Three hundred lucky souls experienced The Pixies return to their pre-fame stomping grounds to pay final respects to T.T the Bear’s Place, a tiny Boston-area club whose doors will close for good next month.
TT’s has been a breeding ground for up and coming talent over the past 30 years, giving acts like Jane’s Addiction, Arcade Fire, Mission of Burma and The Shins a place to gig when in the Bay State. The Pixies hadn’t played the room in damn near 30 years and given the meteoric rise of their stature over that time, news of the show sent Boston’s music scene into a frenzy. This was going to be the show of the year and one people would be talking about for ages.
The Pixies two-hour set strayed from their normal romp of greatest hits and the crowd was digging it. The show kicked off with “Ed Is Dead,” and from there Black Francis and Co. kept building momentum. Francis, born Charles Thompson, kept his acoustic guitar strapped on for the first 45 minutes of the show before switching over to his telecaster, at which point the crowd collectively flipped its shit. It’s a rare thing you see so many folks in their 30s moshing like they were in high school all over again and it was hard not to feel like you were in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video. By the time “Mr. Grieves” started off, the entire crowd was a single swarm of sweaty meat swaying in whatever direction the collective was willed. You could tell by the somewhat nervous reaction of the band that they’re not used to an audience being so intimate that their microphone stands came close to knocking over.
The quartet was founded at Umass Amherst out in the Pioneer Valley but when they headlined Boston Calling less than a month prior, it was clear they were phoning it in. The Pixies aren’t a nostalgic bunch (they fired Kim Deal twice and then canned her replacement because she went stage diving) and didn’t seem to see it as a homecoming. That said, where Francis was passive and uninterested at Boston Calling, he was engaged, animated and seemingly enjoying himself at TT’s.
At no point during the performance did anyone in the band verbally address the crowd or comment on the special nature of the show, but they really didn’t have to. It’s not exactly a secret that when The Pixies reformed in the early 2000’s they were doing it for the payday and over the past 10+ years, you’d have been more likely to see Steve Urkel riding a Unicorn than see The Pixies playing a venue with a capacity that isn’t in the thousands.
TT’s is literally above a larger venue called The Middle East and you’d regularly feel the drums bleeding through the floorboards. There is no backstage and it doesn’t take much for the humidity level in the room to rise. At $55 a ticket with capacity limited to the 300 die-hards who literally waited hours in the hot sun to get a nontransferable ticket, the gig didn’t rake in a lot of dough. The Pixies were there becaeuse they wanted to show their respects to a part of their past, and just maybe enjoy slumming it in a venue they currently wouldn’t be caught dead in.
While T.T. the Bear’s Place has about one month left before the doors close for good, The Pixies personal farewell is the last memory a lot of their Boston-area fans will have of the place. Years from now, people will name drop this gig as a bragging right and odds are, far more than the three hundred souls in attendance will say they were there. The purpose of this performance was not to make money. The goal of both promoters and performers was to build upon the legacy of a historic concert hall that has spent the past 30 years giving Boston-area music fans memories that will last a lifetime. On paper, The Pixies didn’t have a whole hell of a lot to gain by playing such a small gig. That being said, the sentimentality inherent in the booking showed a warm, human element of a band that’s generally considered to be detached and distant from their fans. The Pixies’ instantly famous set may have helped send T.T. the Bear’s Place out in style, but in turn, helped build their own legacy as well.