The Pixies

The Doolittle 20th Anniversary Tour

Enough has been said about The Pixies to fill volumes of high-minded overly-expressive rock journalism tomes for decades. Their history is well known, their legacy is undeniable and the influence that they've continued to hold over guitar-based rock bands (once called "college rock" or "alt rock") is as palpable now as it was in the early '90s.

The Pixies are your favorite band's favorite band and throughout their mercurial existence they managed to inspire the Nirvana-induced glut of alternative music that exploded in early '90s pop culture. The quartet of bassist Kim Deal, guitarist Joey Santiago, drummer Dave Lovering and the enigmatic frontman known as Black Francis practically invented the often-used "soft-loud-soft" dynamic through four brilliant albums and a host of singles and B-sides.

As a band, they specialized in tension: both aurally and personally. The group's inner turmoil and eventual breakups were the stuff of legend. By the end of the '90s The Pixies were all but dead, with its members embarking on various career paths. Black Francis renamed himself Frank Black and constructed a stellar solo career. Kim hooked up with her twin sister Kelly to form the wildly-popular Breeders. Santiago played with his wife in the Martinis while also composing film and television scores and Lovering abandoned music altogether and became, of all things, a magician.

Twelve years after the official demise of The Pixies, a germ of an idea was born. The dreaded reunion. But, somehow, for a band that holds such a special place in the hearts of its fans, this 2003 re-gathering was not the trite and flaccid stuff that comes with most reunions. As witnessed on 2004's DVD documentary "The Pixies Sell Out," the band's return was triumphant and welcomed by new and old fans alike. It led to a number of possibilities: more tours and, most recently, the idea to celebrate the 20th anniversary of one of the most acclaimed rock albums of the '80s: "Doolittle."

"Basically, we had thought about doing this 'Doolittle' tour when we first got back together in 2004," says Lovering, the appointed spokesman for this latest incarnation. "We were toying with the idea of just doing one whole album in its entirety. In the back of our minds we thought about 'Doolittle' hitting the 20-year mark and we thought we'd just do it. It just worked out easily, and we've always thought it was a good, solid album."

Indeed, "Doolittle" is a time-tested album that showcases The Pixies at their best. Widely regarded (depending on whom you ask) as their best work, "Doolittle" not only served as The Pixies' first foray into major-label recording, it also produced many of the band's most cherished songs.

"It's definitely up there as one of my favorite Pixies' albums," contemplates the affable Lovering. "I think 'Surfer Rosa' might be slightly above it for me, more so because of the memories and the time. 'Doolittle' is dynamic. I think there are plenty of songs on it that are catchy and make it a really complete album."

Translating them live really wasn't an issue for the band. Since their reformation and subsequent touring in '04, they had been steadily cohering as a unit. They quickly regained the tightness and form they were known for in the '90s. Early opinions on the acumen of the Pixies' live show are confident and assured.

"The songs sound really good," Dave enthuses. "We're getting good comments that we're reproducing the album very well, and we're trying to stick to the way the album sounded. I think it's coming across well."

For those who watched the original, sometimes-cringe-worthy demise of The Pixies, there has to be some trepidation as to how the band's interpersonal workings might overshadow the Doolittle tour. The easygoing drummer shrugs off any concern.

"It's like there was no time lost in between. Everything is basically the same. We're older and wiser and I think that we know better. We're the same band, but we're in a much better situation. We're all friends now," he says, laughing.

As for the shows themselves, fans can expect some big productions. Long-time Pixies lighting designer Myles Mangino and designer Paul Normandale have constructed an epic visual backdrop to complement the songs. The set features four giant, eyeball-like spheres floating down from the lighting rig and are part of the concert's light show.

Filmmakers Judy Jacobs, Tom Winkler, Brent Felix and Melinda Tupling were brought on board to create 11 films especially for the production. The films are projected onto a massive backdrop video screen to accompany 12 of the 21 songs that comprise the show. Visuals accompanying the song "Debaser" are from a compilation titled Forbidden Images. The concert opens with the showing of the 1929 silent surrealist short film, "Un Chien Andalou," Black Francis's inspiration for the song.

"It's a rockin' show. We've got lots of video; it's a real nice production."

And, of course, all this leads to the inevitable question: will there be a new Pixies album in the future?

"We have had conversations about it, but nothing has come to any actual plans. We're just so busy touring this year. 2011 might be a different story, though."

Even without the promise of new material, the anticipation and reception of the Doolittle tour has served to further solidify The Pixies' standing in the annals of alt-rock. Still adored by the original fans who sweated through those intense, early gigs, and just as equally revered by fans who missed the band's beginning, Lovering and The Pixies find themselves overwhelmed at times by the esteem they've garnered and held for over 20 years.

"It makes you feel really, really good. It's very heartfelt. We're very humble about it. It's still a nice thing to know that we're acclaimed that way by some people. It's nice to know that people like the music so much and that we weren't just a little flash-in-the-pan thing. That means a lot to us. It really does hit home."

Steven DiLodovico

Steven DiLodovico is an accomplished writer who grew up in the underground Hardcore scene in the early '80s, where he learned and lived the DIY ethos by booking local shows, writing for fanzines and organizing events of varying political activism. While raised on a steady diet of heavy classic rock from the '70s, his roots extend deeply into the worlds of Punk, Metal and Hip Hop. Originally from Philadelphia, Steven has worked for various independent record labels in different genres, including Superegular Recordings, Babygrande Records, and Enemy Soil Records. He has written for such Hip Hop magazines as Subculture and Elemental as well as a number of Hip Hop websites. He has also contributed to highly-esteemed websites like Jersey Beat and SmutLife. Steven is currently co-writing an oral history of the legendary Trenton, NJ Punk club City Gardens. Contact Steven at [email protected].