Pixies and Modest Mouse
with Cat Power
Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater • Vail, Colorado • September 2, 2023
by Liz Weiss
In the little town of Minturn, Colorado, an hour before the show, the rain came in a way that was a notch more intense than “cats and dogs” level, and my first reaction was, “Oh no! They are going to cancel this show!” After making the run to the tiny lot where the car was parked, soaking wet, we made our way to Vail.
The minute we parked at The Amp the sun came out, and it was so bright that its reflection off the water on the ground was blinding. A cloud had been lifted, and all the concert goers breathed a sigh of relief in the clear mountain air as we watched the storm head towards Denver.
The crowd was a mixture of Stetson hats and beanies. As I looked around, it was easy to make out who was at the show for which artist. Most of Frank’s followers donned a few grays and their best concert tees from the ’90s. Modest Mouse cronies were much younger, wearing matching tie-dye merch, sneaking vape hits while security wasn’t looking.
Cat Power didn’t waste any time warming up the crowd, as the sun shone brightly onto the pine trees behind her, adding contrast to the purple stage lights beaming around the band. This heartfelt, sometimes heart-wrenching siren of the ’90s didn’t waste any acreage of her performance space and connected with the crowd swiftly, with no hesitation, continuously making hand signals at the sound booth, for more monitor, or other adjustments until she was satisfied with the sounds surrounding us all. While this BFF to Lana del Rey is loved for covers of her own influencers’ music, she brought mostly her own music to the stage this evening. No stranger to struggle, she poured her heart out, leaving it all on the floor.
By the time Modest Mouse started, everyone had taken advantage of the intermission — by now it was dark, and all around me, everyone was brave enough to light up. The first few notes of “Dashboard” played, and the crowd erupted. I sent my 17-year-old daughter to the pit with a camera and the photo pass for a closer look. She was skeptical about this band, but after being down there for 20 minutes and rejoining me at our seats, she had been hooked. Prior to that, she had only ever heard what was on Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. They saved “Float On” ‘til the end, and it was what most people were waiting for.
Now let’s get to why we’re really here, and that is for the 30-Year Anniversary of the Pixies. I love to watch the set changes, and as I saw all the beautiful old amplifiers being wheeled out and lined up on the stage, the entire vibe changed, and I got butterflies watching the last of the cords being plugged in, imagining what we were really in store for tonight.
With bright white and red lights filling the stage, Frank Black made his way out. His bandmates entered behind him, but all I could see was this rock veteran looking beautiful, all dressed in black. Ultra cool black glasses hid the eyes of a man ready to prove he still has the chops. When they started playing “Wave of Mutilation,” I was taken back to 1993, my senior year of high school, devouring bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Mazzy Star, and pretty much anyone on the Singles soundtrack.
I didn’t find the Pixies until I found the Breeders that year, and that’s when I discovered that band crossover and collaboration was a beautiful thing — getting to see these people, and their people, in such a different light. Tonight, I am 48, not 17, feeling grateful to see such an influential alt-rock band with only 5 feet between us, where I stand with my own 17 year old, looking on with the same look of awe on her face.
They weaved their way from Come on Pilgrim (“Vamos”) to Doolittle (“This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven”), through several well-known songs, old favorites for the die-hards, and some of their lesser-known, newer stuff. Everyone seeping such an air of coolness mixed with melancholy. The only slight down point for me was the absence of Kim Deal. While Paz is a solid bassist paying homage to the chords of these historical songs, it just ain’t the same without her.
As we headed back up the Sawatch Mountain Range to our hostel (run by a really sweet family and a gorgeous pitty named Diamond), moonlight guiding our way, we were tired but excitedly going over our favorite moments of the night, fully aware of the magic of music and the once-in-a-lifetime night we experienced together. Just a cool mother-and-daughter duo with really rad playlists. ◼