Sunday night, Sept 17th at the Hollywood Bowl was a clash of the titans, with powerhouse artists in Modest Mouse and Pixies gracing the stage and concluding their joint North American run together. The lineup had prompted many in the lots and the shuttles playing the guessing game of figuring out who each person was there to see. There was almost an even split of fans there for either Modest Mouse or Pixies, but despite the split each fan was still excited to see the other. Overheard were fans recanting the first time they ever saw either band. Stories ranging from old university lounges to small clubs across the country and down to the couple who first met at a Modest Mouse show and are now seeing them for the 20th time since then. Cat Power also played but unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the venue in time.
It was my second time seeing Modest Mouse, with the last time being at the smallest venue in Riverside about 7 years ago where they ripped through a banger of a set and came back for multiple encores. So I was more or less prepared for what the Modest Mouse who would be like. But it was my first time ever seeing Pixies, a band that I’ve always dreamed of seeing. Walking into the Bowl, the sheer star power being showcased that night hit even harder. With the gloomiest of sunsets in the background, the crowd filled in the venue and as Modest Mouse came on, I turned and saw the Bowl filled to the brim, with only a couple of empty seats in the distance.
Opening the night with “Doin the Cockroach”, Modest Mouse came out swinging with their hits and people immediately popped out of their seats to dance in their sections. The band felt really dialed in and tight from the start, with a creative use of lighting on the shell of the Bowl to really get you entranced into the music. After a minute I found myself weaving in and out of the soundscape they created, and sucked into the energy that the band was providing on stage. The band powered through hits such as “Dashboard” and “Float On” as well as bashing out classics like “Bukowski” and “Ocean Breathes Salty” to my personal favorite “Dramamine”. As they kept cycling through these songs, I was thinking of how they are such an underrated band, with a massive catalog that they can pick and choose from, which they often do as no setlist feels the same even on the same tour. It’s a testament to their prowess because even then, there were murmurs of fans saying how the band had covered all their bases, from their hits, to the crowd favorites and an obscurity or two to keep you on your toes. Overall, they showed that they haven’t missed a beat and are still going strong.
After Modest Mouse, the anxiousness for the Pixies became apparent, with everyone getting their last food and beer runs in really quick so as to not miss a single thing. As the lights faded away, the band came to center stage and began with the reminiscent bass line to none other than “Gauge Away”. This transcendent rhythm got everyone up on their feet, and once the line “Missy aggravation/Some sacred questions/You stroke my locks/Some marijuana if you got some” was sung, many in the crowd obliged and had sections inundated with big clouds of smoke. They then broke into “Wave of Mutilation” and that made me feel a little emotional- it was the one song that had gotten me into the band so many years ago, and the one song that was on repeat in my head weeks prior to the show. I fully expected myself to belt out the words and sing along, but I couldn’t. I was more enamored with that specific moment in time and let myself enjoy the moment. It was then that I scanned around again and noticed the diversity of the crowd, seeing parents with their kids on their shoulders, couples my age dancing along with each other and people who would have followed the band from the very beginning mixed into the crowd.
In a blissful state for the rest of the set, we saw the band break out even more hits like “Hey”, the chaotic ensemble of “Debaser” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven”. It truly felt like an unreal experience to watch the legends go through these classics, and I couldn’t help but hear the influence they have had on other artists throughout the years. It felt like every song in the set made me rifle through my brain and pick up on songs they’ve influenced and even days after, I’m still listening to my playlists and thinking how many artists owe a lot of credit to the Pixies. Leaving the venue, I gained a newfound love and appreciation from the band, reminiscent of when I first discovered them in high school and thinking they were one of the best bands ever. Much like my younger self, I’ve had Doolittle and Surfer Rosa on repeat, counting down the days until I’m able to see them again.
Words : Alfredo Luna
Photos : Jessica Moncrief