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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

For the Pixies, each night on the road brings something new

The Pixies, which now includes David Lovering, Black Francis (Charles Thompson), Paz Lenchantin and Joey Santiago, return to Spokane Wednesday for a co-headlining show with Modest Mouse at the Spokane Pavilion.  (Tom Oxley)
By Ed Condran For The Spokesman-Review

Set lists don’t exist in the world of the Pixies. Each night is unpredictable.

“We don’t have a set list written out and put by our feet,” guitarist Joey Santiago said while calling from Indianapolis. “We haven’t done it (written a set list) in years. We call them (songs) out onstage. There’s no rhyme or reason on what we will be playing.”

Not even, he added, when fans might expect it.

“We played pretty close to U Mass (the University of Massachusetts) recently and didn’t play that song (‘U Mass’).”

There’s always been mystery surrounding the Pixies. Much like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, the band has never appeared on the cover of their albums. When the group emerged during the late ‘80s, interviews were uncommon.

The Pixies earned notice with the release of 1987’s “Come on Pilgrim.” The band became indie-rock darlings after 1988’s “Surfer Rosa” dropped thanks to such alt-rock hits as “Gigantic” and “Where is My Mind.”

MTV surprisingly embraced the Pixies after the release of its seminal “Doolittle,” in 1989. “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Debaser” and “Wave of Mutilation” are some of the anthemic “Doolittle” tunes with surreal lyrics that resonated with fans around the world.

The single “Here Comes Your Man” was a surprisingly accessible track for an underground band. Dave Kendall, the host of MTV’s “120 Minutes” slammed the Pixies on the show in 1992 for creating such an ear-friendly song, however fans embraced it.

That said, the Pixies didn’t play “Here Comes Your Man” for years.

“Pre-breakup we did not play ‘Here Comes Your Man,’ ” Santiago said. “TV shows requested we play it and we turned it down. The song was not the way we wanted to be represented. It’s all cool now. People know our style.”

The Pixies followed with a pair of terrific but underheralded albums, 1990’s “Bossanova” and 1991’s “Trompe Le Monde.”

The former yielded the infectious “Velouria” and the compelling “Dig for Fire.” The latter album was filled with some overlooked gems such as the brilliant “Alec Eiffel” and the quirky “Space (I Believe In).”

After the release of “Trompe Le Monde,” the band was massive in the United Kingdom but still playing clubs and opening for U2 in the United States. Some fans have openly wondered if the Pixies wouldn’t have broken up in 1992 if the band had more success in America.

“It would have fizzled out,” Santiago said. “The problems outweighed the so-called glory.”

The issues were enormous for the Pixies during the band’s salad days. Former vocalist-bassist Kim Deal wanted to contribute more songs but vocalist-guitarist Black Francis, aka Charles Thompson, has always been the band’s creative force. A frustrated Deal formed the Breeders as a side project in 1990 and the band, which also features her twin sister Kelley, became her focal point in 1993. The Breeders opened for the Foo Fighters at the Spokane Arena in early August.

After dismissing reunion rumors for years, the Pixies reformed in 2003. A decade later Deal left the band again. The Pixies’ current lineup includes Thompson, Santiago, drummer David Lovering and bassist Paz Lenchantin.

The Pixies, much like such long running alt-rock bands as Pavement and Dinosaur Jr., are more popular than ever.

“It (the music) must resonate with the kids these days,” Santiago said. “It must be the sound of the ’80s and ’90s new guitar based bands are passing along. The bands back then didn’t care about perfection. The downfall of recording digitally is the search for perfection. It’s a lot easier to manufacture (songs that sound flawless).”

Part of what’s appealing about the Pixies material is that warts and all are front and center for fans, particularly on “Bossanova” and “Trompe Le Monde,” which will be showcased front to back in 2024. “We are going to tour Europe next year to do ‘Trompe Le Monde’ and ‘Bossanova’ in its entirety,” Santiago said. “I’m really looking forward to playing those songs.”

Santiago said he is looking forward to returning to Spokane, where the band last played a memorable show at the then INB Performing Arts in October 2014.

“The crowd was good,” Santiago said of that night. “We haven’t played there in a while.”