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Pixies: Head Carrier

The woman sweeping her hair back and forth in front of me used to have Pixies texted on her high school bag (we haven’t seen each other since the last day of school 27 years ago), the hipster to my left is firing off blanks into the ceiling from his finger guns in time with the drums as his friend wreaks havoc on the neck of an air guitar, and pockets of pogo-legged teens are bouncing impossibly high with the exuberance of youth, plus a cool cat who’s pushing sixty has eyes afire as the signature jangling Pixies guitar riffs loved the world over are belted out.

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The seminal Boston alt rockers who changed the face of music (inspiring legions of copycat bands including Nirvana in the process) are ‘Gouge(ing) Away’ in Horncastle Arena. Frontman Black Francis sounds just like he does on late 80s party staple Doolittle, all sweeping and soaring vocals before the guttural yelps of the chorus kick in. Joey Santiago is slaying his axe with some seriously controlled devilish guitar distortion as Dave Lovering thrashes his drumkit with an Animal-from-the-Muppets-like intensity without missing a beat, and band newbie Paz Lenchantin is as a bodacious bad ass bassist you could hope for, bringing a touch of the Pixies’ spunk of old to the reconfigured line-up. She also rocks some sweet harmonies and more than holds her own among the rock legends and her epic predecessor.

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Refreshingly, the Pixies are still all about the music – there’s no annoying faux crowd banter (there’s not even a greeting!). They’re straight into it, alternating tracks from their latest album Head Carrier (including Hauraki high-rotation faves ‘Tenement Song’ and ‘Talent’) with Pixies classics, including the sweet melancholy of ‘Monkey Gone to Heaven’, the country hick cool of ‘Caribou’, the c-bomb dropping swagger of tertiary education kicker 'U-Mass', manic glory of ‘Debaser’, and the frisson-inducing classic ‘Where Is My Mind’ that’s forever tied to the apocalyptic ending of Fight Club. Extended intros offer a brief reprieve before the next track kicks in, and its the tightest 70 minute set ever. Alas there’s no ‘Bone Machine’ or ‘Gigantic’ (understandably) as the team graciously bow and wave before cranking out encore ‘Into the White’ from within a plume of fog – three decades on and the Pixies are still the epitome of alt cool. Images: Joshua Duncan

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