The run of shows that the Ventura Theater has had this month has been nothing short of sensational. In its long history, you could probably put this October up against any month in terms of activity and quality acts. As if the soundtrack to the venue couldn’t get any better this month, none other than Bob Dylan snuck into town to use the theater.
Yes. You read that right. Just one week before he received the Nobel Prize in literature, one of the most important songwriters of all time, the definition of a living legend, Bob freakin’ Dylan was at the Ventura Theater rehearsing with his band in preparation for the Desert Trip festival, aka Oldchella, and practically no one knew about what you could call a top-secret practice.
Point is, there’s some magic in the air at the theater. So it comes as no surprise that just announced is one more “Can you believe it?” show: the Pixies.
Kurt Cobain admitted that “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the Nirvana anthem that became a theme song for a generation, was, to quote the man himself, “basically a Pixies rip-off.” Thom Yorke of Radiohead claimed, “There would be no Radiohead without the Pixies.” The late David Bowie cited the band as a major influence on him later in his career. Then there’s Bono, who proclaimed, “The Pixies are one of America’s greatest bands ever” and took them out on a U2 arena tour. Throw in virtually every other alternative rock band that openly claims influence, from Weezer to Blur to The Strokes to Alice in Chains to Smashing Pumpkins to P.J. Harvey to . . . well, you get the point.
The Pixies, with their extreme dynamic of moody, restrained verses to explosive and anthemic choruses, redefined alternative rock — if not outright created it. No one sounded like the Boston-based band when it came out of nowhere in the late 1980s. When Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, the first two proper full-length releases, came out, they became instant classics and began influencing anyone and everyone who heard them. The band gained massive popularity in Europe as well as a sizable cult following in the States.
It’s hard to believe, and in retrospect sad, but at the same time that the style of music it helped create was exploding, the band itself was already imploding, culminating in a drama-filled split in 1992.
Band members went on to other projects, most notably prolific frontman Black Francis, who began performing under the name Frank Black and released a slew of incredible albums. Bassist Kim Deal founded The Breeders. Guitarist Joey Santiago formed The Martinis with his wife and contributed songs to television and film. Drummer David Lovering stayed busy with other bands, and also became a magician with a scientific slant who once performed at Ventura’s small Livery Theater in what can only be described as a bizarre evening.
As the Pixies’ legend and influence grew, reunion rumors swirled off and on for years, and in 2004 the band announced a reunion tour that was met with universal acclaim. Since then the band has continued to tour off and on and release new material, including last month’s Head Carrier, which, after a series of EPs, is technically its first full studio album since 1991’s Trompe le Monde. Though the beloved Deal left the band in 2013 and is now replaced by Paz Lenchantin, who has had some pretty large shoes to fill, Black Francis insists she is “bringing a new energy to the band.”
Despite one original member down, there’s no need to be cynical: This lineup is most definitely the Pixies and it is most definitely coming to Ventura. It’s one of only four warm-up shows the band is doing before it heads out on a European tour next month, and it’s promising a mix of new and old material with a scaled-down production. To sum it up, it’s a special band at a special venue that’s having a very special month.
The Pixies come to the Ventura Theater, 26 S. Chestnut St., on Friday, Oct. 28. For tickets and more information, call 653-0721 or visit www.venturatheater.net.