Saturday night was a strange one in downtown Minneapolis. Blood-soaked zombies swarmed the streets outside (they set a record, actually), all in costume appropriate for the 10th annual Zombie Pub Crawl through town. And a few blocks down, 90s alt-rock icons the Pixies pumped a heavy performance through the halls of historic State Theater.
Openers Royal Blood, a Brighton-based dark rock duo that recently held the number one record across the pond, managed a larger stage presence than most 5-piece groups. Lead singer Mike Kerr held the continual wonder of the audience as to how he managed shredding lead guitar parts from a 4-string bass.
By the end of Royal Blood’s driven opening performance, every seat of the sold-out show was abandoned for the night as the crowd got on their feet, brimming with electric energy.
Pixies diehards gazed at ornate ceilings and gilded backdrops in outward skepticism—they’d rummaged through boxes labeled “1994” to unearth spiked leather, anarchist cut-offs, skull sweaters, and other getups from a former age. Yet a sizable chunk of the crowd came from a younger generation, and were mouthing the lyrics to “Blues and Greens,” “Bagboy,” and more songs from the Pixies’ newest release, Indie Cindy, that were sprinkled throughout the set.
The chosen songs reflected the Pixies’ quiet-loud sound. Lead singer Black Francis began strumming his acoustic guitar, with the soothing sing-along “Where is My Mind?” as one of the first. It was all so that, after the opening few songs, the group cut into a barrage of thrashier songs in seamless transition. Choices spanned across three decades, ranging from “The Holiday Song” from the 1987 debut album to the explosive “What Goes Boom” circa 2013, without a moment’s pause between them.
Bouncers at the performance (who forgot this wasn’t the opening night of Yo Gabba Gabba! Live) didn’t stand a chance trying to maintain the integrity of the seated performance; moshers slamdanced their way down the aisles toward the stage. Glasses flew after a knockout punch met a face in one of the front rows. It was a comic contrast of situations.
But the real crowd-pleasers came when the Pixies’ own enjoyment was most evident. Getting the spotlight, drummer Dave Lovering owned the baritone parts to “La La Love You,” repeating “All I’m saying pretty baby/La la love you, don’t mean maybe”—perhaps the first time in recent memory that a drummer has been lauded for his vocal stylings. Plus, fresh talent was flooding from stage left. With her neat harmonies, her infectious charm, and her way around a bass guitar, one glance from touring bassist Paz Lenchantin was enough to melt my heart.
By the time the Pixies wrapped up their continuous set, the crew were taking bows to roaring approval. Spilling from the State Theater back onto the zombie-filled streets, I knew that we’d all just seen something more authentic back on stage. Years later, the Pixies were the veritable undead.