Friday, October 08, 2004

rock music

this was my first week of gainful unemployment (that is, vacation from work), and i spent part of it at a cool laguna beach hotel called the surf & sand resort. the divine ms. m and i took a mid-week deal, and we had a smashing time lounging ... in our room right on top of the beach, at the cool little bar by the beach, in the cute restaurant by the beach, around the pool by the beach, and even on the actual beach. we ate and drank well. we went to a friend's store, the crystal image, which has an amazing array of mystical rocks. butch had me pick up a meteorite. it was heavy. amazingly so. and, in addition to straining my muscles, it felt weird. it had an alien sensation. kewl. the store is large, with two levels. they have more cases with the smaller things on the ground floor ... ms. m and i spent a looong time looking at the rings and things. some incredibly rare stones and beautiful pieces. things i couldn't even begin to buy. fortunately, they also had some nice affordable rings. i got the most exquisite green amber piece. it's amazing. plus another nice amber ring, and a gorgeous dark purple amethyst ring. ms. m picked up some sweet specimens as well.

anyway, on the way to laguna, milady requested "classic rock, like led zeppelin or the who." i don't have much of that on CD, but as it happened, a friend of 00soul had dropped by earlier in the week with a couple of CDs of rock classics he'd burned. so i borrowed them. the first track was zep's "whole lotta love" -- my girl was happy. we pretty much had every crusty rock chestnut in the book: hendrix's "voodoo child," cream's "crossroads," grand funk's "we're an american band," AC/DC's "highway to hell," steppenwolf's "born to be wild," foghat's "slow ride" ... woooo!!!

but on the way back, she was done with classic rock and wanted something more modern. we tried jon spencer's new one, damage, which had its moments, and was suitably insane in spots, but seemed a bit by-the-numbers. so, i pulled out the pixies' surfer rosa/come on pilgrim CD and plugged that in. "bone machine" rattled out of the speakers, and that was the shit.

it reminded me that i didn't write about seeing the pixies play two weeks ago at the greek. it was strangely ordinary -- just another rock show -- for something so remarkable -- a pixies reunion! the place was full, flooded with the faithful all the way to the angled ends of the farthest rows. i smelled a lot of pot. it was a drinking crowd, which the venue didn't seem to anticipate -- the bars were woefully understaffed. we ventured into the VIP area, overflowing with weasels great and small. that bar was hopelessly swamped, so we dashed back out with the hoi polloi, but even getting a drink for money proved challenging, although we ultimately prevailed.

anyway. the stage was set with twisted, tree-like lights and decor. they started the show with "bone machine," romping on into "crackity jones" and "isla de encanta" and my beloved "broken face." black francis, joey santiago, and david lovering were all shaved/bald headed; kim deal had a cute shaggy bob. middle-aged spread was in effect. but it was brilliant. it felt somewhat surreal, however. it was a very warm night, and the whole place was on its feet all the time. it was a rare gathering of our tribe, the baby busters, that statistical flicker of a demographic group sandwiched b/w the boomers and generation x. a (relatively small) bunch of people who don't have a lot in common, other than a sense that everyone should be able to do their own thing (which, back in college, could mean aspire to make an assload of money, or smoke lotsa dope and follow the dead, or work for greenpeace, or be in a rockabilly band, or whatever). this was in effect as well -- a lot of people rocking out in their own private idahos, often right next to each other, collectively happy and vibing, but not in a joining-hands, hippie way.

college rock. blah blah. it's been discussed. seeing the pixies brought back memories of when they were together, and not so much personal memories (for once) -- although i did think of the other times i'd seen them -- as just that sense again of the hidden history of modern rock. while the pixies were playing in the car on our way back from the beach, ms. m commented that this song or that was a "big hit." well, no, none of their songs was really a "hit." not in the conventional sense of it. but in the ramones sense of it, sure, "gigantic" was a major hit. a classic. the pixies are the rock stars of our generation. a band that really wasn't widely known but which influenced so many. they fulfilled the legend that the very much more high-profile kurt cobain wanted ... they weren't famous, but they made an impact. and in a way outlasted their quasi-anonymity. nirvana, property of gen x, was probably, arguably more influential ... but cobain himself found inspiration in the pixies.

yada yada. all that thinking gets in the way of the visceral response that the pixies always evoked -- revisited with gleeful abandon at the greek. when we were listening in the car, the lyrics struck me as so surreally moronic, completely primitive and goofy and delightful. (like ... the ramones.) and the show, too, was delightful -- a sweaty, raucous, screamy, joyous, funny, rambling, nostalgic evening. people sang and screamed along -- me included. the set list was heavy on the older stuff. i would have loved to have heard "alec eiffel" or "is she weird," but one can sit there all night long and cite songs they didn't play that you'd want to hear. still, i looked at the set list i have from their previous l.a. show at the palladium -- a dozen years ago -- and, while it was a similar number of songs, they played a lot more stuff from (the then-new) trompe le monde and third album bossanova than they did at this show. although they did do the new song, "bam thwok," which sounded a lot better than the crap-quality MP3 i paid 99 cents for. newer tunes they did take on included "subbacultcha," "velouria," and "u mass" (which sounded amazing). there were rarities ("in heaven," "winterlong") and favorites -- yay for "gouge away," although boo that they changed their minds at the last minute and skipped "levitate me," one of my very favorites.

they played better than ever. joey did the whole feedback/noise-jam bit in the middle of "vamos" (far more artfully than on the original recording, which you'd expect), complete with some acrobatic shtick with david where they passed a drumstick (which joey used on the guitar) back and forth. though obviously well-rehearsed and doubtless a feature every night, that was impressive ... and hilarious.

yet i felt strangely removed at times. i've been thinking about that part a lot. i can't quite put my finger on it. i didn't feel like we'd gone back in time. it felt like the here and now. and i wasn't unhappy or disgruntled in any way. i loved being in an amphitheater full of people grooving on the reconstituted pixies. i suppose there was an inevitable been-there done-that to it all. so my best guess is that my disconnect was the result of feeling just a whiff of the dust to come, a time when "cactus" or "wave of mutilation" induces guilty-pleasure rock-outs as readily as "whole lotta love" or "slow ride."

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