Review: Pixies, Modest Mouse, and Cat Power Dazzle Beneath a Blue Moon

Year two of the Salt Shed putting on shows has been a doozy. Honestly, they certainly have not needed to go this hard for this long. Every show brings something special to the table and last week they had one hell of a three-act lineup. Behemoths like Pixies, Modest Mouse, and Cat Power all sharing their unique and undeniably astounding sounds on one night feels like we won the lottery. and with every passing set, that feeling felt all the more true.

Cat Power, the iconic musical pseudonym of Chan Marshall, opened the night with a set that checked off nearly every box needed for an amazing set for me (the unchecked box came in the form of Marshall’s policy of no photos). There was a slight audio issue at the start of her set, cutting off the opening lines of her cover of the Rolling Stones’ “I can’t Get No (Satisfaction)”, but once we got past that, everything aligned wonderfully. Being the first act out of three, I knew that Marshall was going to go through a shortened set, but every song hit just right.

The set was mostly filled with covers as Marshall is now up to three cover albums. But interspersed between covers like ” New York, New York” and “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”, Marshall delivers tracks like “Headlights” off her debut and “Hate” off The Greatest. Marshall poured herself into every song, adding a little “muchas gracias” at the end while the crowd showed their gratitude. She ended her time on stage with Phil Phillips’ loving song “Sea of Love”, one of my absolute favorite covers of hers. Marshall’s cadence and emotion adds a sense of relief to the song, as if the proclamation of love is finally here after extended period of longing. It was the perfect bookend to the set.

Now, I was lucky enough to see Modest Mouse last year as they celebrated 25 years of Lonesome Crowded West where they played the album in its entirety at the Vic. And while I adored that show and concept, nothing really beats a set by Modest Mouse that spans their discography. The band has too many great songs that shouldn’t be limited to an encore or preshow VIP performance. Their set at Salt Shed was robust and entertaining, nailing the feel of Modest Mouse’s 30-year-long career.

Right off the bat they greeted the crowd with some early tracks from Lonesome Crowded West and This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About, ” Doin’ the Cockroach” and “Dramamine” respectively. Starting out with such staples and fan favorites hooked the already jazzed-up crowd before taking them on a journey to the present with “We Are Between” off their latest album The Golden Casket. That dash between albums with other bands might feel dizzying, but Modest Mouse’s sound has been honed and perfected, letting all the seemingly disparate pieces somehow “It all will fall, fall right into place.”

Those lyrics give “Gravity Rides Everything” its soothing and understanding sensibilities, helping calm the crowd down a bit after “Dashboard” and the rest of the opening track. While the song may have been ingrained into the minds of every kid who watched a little too much TV and saw that damn Nissan commercial ad nauseam, it remains a high point in the band’s more mainstream output. The calm created by “Gravity Rides Everything” would be overturned almost immediately as Isaac Brook and crew got the crowd feeling themselves with songs from No One’s First and You’re Next.

The final portion of the set leaned heavily on The Moon and Antartica and Good News for People Who Love Bad News. “Satin in a Coffin” led the way perfectly into the opening lines of “3rd Planet”: “Everything that keeps me together is falling apart, I got this thing that I consider my only art of fucking people over”. Performed under the blue moon, the song is such a stream of conscious jam that holds on to some very complex lyricism, giving the audience a lot to take in. But of course, the audience was never as enthralled as they were during “Float On,” which arrived near the end of the set. The energy pulsed through as Modest Mouse finished their set off with “Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine” and “Shit Luck”, two loud and undeniably fun tracks that primed the crowd for the Pixies.

There was a lot to live up to when it came time for the Pixies, and not just because of the great sets from Modest Mouse and Cat Power. Pixies are the kind of band that carries a vast history that really resonates with me. And considering this is my first time seeing them live, I was very excited. With most of the original lineup remains intact with Black Francis, David Lovering, and Joey Santiago, and once touring musician and now full time member Paz Lenchantin, Pixies completely lived up to expectations.

They instantly started with two Doolittle songs “Gouge Away” and “Wave of Mutilation”, revving up the anxious crowd with such recognizable tracks. Pixies are full of those and given just how loved those early songs are, they made sure to put the spotlight on them frequently. The night was heavily weighted with tracks from Doolittle, but their latest album Doggerel got a fair bit of shine during the band’s 24-song set.

There were so many highlights throughout the night. “Monkey Gone to Heaven” dazzled as you would expect, really showing off how well Francis’ voice has held up. The slinky “Hey” with the repetitious finish of “We’re chained” made everyone sway along. Later in the night the back to back performance of “Here Comes your Man” and “Mr. Grieves” had fans who opted to take a seat in the Salt Shed’s picnic benches sprinting back to the packed crowd at the stage. “Debaser”, the chorus of which I had been quietly yelling to myself throughout the week leading up to the show, burst forth with all the silly avant garde-ness before the UK Surf reprise of “Wave of Mutilation” settled everyone into an ethereal chill.

While each one of the Pixies‘ setlists have been unique and varied for this tour, the final two songs seem cemented in place: “Where is My Mind” and “Winterlong”. Quite honestly, it’s expected and I don’t blame them. Both songs have a long and storied history in the Pixies’ oeuvre and deserve to be highlighted in such a manner. “Where is My Mind” especially as its distant enigmatic ooos echo under Francis’ questioning yells seem to find new life every passing year. “Where is My Mind” saw Francis’ voice at its most varied, changing the songs cadence into this freeform that retained its iconic quality. “Your head will collapse, and there’s nothing in it and you’ll ask yourself…” he crooned as the audience lost themselves in the ocean of people at the Salt Shed, swimming in the glory of the blue moon’s light.

All photos by Julian Ramirez.

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Julian Ramirez
Julian Ramirez