Mon, 19 Apr 2004

The Pixies were in town. I think I’ve only heard one song by the Pixies – “Wave of Mutilation” – and it didn’t impress me much. They were pretty big when I was in high school. I remember some of my aspiring hipster friends proving their bona fides by claiming allegiance to the Pixies. The band broke up in the early nineties to pursue solo projects. Now they’ve reunited for a series of concerts taking them through western Canada and the northern U.S. Their first show in a decade was in Winnipeg last week. Then they played in Regina on Thursday and Saskatoon on Saturday.

Kurt and his friend Chris Dally had tickets to both Saskatchewan shows. After the Regina show they came back full of stories. “I snuck backstage,” Kurt said, “And I looked through the window into their dressing room, and I saw Kim and I gave her the thumbs-up! Black Francis wasn’t there, though. Then this skinny guy said, ‘What are you doing back here?’ So I said, ‘Nothing’, and I left.”

Saturday morning, the morning of the Saskatoon show, I went to the Broadway Café for breakfast with Kurt, Jenn & Warren, along with Stu & Sheila, who’d driven all the way from Nelson to see the Pixies. We had to wait in the doorway because the place was packed and we needed a table for seven. Jenn pretended to use telepathy to make people pay their bill sooner, so we could have a table. While she was squinching up her face and trying to look telepathic, a big chubby bald guy squeezed past us and stood in the entranceway, trying to spot an empty table. “Frank,” said Kurt. The guy didn’t turn around.

“That’s Black Francis,” Kurt semi-whispered, pointing to the bald guy. “Fuck. That’s Black Francis!” The bald guy pretended not to notice that he’d been recognised. After a few seconds he went in and sat at the counter. “Fuck, that was Black Francis,” said Kurt.

“Why don’t you go talk to him?” Jenn said. Kurt shrugged. “I’ll go talk to him,” Jenn said. Kurt grunted.

When a table finally came free, the rest of us sat down and Kurt went to talk to the bald guy. He was back after a few seconds. “What did you say to him?” we asked.

“I just said, ‘Charles’ – that’s his real name – ‘I think you guys are amazing and I just wanted to shake your hand.’ Then I shook his hand.”

“What did he say?”

“He didn’t say anything. He just kind of went, ‘Mrmm’.”

For the rest of breakfast, we stared at the back of Black Francis’ head. When he opened up the Globe & Mail, I announced, “He’s reading the Globe & Mail.” Everyone turned to stare at him. He flipped to an article about the Pixies’ performance in Winnipeg. “That’s so weird,” I said. “He’s reading about himself.”

“Should I go buy a disposable camera?” said Jenn.

“No, just leave him alone,” said Kurt.

“It must be a pain-in-the-ass being a semi-celebrity,” I hypothesised. “You’re not quite famous enough that you can take advantage of your fame to push people around and get free stuff, but you’re not quite anonymous enough that you can go to a cafeteria without some jerkoff spotting you and making a big deal about it.”

Kurt seemed to think that everyone in the restaurant knew who he was. “The waitresses must know,” he said. “They’re just acting cool.”

After Black Francis paid his bill and left, Kurt asked the waitress what he ordered. “Who?” she said. “That chubby bald guy in the leather jacket,” said Kurt. “Who was he?” “He’s the lead singer of the Pixies.” “Should I know who they are?” “They were big in the late eighties, early nineties.” “What did they sing?” “They never really had a top forty hit.”

“Huh,” she said. “I wish I’d known. I could’ve made a fuss over him.” She went away and we never found out what Black Francis ate for breakfast.

For the rest of the day, Kurt was excited about his brush with greatness. We went to the Vinyl Exchange so Kurt could pick up the new Modest Mouse album. I browsed the old jazz LPs and decided that I’d kind of like to own a record player. Later we went to play mini-golf.

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Michael A. Charles is a writer, animator, and musician currently living in the Vancouver area. He used to be the singer and guitarist for the band known as Sea Water Bliss.

You can find a selection of his cartoons, music videos, and ads on the Gallery page.

Michael isn't on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter and won't be on whatever comes along next. If you need to reach him here's his contact info.

Garson Hampfield, Crossword Inker