Here’s a little-known fun fact: I get claustrophobic in crowds. It originally manifested when I was a kid travelling on crowded buses. I’d feel faint, sweaty, my blood pressure would plummet, and as soon as I got off the bus I would hurl in the nearest garbage bin. In my late teens and twenties I took to the concert-going scene and was largely unscathed, except for a particularly memorable occasion where I passed out at a Frente gig. I was standing on a row of chairs at the side of the venue when my eyes scanned across the top of the audience. I made the connection of just how packed the pub was and promptly collapsed from standing to a slumped-over, seated position.
When I went to the Lily Allen concert recently, I wondered if I would have a problem with the crowd but fortunately it was fairly light-on and I had plenty of space to breathe in. Not so, with The Pixies. As well as two ex-boyfriends, a number of friends, past colleagues, and familiar faces from audiences of over 15 years ago, there were over 8000 other people there in the sold out Hordern Pavillion. I was standing on the fringes and already feeling I wasn’t going to make it. So I made for the seats and actually ended up with a much better view, overall. I did a little dance, bought a bit of merch, and sang along to every song.
The Pixies put on an awesome show. They played well, sang well, and the set with visual backdrop added to the mystique of lyric meanings. They opened with a couple of obscure B-sides, then played Doolittle tracks, in order, from start to finish. They came back for an encore of Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf) and Into the White, exiting from the stage into a thick white fog. We wanted more, though, so with the house lights still on The Pixies returned for a second encore of Where is my Mind, Dig for Fire, Planet of Sound and Gigantic.
I can’t choose a favourite but the opening bass line to I Bleed sucked me into a little bit of nostalgic emotion, and the outro of No. 13 Baby, along with the visuals, was mesmerising.
But apart from being a spectator at a ‘cultural’ revival, I had an odd feeling of being home. The faces in the crowd that I’ve seen before, the indie t-shirts that had come back out of the closet (The Meanies, The Triffids, plus a half a dozen Death to the Pixies shirts), the tattoos and crazy hair – this was my posse back in the day. We were all part of a subculture. And though I often went to gigs alone, I was looked after. I was reefed up off the floor when a crowd surfer took me down at a Tumbleweed gig; when I was being crammed against the stage at a Frank Black gig (Oct ’94 – Phoenician Club) I was allowed to sit on the front of the stage for the duration; at a Primus gig (’94 – Selina’s, Coogee) the acquiantances I hooked up with made sure I didn’t get squashed.
So it was a revival of sorts. A revival of cultural heritage rooted in alternative music. But most of us aren’t showing our latest tattoos anymore (I never actually got one, though have often thought about it), we’re showing baby pictures on our iPhones and wondering why The Pixies and other 90s acts aren’t holding matinee shows on a Sunday. I wonder if, in another ten years, will the bands of our time be playing RSL clubs and all-age concerts with Seniors Card discounts?