Rock history is filled with great bands that were never fully appreciated in their heydays, but few were as influential as the Pixies, whose five albums were a template for such bigger sellers as Nirvana, Radiohead, Modest Mouse, even OutKast ("Hey Ya" is one of the best Pixies’ rips of recent years).
Fewer still were able to reunite and attain the success they so richly deserved in the first place. The Pixies’ 2004 tour was a triumph both musically and financially. "loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies," making its world premiere at South by Southwest, documents the band’s moment in the sun. While the movie doesn’t delve too far into some of the messier aspects, it makes up for it with excellent concert footage; you can practically feel the sweat on Black Francis‘ brow.
The film hints at, but never delves too far into, the intra-band acrimony that kept the group apart for more than 10 years, and the effect of, and recovery from, substance abuse that individual members faced. The film never really gets into the band’s backstory, nor does it explain the cult that has grown around the band since its breakup, or how a band that sold zero records in its prime ended up selling out huge auditoriums in minutes.
And yet…Goodness, what a joy it is to behold the Pixies play those songs, those strange, surreal, startlingly melodic songs. Filmmakers Steven Cantor and Matthew Galkin capture concert performances so powerful, so joyful, that most objections can be overlooked.
And there are a few starling moments that illustrate not only the ravages of life on the road, but the intensity with which fans identify with their favorite artists. After the band’s first show, a warmup for the long grueling tour, bassist Kim Deal runs backstage to soak her blistered, ravaged hands in ice. And in one of the film’s most poignant moments, a teenage fan (who may not have even been born when "Come On Pilgrim" was released), is seen not only meeting Deal, her idol, but playing bass in a Pixies cover band. The kids’ version of "Monkey’s Gone to Heaven" segues into the Pixies playing the same song, a fitting tribute to a band that holds an intense place in the hearts of a couple generations of rock fans.