On Saturday, myself and other alternative music lovers descended on the beautiful Fillmore theater (formerly known as the State) in Detroit to see if the iconic and influential band the Pixies could maintain its former glory after bassist and songwriter Kim Deal quit the group last year and two EPs consisting of the band’s first new music in more than 20 years were widely panned by the music press.
The Pixies were like the Velvet Underground of the 1980s: Not many people knew about them during their most active years, but those who did were profoundly influenced — life-changing, shot-in-the-arm, I’ve-found-God-and-He-plays-electric-guitar kind of moments — bringing to mind Brian Eno’s famous quote about the Velvets, that everyone who bought one of their debut album’s 30,000 copies formed a band.
Pixies albums Surfer Rosa (1988) and Doolittle (1989) were critically acclaimed and credited with being catalysts for the alternative and grunge movements of the early 1990s. Surfer Rosa ranked No. 317 and Doolittle came in at No. 227 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Kurt Cobain famously said that the Nirvana song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a ripoff of the Pixies.
Fast forward to 2014. The band did a sold-out reunion tour in 2004 but have only just recently released new music sans Deal. Losing its bassist and perhaps most beloved member is no small obstacle to overcome. According to the New York Times, Deal left after fighting with frontman Black Francis and is pursuing her own work and a reunion tour with her other iconic alternative band, the Breeders.