Anyone who knows me well knows that the Pixies are one of my all time favourite bands. They might also know that the Pixies have re-formed, and are playing two shows in Australia at the end of this month. Now, I was contemplating taking a week off from my new job here in Wellington, flying back to Sydney, paying $125 or whatever it is for a ticket, plus $600 in air fares, to witness these legends of rock in action. It would fill a lifelong void in my musical experience resume.
But tonight, all those plans were waylaid.
I spent $15 to stand in a small, stuffy room with about 150 smelly, sweaty people, mostly students, and watched a man and a woman play music. The man sat on a stool, behind a microphone, with a guitar in hand, while the woman sat behind a minimal drum kit, just a snare, kick, tom and a couple of cymbals. They transfixed me, and the other 149 smelly, sweaty people in that room, for just over an hour.
Some of you might know the man. His name is Ian Mackaye. He has been around a long time. He was in a band called Minor Threat, who were at the forefront of the U.S. punk scene in the early 80's. He was also in a band called Fugazi, who those of you 'in the know' will also recognise as another of my all-time favourite bands. His partner, both in the band and in the world outside it, is Amy Farina. I'd never heard of her before, but she is well and truly etched in my mind now.
Together, they are The Evens.
No, I'd never heard of this combo before I read a piece in the local paper last week, saying they were playing here. I had to check them out, as I suspected that anything Mr Mackaye was involved with had to have some passion, vigour, and credibility. And how.
From the moment they sauntered onto the 'stage', just a small rise in the floor really, and fidgeted with their instruments, talking to us like we were sitting around in someone's house, things stirred inside me. Ian spoke of how we, the 'audience', were part of the show. Without us, they were just practicing, he said. We were there to make our own piece of history, something that we'd all take away with us and hold dear forever. How right he was.
Just a guitar, drums, and two incredible voices. When he opens up those pipes, great things happen. The first song had the hairs on my arms, neck, and if I had any, on my head stand up. This does happen, those of you who know me can attest to it. And it happened in every song they played, and it happened in between songs, during which Ian would regale us with stories about life, in all it's glorious and ghastly truths.
And as we were to be a part of the show, he informed us that we were to sing. We would be part of an "epic fade-out" he told us. We were to sing at the end of a song, a line he told us but now I can't recall. When they started to fade out, we would come in, then all fade out together. Later, we would all sing a chorus, no, we were told to scream it with all our passion. It was magic. Just 150 of us, but the most powerful moment I've experienced for a long, long time.
Later, we would whistle, all together, but in no particular tune, or order... just 150 smelly, sweaty people, whistling. He related a story of how this moment, in Philladelphia, became a lot of people "clucking", not like chickens, but that sound you make with your tongue against the roof of your mouth. We all clucked in unison, we were all making music, we were all part of the show.
I don't think I could get the same experience seeing the Pixies. Not outdoors, in a crowd of 20,000 or however many will be there. Not standing a long way from the stage, neck craned, trying to catch the music as it gets swept along in the wind. No, it just wouldn't be the same. It would cheapen their aura.
And for $15, I saved a hell of a lot of money, but gained so much more.
After the show, the show we were all part of, Ian invited us to come and say hi, and buy a CD if we wished, but it wasn't a sales pitch. He thanked us if we downloaded his music from the internet, saying that it was great that we were still experiencing his music. As everybody milled around the sweaty, smelly, balding 40-something man while he shook hands, signed CD's and posters, and let some young fellas strum his guitar while he explained chords and tunings, Amy was quietly packing away her drum kit. I went and talked to her for a while, thanking her for such a brilliant experience, and she thanked me for being a part of it too. Real people. I told Ian that it was great to see the same intensity and passion in his eyes, his voice, and his attitude that he'd nurtured for over 20 years. I couldn't help mentioning that my band had played with Fugazi in Newcastle on their first Australian tour, back in '93. He looked at me and said, "at the bowls club, right?" I shook his hand, thanked him again, and headed off into the windy Wellington night, smelly, sweaty, and a beaming smile on my face, and a song, a whistle, a cluck, in my heart.
http://theevens.com/ Click on it... read, learn, listen, love.