December 15, 2004

Concert wrap-up

My three-day concertathon is complete. Here are some brief recollections.

Monday (Mission of Burma, Pixies):

The Hammerstein Ballroom is one of those venues -- a tiny little huge piece of arena-rock-style grottiness in a formerly opulent hall. They searched my backpack at the door, but I think they were less concerned with whether I had any weapons than whether I had any bottled water...which I did, because it's thirsty work waiting for concerts to start. So, yeah, they made me get rid of my bottled water, because god forbid I not be forced to buy $3 waters at the bar.

Also, there was a bathroom attendant. When I was washing my hands at one of those press-the-faucet-and-get-water-for-a-limited-time sinks, he offered to hold down the faucet for me. I told him to please not. Tipped him anyway after he provided paper towels without commenting on my drinking from the faucet. Yes, that's right, I hydrated myself on the sly. So there, Hammerstein Ballroom. Maybe next time you'll think again before installing sinks!

Further adding to the low-rent atmosphere, the seats on the mezzanine were, basically, dinner chairs, and they were packed in as tightly as possible, affording an amount of leg room that was far below coach class airline standards.

One thing I particularly appreciated about this show after the previous night's Seconds-interrupted marathon was that it started promptly at 8:00, with only one opening act, and a really good one. Mission of Burma was excellent, hindered only by a muddy mix that robbed the drums and vocals in particular of all clarity. But I know all their new songs pretty well, and the old numbers they played were ones I knew better than others ("Academy Fight Song", "That's When I Reach for My Revolver"), so I was better equipped for riding out the not-so-great sound than the folks I went to the show with, many of whom were hearing Burma for the first time.

It was interesting that they were so noisy considering the reason they broke up in the first place was because guitarist Roger Miller was suffering hearing loss from playing so many loud shows. He played with a pair of presumably sound-killing headphones on, and with a screen between him and the drum kit.

The Pixies were also hella loud, but the mix was much, much better. Something was awry with the monitors, though, and after two songs, the bands drifted offstage after much interconsulting. We were a little unclear as to what was going on, but they came back a few minutes later, and Frank Black asked Kim Deal, "What do you think, should we play one more?" She laughed and nodded. They all seemed to be having a pretty swell time, honestly.

One thing I noticed is that if you're in a legendary band that decides to reunite after a decade, you can apparently afford really good lights. Or a really good lighting designer. Or something. I did feel, however, that they should have alerted any potential epileptics in the audience before going all stroby on our asses before that one song.

The set list leaned pretty heavily on the early part of the Pixies catalog, with only "Velouria", "Rock Music", and "U-Mass" venturing past the "Doolittle" years. I'm not going to run down the highlights, because they were all great. I mean -- they're the freakin' Pixies. Whatever song they play, I'm going to be all, oh yeah, I love this song! I did like that they played both the regular version of "Wave of Mutilation" and the mellow surf version (as a medley with "In Heaven"). The only song I was particularly hoping to hear that didn't get played was the new song, "Bam Thwok" (partly because I was wondering what they would do in place of that organ break in the middle). Still -- hard to complain. A great show.

Other amusing moments -- before their encore, instead of going offstage, the Pixies just milled around onstage, waving to the crowd and saying thanks. It seemed much more social than the usual band thing of going offstage and waiting an appropriate amount of time before reappearing. Also, David Byrne was in the audience, within spitballing distance of us. We refrained from hassling him with our fannishness, though.

Aaaand that about covers it. Travis Morrison report to follow.

Posted by Francis at 12:54 PM