With your feet on the air and your head on the ground

Last week I saw the Pixies in concert for the first time. It was both awesome and a little bit odd: seeing a band I listened to all the time when I was younger, now come to life on stage and proving themselves to be three-dimensional human beings, not just fuzzy liner-note images.

If my teenage years were a movie, the Pixies would have provided the score. (Actually, if my teenage years were a movie, it would have never gotten the green light – too many well-worn mopey teenager clich├ęs, not nearly enough gratuitous violence, pretty much no sex.) When I was in the 8th or 9th grade, I got a homemade tape from a friend who had a Cool Older Brother: Surfer Rosa on one side, Doolittle on the other. Listening to it for the first time, I thought: What the fuck is this nonsense? But the Cool Older Brother was definitely cool about music, and cool about girls, so I figured I'd better keep listening. And at some point I got it (the music, not how to be cool: I've never quite grasped that one). And pretty soon I never wanted to listen to anything else.

At last week's show, I could close my eyes and almost see the shaggy-haired ninth-grade version of myself. There I was trying to play the drum part to "Gouge Away" in the room over the garage (I compensated for my lack of musical ability by making what I figured were appropriately surly faces and pounding the drums as hard as I could). And there I was again, this time getting smacked in the back with a dodgeball in gym class. Hey look, it's me again, not talking to any girls!

My only complaint with the show was that it could have been louder. But that's not the fault of the Merriweather Post Pavilion sound system, I don't think. Just that, to me, the Pixies are a band that's best listened to at ear-splitting levels. When I first started driving (at 15, because this was in South Carolina, where driving laws are still based on the need for farmers' children to operate heavy machinery), I kept that Pixies tape in nearly constant rotation in the car. Driving to school, I'd notch up the volume, bit by bit, until the speakers were rattling and threatening to give out. Then I'd forget to turn the volume down when I got out of the car, so that after school, I'd start the car up again and nearly piss myself at the noise. How was I ever listening to something so loud? I'd think. But then, on the drive home, I'd ratchet it up again, little by little, until it was even louder than before.

Anyway, the point here is that the concert was great. If you ever get a chance to see the musical heroes of your youth play live, I'd highly recommend it (unless the musical heroes of your youth were, say, Kajagoogoo, in which case it might be best to let sleeping dogs lie).

And, incidentally, the ninth-grade version of myself thinks the 28-year-old version of myself is a total tool.

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