectacular live) with influential early material like “Peking Spring,” “Academy Fight Song,” “Fame and Fortune,” “This Is Not a Photograph,” “Dumbells,” “Red,” and of course “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver.”
As I listened to the band, several contradictory thoughts were going through my mind at once. First, few crowd members seemed familiar with the band’s work, which is unfortunate; if Mission of Burma couldn’t get a mosh pit or even a little pogoing started with “Academy Fight Song” less than an hour from their own home town, what the hell was wrong with the world? Second, Roger Miller is an amazingly inventive guitarist, and I wish I had seen his performance with Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo at Irving Plaza two years ago. I wasn’t aware of this date last night, but remember thinking distinctly that with Mission of Burma’s songwriting skills and Sonic Youth’s inventive guitar onslaught, you could have a really amazing supergroup…