Pixies Play Secret Show In Hamilton, Ontario

Legendary alt.rockers the Pixies played a secret show at the tiny Casbah in Hamilton, Ont. on Friday night.

The band were using the show as a tune-up for their next-day performance at Virgin Festival Ontario in Toronto, as well as to test-drive what may be the setlist for the upcoming tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their Doolittle album.

Indeed, there was nothing from the Bossanova album played all night as the Pixies focused on signature Doolittle tracks like “Here Comes Your Man,” “Wave Of Mutilation,” “Debaser” and “Monkey Gone To Heaven” in addition to “Where Is My Mind” and “Gigantic” from Surfer Rosa. In another Doolittle timeline moment, Frank Black and company also dusted off a cover of Neil Young’s “Winterlong.” The band originally covered the song two decades ago for The Bridge — A Tribute To Neil Young compilation.

The Pixies’ appearance was a closely guarded secret right up until the moment they hit the stage. In the weeks prior to the event local music industry insiders were invited to what was alternately being billed as an album release showcase for Spirits, the new ’80s-tastic sounding band fronted by Brad Germain of The Marble Index, and/or as a launch party for the International Tour & Tech Academy.

Organizers were only suggesting that “an international touring band — not Canadian — will also be on the bill,” and right up until Black, Kim Deal, David Lovering and Joey Santiago appeared, there was belief among pockets of Casbah attendees that they were about to see Franz Ferdinand, who were also playing VFest the next day.

Anyone with a calendar and a good grasp of Frank Black lore would have guessed the Pixies, though. Black has a long history with the steeltown an hour south of Toronto. Sonic Unyon, the distributor for many of his solo ventures, is based in the city, he’s used the Hamilton as a rehearsal base in the past, and he’s also played secret shows at Sonic Unyon’s headquarters throughout the years.

For their part, Spirits seemed less intimidated than excited at the daunting prospect of following the Pixies. Even the lengthy almost hour-long changeover required to move the Pixies stadium show-worthy stacks of Marshall amps and other gear didn’t dampen the band’s enthusiasm as they flung themselves into songs from their self-titled debut which is set for a Sept. 29 release.

Indeed, Germain would later post on the band’s MySpace page, “did that just happen? pixies played Hamilton? we played after the pixies? insane!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!spirits!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

The show was also a good one for trainspotting some of Hammertown’s music celebs. Mingling amongst the 200 or so in attendance were Finger Eleven’s Scott Anderson, Gaz Whelan from Happy Mondays, members of Junior Boys, Sons Of Butcher, Dylan Hudecki (Cowlick, ex-By Divine Right) and at least four dudes who looked like Dan Snaith of Caribou.

This story was originally published August 30, 2009 via Chart Communications.

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