First of all, my corporations final? Really weird. Three questions (pretty standard for law school) with four hours to answer them (also pretty standard). The questions were fairly tricky in their wording, but if you just stared at them long enough, you'd eventually see very simple, direct problems with very straightforward answers readily extractible from one's notes. And that's all I had to do for that final, read the questions until they made sense, then find the right bits and pieces in my notes, and that was it. Also, I don't know why I was up all night getting Insider Trading straight yesterday, there wasn't a single question on it . . . had I known it was going to go like this, I wouldn't have had to have bailed on this Christmas party in Brooklyn that I had to bail on. Seriously, if the party throwers are reading this, for what it's worth: I'm really, really sorry I couldn't make it. I really, really wanted to go. I hope I get to prove my ability to attend parties when the next decent holiday rolls around. Back to the test: Perhaps I'm finally figuring out how to study for law school and how to take tests for law school, or maybe I just completely failed a test without any clue that I was doing so poorly.
And now, the Rock.
The fact that Pixies have sold-out 8 concerts (on 7 nights) at the Hammerstein Ballroom has to be some sort of record, it just has to. And the Hammerstein is a pretty big place, 8 sold-out Hammerstein gigs have got to equal one Madison Square Garden, right? But who wants to wind up in the upper reaches of the Garden when you can sneak like a coolmando right up as close to the stage as possible and witness this great early 90's four-piece in all their mid-00's glory? Let the informal concert reviewing begin.
First off, big, big line to get into the show tonight. It stretched down 34th Street in various segments, I'd never seen anything like it at the Hammerstein and don't really know what it was all about because once we got into the show it wasn't terribly crowded (and there had been a lot of people in front of us) and we were able (We? Meddling Sariah and I) to get pretty close to the stage . . . and every time someone slipped out to grab a beer, we were able to slip even closer to the stage. But, seriously, in two paragraphs pretty much all I've been able to talk about has been getting closer to the stage.
Tonight's (I'm talking about Dec 13 here) opening act was the totally old dudes from Mission of Burma, a band from like the 80s or something who I don't know anything about, but they've reunited in 2004, just like the Pixies, and they weren't bad at all. In fact, they were quite good and they really knew their place (something to hold the masses over until it was time for the Pixies) but it was clear that there were a number of certifiable Mission of Burma fans in the audience very pleased with the performance. I bet if I worked at a record store, like at a medium-cool record store ala 2nd Hand Tunes or Val's Halla Records back home in Oak Park, I would be the biggest Mission of Burma fan and I'd always be trying to get people to buy Mission of Burma or Husker Du records.
I had heard that the Pixies took the stage Sunday night at 9:15 and that's pretty much on the dot when they came out tonight. I hadn't expected Black Francis to be so fat. Or Kim Deal to look so much like Erin Sanchez (that's a friend of mine, not some obscure celebrity namedrop) or maybe a really nice aunt. Or for their drummer (sorry, I'm a Pixies fan, not a Pixies FAN) to dress in a shirt and tie and white pants combo that reminded me of how athletes in High School dressed on game days . . . and when I say the guitarist, I was pretty sure he couldn't be from the original Pixies lineup because he looked too thin and cool (or "normal rockstar") compared to the rest of the band.
The Pixie's set, except for a space of about 5 minutes where the whole band left the stage after the first two songs because of some problem with the monitors, was continuous and relentless, one gentle verse/hard chorus song after another, with the occasional gentle/gentle or hard/hard number thrown in for good measure. There was pretty much no onstage banter, Kim was about the only one who spoke at all. Man, I really, really like it when bands don't talk and just rock instead. And rock they certainly did, at times their set struck me as the most bombastic thing I'd witnessed since the time I saw Jay-Z in Utah (not a joke)--the sound of the evening was big and strong, hitting hard and often and it's just a miracle of sorts that old Black Francis can howl just as well now as he did ten-plus years ago. Seriously, his "I am un chien Adalusia"s sounded as raw and bloody tonight as they do on Doolittle.
The Pixies played for a little over an hour and a half, including their encore, which was one of those sorts of encores where the band doesn't leave the stage, they just step forward to take in the applause while their roadie straightens things up a bit and then they nod at each other and play a few songs. A note on taking in the applause: I don't know that I've ever seen a rock band ever accept their applause so gratiously and earnestly. The four of them honestly looked a little touched to see the Hammerstein spilling over with people clapping and cheering for them . . . although everyone was standing anyway (it's a rock concert, you see?) there seemed to be a collective intentionality floating about that we were giving the band a standing ovation. And they deserved it, it was just a plenty solid, plenty good rock show where the band played the songs people wanted to hear (well, I would've really dug a little "Head On" and "Planet of Sound", but I've no complaints [Honestly, I wasn't so suprised not to get "Head On" but no "Planet of Sound"? That struck me as odd.) (Yet we did get both versions of Wave of Mutilation . . . that's like a treat for collectors of import records or something) That they played "Broken Face" makes up for whatever I didn't get to hear, I suppose.
I could probably just go on making notes about the songs played, instead, here's what I jotted down as the setlist. No, I don't know the name of every single song, there are some question marks, there's nothing I can do about it:
Is She Weird?/Something Against You (gap where everyone left stage) Bone Machine/Cactus/I Bleed/Caribou/Dead/Broken Face(!)/U Mass/Mr. Grieves/?/?/?/Babylonia (pretty sure that isn't the name of the song, but that's what I'm going to call it)/Ed is Dead/Gouge Away/Wave of Mutilation (rockin' version)/Monkey Gone to Heaven/Crackity Jones/One of their Spanishy ones?/?/Tame/In Heaven/Wave of Mutilation (not-rockin' version)/Here Comes Your Man/?/Nimrod's Son/Vamos (featuring totally out of control extended feedback solo by guitarist)/Where Is My Mind Encore: Debaser/Gigantic
Noteworthy Concert Attenders: Mr. David Byrne sitting where I saw Bowie at Interpol (it must be their rock legend section.) And the two fratty-boys who were singing and "dancing" by us the whole time like they were having the absolute best time in the world. I bet they hooked up afterwards.
Of Minor Importance: I just want to say I totally predicted the encores, you can ask the Meddler if you don't believe me. But it wasn't any big trick, just like counting cards in a game of black jack (that's the game where you count cards, right?) Because you know that, among other classics, there's no way that the band wouldn't play Debaser or Gigantic.