Despite short notice, on my behalf, everything had fallen into place exactly as I had hoped. I’d agreed to, and been invited to, work for the first three nights of the Pixies’ Melbourne performances, leaving myself free to attend as a spectator on night four, for which tickets were still widely available.
Festival Hall, March 20, 2010
Most of the audience missed support act The Art – who sounded at times like Magic Dirt and at times like Hole – and arrived moments before the house lights dimmed. I’d been posted in the unlicensed seated section, which meant that I had fielded the usual questions about where one could buy a drink and why one couldn’t go to the floor until this point, but luckily the night had seen the return of Travisty, a former Festy regular who did not explain his prolonged absence when I asked, and was working as my supervisor for the evening. I approved of this, particularly when a pair of new ushers who had been directed to seat patrons in the area asked Travisty what they were supposed to do.
‘You must be new,’ Travisty answered, shooting me a knowing smile as I made my way to look at the merchandise stand before the doors opened. ‘We don’t do anything.’
A bunch of patrons were standing around when an elaborate video introduction started, and I asked them to take their seats. Most of them obliged, but one woman demanded to know why she should return to her seat. Before I could answer, she pointed out the absurdity of being asked to sit at a rock concert, and asked how she could dance. Again, she cut me off before I could answer, and called me sick.
‘Are you getting off on this? Is that it?’ she damanded, spitting frantically. ‘You get off on the authority of telling people what to do?’
‘No,’ I assured her. ‘But you are in my spot. I want you to move before they come onto the stage, and certainly before they start Debaser.’
With that she returned to her seat, and I settled in to watch the show. The video was actually out-of-order shots from Un Chien Andalou, the film by Salvadore Dali, and I realised for the first time the possibility of a connection between it and the Pixies’ song Debaser – despite the film’s title appearing in the song several times.
Finally, the video, accompanied by a sweeping superimposed symphony, ended and the band came onto the stage, even fatter and older than they were in the first place, and broke into a brief set of hectic songs I didn’t know. Then, to tremendous applause, the title ‘Doolittle’ flickered onto the screen behind the band, and they broke into Debaser. When the Doolittle tour had been announced last year, with promise of the album being performed in full from beginning to end, I wondered whether some of the usual excitement associated with seeing a band live might be missing. After all, we would all know which song would be up next! But I quickly found that this didn’t matter, and eagerly anticipated the bubbly opening of Here Comes Your Man all through I Bleed. I usually restrain myself to a point when attending shows in a professional (and non-journalistic) capacity, but tonight decided to let my appreciation of the music come to the surface, and shout along the lyrics as much as I felt like, bouncing along all the while.
We’d been promised two encores in the briefing prior to the show, one featuring two songs and the audience covered in smoke for the song ‘White.’ Heads had turned towards me when I cheered at the mention of what I knew to be Into The White. After this, the band were to play between two and six songs, depending on how they felt.
I was especially pleased with the second encore, which took place with the house lights switched back on, to the confusion of a couple of patrons and security staff. It was actually seven songs, if I counted right, opening with Bone Machine and U-Mass., with Nimrod’s Son and an extended version of Vamos in which the guitar was passed into the audience bleeding into Where Is My Mind? They closed with Gigantic, and once the audience was satisfied that there were no additional encores to come, I was left with the task of getting CD recordings of the entire concert, made that evening, to the patrons who had ordered it from the merchandise stand earlier. It is an idea I have thought was long overdue for some time, and I am glad to have witnessed it first at a concert at which I was working, since I now know that it is preferable to purchase the CD online, at a cheaper rate and without the queue.
I was so impressed with the performance that I was inspired to invest in a tour t-shirt. I decided to wait to see if anyone was selling bootleg shirts on the corner, and was pleased when a man with very few teeth was offering shirts of similar quality to those with which I am familiar. I asked if he would be there each night, and he said that he hoped to be, but that ‘venue security’ had come down on him pretty hard, making subsequent visits semi-doubtful. He was asking $10, but accepted $7.
Festival Hall, March 21, 2010
A colleague from my day job was the surprise guest this evening, arriving at my door during the support act with his hand outstretched. I shook it as he explained himself.
‘I saw you working here last night,’ he said brightly. ‘So I figured if I came back tonight, you’d be able to help me out.’
‘Help you out how?’ I replied. I was going to make him spell it out.
‘Oh…’ he stammered, unprepared for this turn of events. ‘Well, you know, we had tickets last night, but tonight we don’t so I thought if I spoke to you, you’d be able to help me out, you know?’
‘No,’ I said, flatly. ‘I don’t know. You’ll have to make it more clear.’
‘Well, I thought you could let me in here… It’s just me and my girlfriend, so… no big deal, right?’
Since the girlfriend was nowhere to be seen, and he said he was going to be meeting her at the station and coming back, I told him that I might be able to ‘help him out’ if he could find me once the band had started. Of course, by that time, my door had closed and I was safely locked inside.
Tonight’s view was from the rear of the floor, and it became quickly apparent that we would be in for the same string of jokes between songs as the night before, all from the mouth of Kim Deal.
‘Some of these songs are so obscure, we had to learn them ourselves.’
‘So we’re playing our whole album… That means we should only be here for another 17 minutes, right?’
‘Now you’d need to turn the record over to side two.’
The show ran as per the previous night, with the Doolittle album played with little deviation from how it sounds on record. This night’s encore, however, featured personal favourites Caribou and Velouria, the song which inspired me to learn the theremin (although it was presented without theremin this evening, even I had hoped that one might be hidden beneath the vast blackness of the wide cloth covering the band’s equipment on stage that I’d looked at on my way across the floor prior to the doors opening.)
On my way home, a different pair of t-shirt vendors were positioned further away from the venue than they had been on Saturday.
Festival Hall, March 22, 2010
The dinner-and-a-show crowd were once more already enjoying their parma-and-pint specials at nearby pubs as I made my way to Festy for the last of the Pixies shows that I’d be attending on a professional basis. I’d been pleased on the first night when it was announced in the pre-show briefing to staff that someone would be distributing fliers offering half-price tickets to the fourth show, since that was the one I’d intended to go to. I’d snapped up one of the tickets, which stipulated that the cheaper tickets were only available to ticket holders from previous nights. It was with this in mind that I’d scoured the floor for discarded tickets in case I needed them. As it turned out, anyone was entitled to these tickets, so there was no need for me to go looking for left over tickets on Monday night.
This night I had my clearest view, from the balcony, which is usually the domain of the media. Since very few passes seem to have been issued to members of the press for any of the shows, however, this space was mostly occupied by non-descript people with passes for an after show event with the band which never eventuated, which the patrons felt should work as an All Access pass. It was explained to them that this wasn’t the case, as was the venue’s ‘No Smoking’ and ‘No Pass Out’ policies. Tounges were clicked, and the majority of the pass holders left denouncing the venue for its inhospitability before the encore, the highlight of which was Broken Face.
Whilst rounding up stragglers at the end of the night, a man sitting in the front row confessed that he couldn’t leave. I asked if he was waiting to buy the night’s CD, and he quietly said that he wasn’t. I asked him if he was waiting for anything at all, and, if not, if he would leave. Finally he admitted that he believed he was too drunk to walk. This was proven to be somewhat inaccurate, since he was, with the aid of security staff, able to wobble bow-leggedly, downstairs and out the door.
As I was leaving, I noticed a plethora of people hanging around where one might expect to usually find the dodgy t-shirt merchants. All of them were filming something with their camera phones. It turned that the cause of all the excitement was a pair of the security contractors confiscating the now familiar bag of t-shirts from the vendors of previous nights. So it was lucky I bought mine on night one.
Festival Hall, March 23, 2010
I’d planned on going to the show with a ticket this night, but instead I went to the premiere of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s new film Micmacs. I figured I’d already seen the show from three different angles, and was satisfied with that. I’d heard Where Is My Mind? played for the fifth time at this venue (the first two performances being by James Blunt and Placebo) and Wave Of Mutilation six times (because the Pixies played it twice each show – once in place during the Doolittle segment of their show, and next a nice, chilled out version to open their first encore.)
Whilst Micmacs was good, it is no Amelie, and certainly no City Of Lost Children.