Pixies

Confession. I’m a nineties guy, but I have never been a Pixies fan.

I own their records. The two key albums, Surfer Rosa and Doolittle are in my CDteque since the 90s and should be in any rock’s lover collection.
I can mention the names of all the members, despite I keep forgetting David Lovering and know few anecdotes about them. It’s when it goes down to music they have never clicked as other Americans alternative bands.

If I have to choose I’d definitely go Dinosaur Jr or even Nirvana, over Pixies.
When it’s down to the East Coast or Boston, well, Morphine you know are in my heart.

Pixies history started in the late eighties when guitars from USA jumped on top of declining new romantics from UK. The plastic decade was over, Iraq war, anger economic downturn was the reaction to the hedonism of the 80s and music turned more aggressive, punkier.
Story is well known.
In Seattle subpop renamed punk as grunge and marketed it to make huge money, in LA last glimpse of politic in music from RATM or Living Colour stormed the simple minds. In Washington DC Fugazi from Dischord were taking their hardcore close enough to the white house to be heard by the Bush dynasty.

Pixies were in this and were also not. Not enough to be symphatetic.

Then they sort of disappeared too early for me to fall in love, in 1993.
Ten years hiatus till the comeback. We are in the century of music reunions, it’s accepted now to comeback regardless a band has said they’ll never comeback.
This reunion era will close only the day The Smiths comeback. Still a long way.

Pixies’s Brixton Academy comeback shows in 2004 are considered some of their best moments. I was told they were better as a band even than the nineties. I missed.
Since then they played for about 10 years umpteenth times in London and around. I managed to miss them all too. Partly because of coincidences, partly because I have never been enough into Pixies to challenge the websites and compete in the ticket-sold-out-in-30-seconds event.

When Pixies came back in 2004, they did with the original line-up. Kim Deal, their bassist was there on stage together with Black Francis on vocal and guitar, Joey Santiago Gibson and … what’s his name… yes, David Lovering drumming. Sorry David!
It made sense. I believe if you comeback you have to give the fans the real deal. Radically If some of the original band members can’t (or don’t care to) sit together in a rehearsal room with the original line-up and need to be replaced by another musician, it means there’s no reason to comeback. All band should accept it. I know, alternative 90s band didn’t make enough money to retire with it so everyone needed a comeback to fill the pension fund. Understandable… not sure?

When Pixies came back they didn’t recorda comeback album. Now, my position on comeback album can vary. If you have something to say, if you have a bunch of good songs to record an album OK. If you need an album to tour and pretend you’re still an active ensemble not relying on nostalgia, well, it doesn’t work. Better to be honest with you and cash on fans nostalgia. They want to listen to the hits, they want to remember how beautiful the boy/girlfriend was, they want to party as if it was still teenage kicks.

So we arrive at my first experience with Pixies headlining Field Day festival in London. I’ve been to this Festival few times in the past, it’s nice for being cutting edges, for bringing a slice of music to come in the future. This was still true on the classic Saturday line-up (even if I am not sure about Metronomy’s golden future).

Sunday was mainly about Pixies. The stages were much less, basically 2. With the exception of Future Islands that confirmed to have the best frontman to walk a stage since Morrissey got ill, it was mainly a guitar feast. Sounded good enough to me to go back to Victoria Park despite I was knackered from walking millions of miles the day before. I wanted to check few bands I didn’t know as Pond or Temples and see someone I watched growing up since the very early days, again, as The Horrors.

And Pixies, but which Pixies?
In the last year the band has seen Kim Deal saying bye and walking to her solo/Breeders stuff. No explanation given, not that I have read. Another Kim, Kim Shattuck, replaced the “real Deal”. It lasted about a year and then she was sacked or whatever happened… replaced against her will. Tonight on stage there is Paz, Paz Lenchantin. Formerly of Perfect Circle among others bands. Great musician, no doubts, but she’s not a Pixie.

There’s more. For the first time since Nirvana released Nevermind (hint A.D. 1991), Pixies released an album of new song: Indy Cyndi. It’s not bad it’s just… late. It’s like (actually worse) than the new Afghan Whigs. Good music but there have been 15 years of music under the bridge, history has changed, panorama is different, there is Internet, there is digital music, all of this can’t be ignored pretending it’s forever 1993.

Audience is young. There are some girls standing in the front row since the morning to get every Black Francis note before the rest of the field. Unfortunately the stage is very far from the pit and even further from the fans, which is something someone on stage (Temples singer if I’m not wrong) complained.

Pixies fans seem to be stronger than air separation and as soon as the first notes (at a moderately quiet volume) arrived started to get very excited. The band helped, Wave of Mutilation, U-Mass and Debaser are quite a good statement to open and the whole set was very steady and quite hit oriented.

I took my photos and walked back into the crowd to take more snaps of the party. Lot of excitement, good music, sunset and warm temperature made it a perfect chill-out moment after 2 whole days of festival shooting. When it got too dark and I lost my two friends I walked further back sat on the grass in front of the second row of speakers to listen to at a better volume.
I must admit, I wasn’t impressed. I blame my tiredness, I can’t blame an epic setlist. The songs are all there but… but if I have to speak with my open heart I had the feeling of perfectly executed song played by a former band known as Pixies or, to be a bit harsh, the best Pixies cover band you can see today.

It’s not a case, to me, that Black Francis in March and (what’s his name oh yeah) David Lovering hours before the Field Day set said they’ll be very happy if Kim Deal re-joins the group. No answer that I am aware of.

I am not sure Paz, that does a brilliant work on bass in both Kims’ places and also is on credits on the album (there’s the reason behind the replacement, maybe?) would be as happy as the rest of them, but I must agree.
If it has to be Pixies in the years to come, it has to be the real Deal. I used this “joke” twice, so better I close this here and you go check Pixies future plans online [website][facebook][twitter][Spotify]

Photo tip

I shoot for years on film, as you may guess from the title of this blog even if you’re reading today for the first time.
Those times I did with Contax cameras. Manual cameras, manual prime lenses, manual focus. It was fun and it was different.

Despite the common thought, the medium we use changes the way we express.
Writing with a pencil, a pen, a computer or a tablet deliver different results. Figure with a piece of technology as a camera.

To date, the digital part of this blog has been entirely shot on a Nikon D700, with nikon AF zooms. When I started I found it much simpler. Then I exploited the versatility to do different things, starting from using colours to more thought composition and straigther lines. I tended to tilt the camera far too often using film. High ISO also simplify life. My concert photography changed a lot.

This Field Day signed another turning point. About 2 years after I bought a D800 body for my other work (travel, photojournalism) I decided to introduce it to a press pit to cover the festival.

One reason is Field Day main stage is far away from the pit, even a 70-200 can be short (all these Pixies pics apart the whole stage shots were framed with a 70-200) and the huge resolution of the D800 allows for something I don’t really like doing:  cropping. You can crop vertical an horizontal shot and still have a file as big as a D700.

Reportage. I like wondering among the crowd and taking some more genuine shots than rockstars on stage, so 2 cameras work better than one to havae two lenses always ready.

Reasons why I didn’t use it till now is because for online and editorial stuff 12 MP are more than enough for everyone, quicker to postprocess and to sell. 36 are pointless unless you are a heavy cropped which I, coming from film the Cartier Bresson way, am not. I also didn’t want to risk a new body into a messy moshpit, the D700 after hundreds of gigs shows signs of tiredness.
Field Day is relaxed and atmosphere is joyous so no worries there.

Todd Owyoung that all of you do (or should) know, convinced me too. He’s happy shooting gigs with a D800 so I gave it a go.

Outcome. It works brilliantly. It doesn’t have big issues with ISO up to 3200 similarly with the D700, but 6400 are well usable too. The AF maybe is less precise and slower, weakest point, but usable. I never burst shoot so I have no problems with its frame per second count.
One of the main problem is the unforgiving high resolution. Slightly wrong focus or too slow shutter time and you have a blurred image.

All the setting are pretty much like the D700 apart they shift the zoom button when chimping the shots.
I think I am going to use it more often and I already brought it to an Eels gig. I still believe a cheap D4 body (as the D700 was for the D3) would be a great thing to have, but Nikon invested in hipsters more than professional photographers and I’m sitting here waiting, actually… I’ll be standing there shooting with a D800.

~ by Valerio on June 21, 2014.

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