The ex-Smith proves his greatness on a spiky live album
Pixies: Apollo/Alexandra palace, Manchester/London, Tues Aug 30/Wed Aug 31
The nicest guy in rock (official!), Ross Millard from The Futureheads, gets giddy with excitement at being allowed to support his childhood heroes, the Pixies
“It’s a really big deal for us to play with the Pixies. When we were putting The Futureheads together there weren’t many bands that we all had a great love for, but they were one. They seemed like a good model for inspiration, because they wrote amazing catchy pop songs with great melodies but were abstract and clever and funny too.
I think I first heard them after I left school in 1998. I used to rent out their albums from the library. At school I didn’t really have any friends that were into the same music, and I think the Pixies appealed because they were an outsider’s band: they weren’t styled and they made weird music, not what you normally hear on the radio. I never really thought that they’d reform – I was convinced that I’d never see them play those songs that I loved so much.
So when we roll up at the Apollo and hear the chords to ‘Gouge Away’ coming from the stage I think to myself, ‘This is amazing’. Once inside, however, we’re extremely disappointed to discover that it’s the crew soundchecking. Sadly we’ll have to wait a bit longer for the chance to say hello to our heroes.
Having played our slot, there is no room to watch the Pixies from the side of the stage, so we opt for the balcony.
The lights go down and Pixies walk on.
I’m thinking, ‘All of these songs pretty much defy every convention ever, but they’re the best pop songs I’ve ever heard’. Songs like ‘Monkey Gone To Heaven’ and ‘Debaser’ are played mid-set, like they’re throwaway tunes. To my mind, no other band in the world can arbitrarily shuffle their setlist like that and still have a brilliant show. The show ends with the band saying their goodnights firstly to one another, and then to the crowd, who are by now rapturous. I walk past Black Francis on the way to our dressing room. I decide to leave it for now, hoping I’d get a chance to say hello and thanks at some point tomorrow. Hope springs eternal, I suppose.
After a really shit night’s sleep on the bus, I get up desperate for a shower, and eager to clock a glimpse of the supposedly massive Alexandra Palace. The rumours are right. In the cold light of day, this place is canny large.
We arrive back at the venue for the soundcheck, and again Pixies are nowhere to be seen. By now, we’ve all pretty much come to terms with the fact that we may not actually get to exchange any words with the band.
Tonight onstage I feel that we crossover with Pixies in terms of fans. I can spot kids with our T-shirts on in the crowd, and it’s a good feeling, because it makes me feel slightly more aligned with our heroes. We may not sporadically burst into Spanish or have that semi-biblical bent to our songwriting, but if I thought we had even half the ideas or song-craft, then I’d be a happy man.
Pixies head onstage. Their set begins with ‘Wave Of Mutilation’, and the crowd go as mental as they can to the slowest song of the night. They play a slightly more album-centric set, stuff like ‘River Euphrates’ and ‘Ed Is Dead’. It really underlines the bizarre nature of their songwriting – especially ‘Vamos’ and ‘Subbacultcha’. It’s kind of sad that only now are Pixies experiencing the total adoration and credit that they’ve always deserved, but at least it’s before they’re too old to make it embarrassing. They save their bigger hits for the second half, and by the time ‘Tame’ rolls around the crowd are loving it.
None of us have met Pixies yet. I keep my fingers crossed about our final show tonight, but I don’t need to shake someone’s hand and say, ‘Good show’, because it has already been an absolute privilege to share a stage with that band. Before this tour, I hadn’t even entertained the possibility. Frankly, I’m made up.”
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