17 again

In 1988, in France, I met this girl Tracey who was from Richfield, Ohio. She really loved this band called the Pixies. Apparently a member was from near where she’d grown up. We got to be friends and I grew to respect her musical tastes. In 1989, back in the States, I went to visit her in Cleveland. We went to see the Pixies at a little hole in the wall in the Flats (then a hopeful wasteland along the bit of the river that had caught fire not so many years before) called Peabody’s Down Under. I remember nervously proffering my ridiculously fake ID at the door and getting in anyway. I remember being ejected from the corner table by the family of the band. I remember how, when they started playing, the music hit me like a fist to the sternum. I can’t remember which song I liked best, but I can remember the night as clearly as if it were last year. The record they were touring on was Doolittle.

Tonight, at the Brixton Academy, we saw the Pixies on the 20th anniversary Doolittle tour. About 3 songs in, the music hit me like a fist to the sternum, and 20 years peeled away. I was 17 again, and 37, suspended between the me that was and the me that is on a lush and chaotic line of guitar and Frank’s primal scream.

I don’t think there’s any other guitar line in the world that makes me as reliably happy as the opening riff of Here Comes Your Man. I always expect to be transported and transformed by music, but it’s rare for any gig to be as cathartic as this one was. I knew every note and most of the more comprehensible words, but I heard them with ears that have 20 extra years on them. I heard the shimmery guitar on the B-side version of Wave of Mutilation and it felt like sunset. I heard the crowd singing a 2-part harmony on key. Yeah, I saw them in the 90s, and I saw them in 2004 (twice? three times? whatever). But I still can’t say enough about that bubble between past and present that exists when I’m in the presence of something that truly moved me, transformed me, made a bit of what I am today.

Thanks, Frank and Kim, Joey and David. See you next time.