Pixies at Climate Pledge ArenaSupport: Modest Mouse| Cat Power
September 9, 2023 at Climate Pledge Arena
Pixies brought their co-headlining tour with Modest Mouse to a nearly sold-out show at the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Washington on September 8th. The crowd fought the horrific Friday rush hour traffic to make it for an early show, hoping the insanity of the streets and parking was worth it. After all, for many in attendance, the night offered a chance to cast off the weight of the contemporary world and revel in the sounds of the 90s and early 2000s, a time when life was perhaps less stressful, hectic, and alienating.
Cat Power set the tone for the evening with her seductive and beautiful vocals, exuding an almost comforting familiarity. Her performance quickly demonstrated her mastery of songwriting. A gentle and captivating stage presence shone through this night, helping the crowd decompress after navigating rush-hour traffic. Of particular note were the haunting renditions of ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ and ‘New York, New York / Manhattan’, which elicited an enthusiastic response from the audience.
Pixies wasted no time giving the crowd what they wanted, launching into a double-shot from their classic Doolittle to start: ‘Gouge Away’ as the opener, followed by ‘Wave of Mutilation’. When the songs ended, everyone in the venue was excited. Even Black Francis couldn’t help but smile, as he noticed everyone singing along (including me in the photo pit, trying to take pictures while screaming the line, “You think I’m dead, but I sail away”; see pic below). From there, the band proceeded to layer in a heavy dose of classic songs throughout the evening, such as ‘Monkey Gone to Heaven’, ‘Bone Machine’, ‘Cactus’, ‘Debaser’, and, of course, ‘Here Comes Your Man’, which had the crowd singing along in joyous unison. The band also performed selections from more recent releases, paying the most attention to 2022’s Doggerel.
Their set ended with a pair of songs, the first of which was symbolic in many ways. On the penultimate song, the band returned to ‘Wave of Mutilation,’ this time performing the slower and more haunting ‘UK Surf’ version. As the crowd sang along, it was as if we all symbolically recognised the effect 40 years can have and, yet, not have. While most in the audience may have slowed down over this span, time taking its slow and inevitable toll, there may yet be an ageless spark that lies underneath all the wrinkles and aches—something that withstands degradation. The set ended with what may arguably be the best song in the band’s catalog, the one that has always personally hung in the back of this listener’s skull: ‘Where Is My Mind?’
Being hometown heroes (at least to some degree; they hail from nearby Issaquah, Washington), Modest Mouse closed out the evening, beginning with ‘Doin’ the Cockroach’ and creating a wonderful atmosphere with mesmerising stage lights. This was their first full tour since the death of drummer and founding member Jeremiah Green, who died of cancer less than a year ago. They leaned heavily on classics like ‘Fire it Up’, ‘Dramamine’, and ‘Float On’, focusing primarily on material released before 2004. Given that this is exactly what the crowd appeared to be looking for, most in attendance were highly enthusiastic. The set was marred by some technical difficulties towards the end, particularly noticeable by the abrupt end to the show after the band completed the song ‘Cowboy Dan’, leaving a number of the audience confused and a bit disappointed.
Walking back to the car, I kept thinking about how the evening was best captured by a line from Modest Mouse’s ‘Dashboard’, a song that searches for hope in a hopeless situation: “It could’ve been, should’ve been, worse than you would ever know”. This entire tour has, in many ways, been a celebration of a time gone by, one that was not as downright hostile and fractured as today’s. There are moments when such a celebration risks becoming myopic and uninspired. These two alternative icons of the 90s and early 2000s created some incredibly memorable music that sticks in the hearts of many of us, and while the evening’s sets may tend to be rooted in what seemed like a bygone era to some, that’s fine. It’s nice to relax occasionally and recall a period when things weren’t as insane and angry—when we were feeling things other than rage and hatred. It wasn’t a perfect night, but it was a damn good one!