In a 1994 Rolling Stone magazine interview, the late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain admitted that when he wrote the genre-creating smash hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” he “was basically trying to rip off the Pixies” — in particular, their trademark use of quiet verses and a loud, screaming chorus.
On Saturday night, Black Francis — the primary songwriter, lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the Pixies, who were also a huge influence on Radiohead, Blur and Weezer — played a relaxed but rockin’ sold-out show at The Hard to Find Showspace.
Where, you say? The Hard to Find Showspace, truly a no-frills venue. Located in a nondescript building off Hollister Avenue in Goleta, it’s a somewhat sterile large meeting room with cheap blue carpet and a makeshift stage. There are no concessions — and certainly no alcohol.
And it is small. Indeed, you can’t really get farther than about 50 feet from the stage. That’s perhaps what was most amazing about the concert by Francis, who was between legs of the Pixies’ tour, hitting much larger venues such as the Hollywood Palladium.
Francis, whose real name is Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV, drew from the classic Pixies catalog and his prolific post-Pixies recordings variously released under the names Frank Black, Frank Black and the Catholics, and Black Francis.
The Pixies’ songs were clearly the most familiar and enthusiastically received, with highlights including “Cactus” early in the show, “Nimrod’s Son,” the captivating “Wave of Mutilation” and “Caribou,” and a magical “Where Is My Mind?”
But Francis’ post-Pixies material also held up well, including great songs such as “Los Angeles,” “Manitoba” with its chorus “I have seen the face of God / and I was not afraid / I have seen the face of God / And I have dearly paid,” and “Tight Black Rubber” with its playful reference to “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
Francis’ setup, like the venue, was quite simple, with just him singing and playing one of a line of identical-looking Fender Telecasters that fed through a single distortion pedal into an amp. My only gripe might be that it was too simple, as Francis never really varied his guitar sound.
Francis was in good spirits, bantering a bit with the tiny and mostly subdued crowd, who lacked the alcohol-fueled loudness typical of rock concert patrons but still conveyed their admiration.
First on the program was opener Zohrk, whose oddly charming raw delivery was especially effective on a cover of The Who obscurity “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” dedicated to anyone who blacks out when they drink. Next up was Cat OK, with Guided By Voices-influenced alt-pop songs, including the catchy “Girlbassplayer” and “Life Is To Waste It.”
Finally, kudos to promoter Jeffrey Shuman and Club Mercy for bringing yet another big-name performer — remember Billy Corgan and Dave Navarro in the Spirits In The Sky last August? — to the area for a small, intimate show.
The following code indicates the artist name under which the song was first released.
P = Pixies
FB = Frank Black
FBatC = Frank Black and the Catholics
BF = Black Francis
Get Away Oil (FB)
That Burnt Out Rock & Roll (cover of Gary Green song) Horrible Day (FBatC)
All Around The World (P)
Dead Man’s Curve (FB)
The Holiday Song (P)
Brackish Boy (FB)
Los Angeles (FB)
Mr. Grieves (P)
Wave of Mutilation (P)
All My Ghosts (FBatC)
Where Is My Mind? (P)
Two Reelers (FB)
Nimrod’s Son (P)
She Took All The Money (BF)
Tight Black Rubber (BF)
Angels Come To Comfort You (BF)
— Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.