This is a piece based solely on my opinion and does not reflect the opinion of our other writers (disappointing notion). It is meant to give only one man’s perspective of what he (I) view to be a veritable musical apocalypse. I can now say with 100 percent certainty that rock and roll is dead. Any hope of it being cool or dangerous or shocking is all over. Case in point:
The venue is called the FedEx Forum. It’s where our pro basketball team, The Grizzlies, go to play the most mediocre hoops you can imagine.
It is also where music and culture go to die painful deaths.
Since I was a teenager I’ve wanted to see The Pixies play a live set. It wasn’t possible then because they were between existences. When they finally reunited in 2004 I was somewhere in the center of some decades long, chemically-induced stupor. But I did chance to see them on Austin City Limits around that time on a television in a Nashville drug rehab center. They were great. Good form. The other patients had no clue what the fuck was happening, and it was even more magical because of that. I refused to let anyone else touch the remote until it was over.
The whole mythos behind the Pixies has always been intriguing; the feuding of Black Francis and Kim Deal. Kurt Cobain claiming to have ripped all his chops from them (confirmed by Frank Black long after Cobain’s death). The faltering side-projects of most of the members during their 10 year hiatus (excluding, of course, deals highly-acclaimed The Breeders).
I’ll never forget listening to a tape of Bosanova in the mid to late nineties and being extremely thankful for it because there was a bunch of mook shit going on in music and it was awful. I had no idea what they looked like then. It was a good time.
Nothing is mysterious anymore.
The there was Weezer;
I never in the furthest reaches of my psyche ever had any reason to associate these two bands with one another. One were sited as pioneers of Indie-Rock and, some would say (myself included) modern post-punk. The other, at the time, wrote some solid rock tunes but then always fucked things up by pulling silly antics like the “Buddy Holly” video. So I was never able to take them completely seriously.
Yeah, I had Mtv. And you didn’t need anything else to know what Weezer was about or capable of. Their entire evolution, rise and fall and linger on for far too long, took place on the television. I can say I never owned a Weezer album. What’s the use in that? Just turn on the tv. They’ll be on in a few minutes if they aren’t now.
I want to stress that I didn’t hate Weezer before yesterday. I just didn’t care.
I never thought I’d be writing about the band but this was just sort of handed to me by the deities last night.
So, Weezer/Pixies, live at the Fedex Forum. March 23, 2019.
I thought I had better go on and see The Pixies. The forum is far from ideal but who knows when I’ll ever get the chance to see them again. NO ONE comes through Memphis. Typically, you have to drive to Nashville to see a great band. The reasons for this stem from bands not wanting to get their equipment stolen (this has happened more than a few times) to lack of public demand. These are just guesses. The most likely reasons of all is probably that no one shows up. That’s the general census. A town full of musicians who only show up to their own shows.
The birthplace of Rock and Roll is also it’s graveyard. The circle is complete.
In preparation for the show last night I decided to see what Weezers latest musical offerings held in store. I do some looking and see they just released something called “The Black Album”. Sounds grim and sort of cool, right?
This abortion begins with a song that makes me want to take a bath just thinking about listening to it again. At risk of triggering myself I’ll tell you a bit about it. It’s called “Can’t Knock the Hustle”. I have no idea what the bulk of the band is doing during the recording of this song because it sounds like the singer is sitting at a laptop doing his best to mimic a minimalist maroon 5 bit. His use of dated street jargon makes you want to break his glasses for even presuming to be tough (I know, he’s being ironic. Doesn’t matter). He actually says, “Don’t step to me, bitch”.
The effect here is that I want nothing more than to step to him. The whole song makes me want to shove ice picks into both ears until they are having a little sword fight in my brain.
I make it to the next song before I have to turn it off. I won’t even dignify that one with words.
So here’s me asking friends how they can like Weezer. “Oh, they’re just a meme. They know they’re bad. It’s on purpose.”
So you’re telling me they suck on purpose? Ok, I’ll buy that.
But listen, Weezer never did anything that great. Anything they did that was even decent was made null by this and probably a lot of other shit I’ve never heard before it.
These super-fans think music is a joke. That’s fine but I want to see the Pixies, who, despite moments of silliness, take themselves and their craft up with the utmost seriousness. At this point I’m questioning the credibility of the Pixies for even presuming to tour with this farcical abomination. Maybe you can put a dollar sign on your musical integrity. I don’t know what the price is though.
Picture if you will:
We arrive at the FedEx Forum in decent spirits. We can’t get to any of the myriad merch tables yet because there are all manner of basic riffraff throwing their money at these stoic, elderly people pushing wares for these bands. They look like they want to die. I felt bad for them.
Every dude has a pair of black-framed glasses on. Their girlfriends look like they’re trying they’re best to be enthusiastic about anything as blasé as Weezer. I play a game with myself where I try to spot anyone who may, also, just be here to see the Pixies. The game isn’t easy. A bunch of kids (some under the age of 5 or so) mill about. This could be Disneyworld or anything else and I wouldn’t have noticed any difference.
We decide to find our seats. I’ll check out the Pixies merchandise when Weezer goes on. I want me some vinyl.
So we enter the arena proper and find our row and our seats. We sit one seat off from our actual seats because I didn’t want to plop down right next to this lone young man that looked a bit freaked out by our approach. Later I would have to scoot over as more people made the scene toward the end of the Pixies set.
There are rows of chairs set up neatly on the floor below us. No standing room. I’m wracking my mind, attempting to remember the last time I saw chairs on an arena floor for a concert. It was actually Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 2000, Orlando Florida. I was 17 and thought then, as I do now, that that was funny. Chairs. Ok.
The opener is playing. A band called Basement from the UK. I checked them out after a couple of friends with questionable taste told me they were amazing. These are songs that you know are about to get good, then they never do. Imagine the Deftones are onstage but they just pick the most random, regular guy they can find from the crowd to sing for them. There you have it; Basement live.
I use them as stand-ins for the Pixies as I size them up through my phone’s camera. They were the second-best group of the night. I felt pity for them. They did their best to jump around and look hype for a crowd that clearly didn’t give a fuck.
They left the stage and my wife and I look around once the lights popped back on. There is a kid, maybe 8 years old at best, sitting directly in front of me with his family. All the dudes in glasses, in accordance with the weezer-code. The women, a bit nervous but ready for a good time in the way that people are. You know, hopefully we won’t be up so late we miss church in the morning. That’s Weezer’s peeps…the entire giant-ass room, in a nutshell. Have you ever been at a concert and thought to yourself, “There is no safer place on Earth right now”? That notion is running through my head repeatedly. I see people get bud lights and I know there is no chance they are going to imbibe too much and hurt me. It’s depressing. People eating popcorn and pretzels with their cup of beer that has a grizzly bear on it. Don’t forget whose house this is. Just waiting to see a band that re-wrote the book on punk-rock in the 80’s while I enjoy this hot dog. Man-bunned men discuss the logistics they used in purchasing tickets. The best view of Weezer for the right price. Mmm yess mmmhmm quite
It isn’t long before the lights go back down and out stroll the good old Pixies. Black Francis is in a black suit, Johnnie Cash brilliance a striking contrast to his bald and shining pate. They tear into what I think is a Beatles cover. Still not sure but it sounds crisp. It may as well have been a lost Pixies tune. I’m pumped. I’m seeing the Pixies and I’m not going to worry about the surrounding circumstances.
A few songs in “Black” begins strumming the opening to “Where is My Mind”. This is one of the only time these cretins even came close to giving the legends that were onstage the welcome they deserved. They lost their shit. It’s the song from Fight Club, Y”all!
It’s while the Pixies were really throwing down this cool, long intro to “Gouge Away” that it sinks in that the fucking Pixies are playing and I look at my wife and tell her these fuckers are all lucky I don’t drink anymore. And this is true. Because I want to get out of my seat and start jostling random folks and testifying the gospel of true punk rock and asking them what’s wrong, It’s GOUGE AWAY you creep let’s get it!
But I resist and sing along and bop around in my seat a bit.
They go into “Here Comes Your Man” shortly thereafter and some blonde bimbo 2 rows up stands up directly in front of us and starts dancing horribly. I have to explain to my wife that this song was in almost every romantic comedy in the 90’s. It’s a chick Flick tune and I guess that puts some perspective on it. We loved the dancing girl. We knew what she knew. This is goddamn rock show. Well anyway a female member of the family featuring the 8-year-old gets upset because she’s right in front of her, blocking her view of the Pixies, who she didn’t seem to give a shit about until she couldn’t see them. Apparently, some harsh words are exchanged and the kids ears are covered (The only other time they are covered is when Black Francis says “You are the son of a Motherfucker” in “Nimrods Son”). The girl that can no longer see the Pixies storms out in a rage, making all the people in her row stand up so she can get away and cry or whatever. The seats are like that. I should have brought a colostomy bag, personally. Well the dancing girl’s boyfriend spends the bulk of the remaining set presumably giving her grief for dancing. See video below.
The dancing girl was in the spirit of the music. That’s why she was right. Who cares if the only other song she danced to was “Gigantic”, which is about big dicks and, thus, had us laughing at and loving her even more. It’s ok for everyone to stand during Weezer but not the Pixies?
These People didn’t deserve the Pixies.
The Pixies play a fantastic set. They hit almost every tune I want to hear. They are in proper form and Paz Lenchantin is actually an improvement on Kim Deal.
They go away and now a big black curtain is drawn. What’s going on?
It is later revealed that the stage is being set up to look like Arnold’s Diner in Happy days but we don’t know this yet.
Now the place is packed. There isn’t an empty seat in the place. The preparation for this next band is taking far longer than the last. They must really have some special shit in store.
Three scummy looking old guys and the singer from Weezer (who, oddly, doesn’t seem to have aged) all run out in front of the stage in full Barbershop Quartet regalia and a spot-light hits them. I immediately start recording this farce with my phone. The crowd is unhinged. These scummy old fucks are WEEZER.
Bum Bum Bum Bum what’s with these homies dissin my girl…. Yes, what we are getting is a barbershop version of “Buddy Holly” and, believe me, it isn’t an improvement on the snooze-fest that is “Buddy Fucking Holly”. I look at my wife and tell her no one is going to believe this shit when I tell them about it.
They finish off this drawn-out-too-long bit and run away really fast, I guess to change. After what seems like forever the curtain clumsily drops (It got hung on one end) and there stand the scummy old men and the young looking one. They are all wearing variations of fashion unbecoming their old asses and they start playing some loud, boring song that is unfamiliar to me and everyone stands up. As I said, the stage is set up, lazily, to look like a 50’s diner and there’s a big “W” that lights up at random times. The scuzzy old rich guys can also be viewed on either of 2 giant screens on either side of the stage.
The band is well practiced. I can say that. At one point one of the old scuzzes, the one with the long hair, pulls a harmonica out and plays it, unnecessarily, in my opinion, into the microphone.
During one song these poor people in black clothes (So they can’t be seen?) are pulling set pieces off and dragging more big, dumb shit onto the stage to complete whatever mindless theme the band is singing about. I get depressed and watch the ceiling for awhile and finally appreciate the aesthetic of the way the big boxy thing hanging off the middle of the ceiling at basketball games looks with lights swirling all around it. I contemplate this while the band plays the only thing I know in the 4 songs we stayed for. That song is “The Sweater Song”. You know how that song always rips a little when the chorus comes in? Not this time. There is no noticeable change or push when it comes in. They are just going through the motions, clearly. The audience doesn’t notice or care. They could be up there doing anything at all. It doesn’t matter. This is WEEZER. Who cares what they do or play or make people drag out onstage? These guys can patronize every single one of their fans by barbershop singing to their asses and they just want more.
When some bands realize their fans will eat up anything they sell, they do the dignified thing and still strive, to the best of their ability, to make meaningful music. Then there are the ones like Elvis, who just put out a thousand live records and do drugs and get fat and quit caring. But at least those live records are of songs people want to hear. Then there’s Weezer…not cool enough to overdose and die or blow their brains out. Their love for money has long ago trumped any notion of expression of art or longing for a solid discography. It’s apparent in the people that go to see them. This isn’t a rock show, it’s a family picnic. People argue that The Blue Album is still good. Is it? I have never heard it all the way through. Does it even matter? It’s not like it’s anywhere near the genius of “Siamese Dream” or “Nevermind” or anything. Weezer were b-rate then. Just another group of dudes with long hair and an Mtv buzz-clip. When did they become more? I missed something. I happened to catch things over the years like that song about Beverly Hills or Holidays in the Sun. There is no logical explanation for this rise, or sustain in popularity decades later. I’ve never heard anything good from this group. Tolerable? Yeah. I’ve never hated them. They aren’t even on an audiophile’s radar at all.
It’s music for people that don’t like music.
And maybe I’m missing the point. I realize people have the right to listen to whatever they want. I’m well aware of that. But I just hated to see the Pixies dragged into it. That’s all.
Aside: Today my wife was discussing the show with a co-worker who asked, “So you didn’t see when they were all in a boat together onstage”?
No, dude. Mercifully, we didn’t see them all in a fucking boat together.
I hope to one day see the Pixies on their terms. They deserve that. And damnit, I do too.