I had recently gotten home from a semester abroad in Scotland. While I was there the Pixies had released Trompe Le Monde, and I bought the cassette at the Aberdeen HMV the week it came out. The Pixies were one of my favorite bands, and the Surfer Rosa/Come On Pilgrim two-fer had been the soundtrack of my sophomore year of college. “She’s a real left winger ’cause she’s been down south and held peasants in her arms.” Yep, that pretty much nails it. Bossanova got me through some tough times. “Is she over me, like the stars and the sun?” Yes, she was.
To this day listening to the Pixies conjures up those intense conflicted emotions of college: liberated but sheltered, idealistic but cynical, innocent but itchy, that desire to push it too far. “We’re not just kids… We got ideas!”
I loved Trompe Le Monde with all its abrasive guitar and spacey lyrics, but I remember being concerned about the lack of obvious Kim Deal input. There were rumors… Trouble in paradise?
The week before the show I picked up a brand new pair of wire-rimmed glasses from one of those places in a strip mall with the warranty where if anything went wrong they’d replace them for free. Something went wrong.
When the Pixies came onstage at the State Theatre they all seemed to be in a nasty mood. They were in the middle of a huge arena tour with U2 and this was a one-off show in between dates. They didn’t look at each other or say anything to the crowd; they all stared straight ahead and ripped into their set. Nevertheless, they sounded tight and great and the Kalamazoo crowd went nuts. A mosh pit formed immediately, and before the end of the first song my brand new glasses got knocked off my face and disappeared into the abyss. I’m not totally blind, but I can’t really see.
So I guess I can’t actually say that I saw the Pixies live in 1992. I heard them. And that was still impressive.
The setlist for this show isn’t available online, and I can no longer recall the details, but other setlists from that era reveal they played a lot of newer stuff mixed with a bunch of older classics. Nothing quite like the summer of 1989 when they played their songs in alphabetical order. Wish I would have seen that!
They didn’t say a word between the songs. After their final song, Black Francis dryly quipped, “Thank you very much we’re the Pixies U2’s up next,” and they exited the stage. No encore.
Once everybody cleared out I found my glasses, completely flattened, the lenses ground into dust. Back home on Monday I brought them to the strip mall and told the receptionist, “These broke,” and handed her what was left of my mangled frames. In my head I was thinking, Don’t give me no shit because…I’ve been tired! They replaced them for free.
The Pixies, on the other hand, were not so lucky. That U2 “Zoo TV” tour was the final nail in their coffin. After the final show in Vancouver, just a month after the show in Kalamazoo, Black Francis told Kim Deal he was taking a sabbatical. They wouldn’t talk to each other again for 12 years. Resentment had been brewing for a long time in a toxic combination of passive aggression, jealousy, and substance abuse. But this tour did them in.
Despite the bad vibes I’m still happy I got to witness the original incarnation of the Pixies. I’ve seen them a few times in Chicago since they reunited, and they put on a good show. But this show in 1992 was something else.
Saturday, March 28, 1992
$17.50 (including $2.50 tax)
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Be sure to read the July 1992 Spin article by Kim Deal’s then-boyfriend Jim Greer that apparently really pissed off U2’s management as well as Black Francis for publicizing how poorly the Support Act was treated on the Zoo TV tour.
I couldn’t find any footage on YouTube of the Kalamazoo show, but there are a couple of fan shot videos from a couple of the U2 dates which give you an idea of what it might have been like.
Local band Rollinghead opened up. I have no recollection of this whatsoever, but I wasn’t into them. Someone uploaded their growly set to YouTube:
I wish the person who videotaped Rollinghead had stuck around to tape the Pixies. If they did, they haven’t uploaded it to YouTube…yet.
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