Between the annual 311 or Moe. re-hashes, The Stone Pony manages to surprise every now and again with a weekend of can’t miss legends. With the mood well struck the night before by Primal Scream, it was time for Pixies and TV On the Radio to take the Stone Pony Summerstage for a twin kill bill.
With a day in-between their respective dates in New York or Brooklyn, the two festival titans took to the shore on a gorgeous, picturesque day in Asbury Park before shipping up to the Boston Calling festival.
The show marked Pixies’ first local performance since their triumphant Doolittle anniversary stop at Convention Hall followed by a Black Francis solo set at Wonder Bar not too long after. I had never seen TV On the Radio in Asbury before, but they seemed to be making a day of it as they were spotted out at The Speakeatery for brunch and seen walking out of Holdfast Records with a pirate’s plunder of LPs.
The Memorial Day weekend Sun set directly behind the Summerstage as TV On the Radio took the stage opening with longtime set staple, “Young Liars,” off of their first EP. Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe worked the front of the stage with his trademark arm swirls while multi-instrumentalist Kyp Malone manned his atmosphere setting controls, taking lead vocal in spots.
Both of them seemed to be trying to hold back smiles as TV On the Radio were gamely tasked with trying to win a crowd over that likely didn’t come to see them. The consensus from the bathroom line included a lot more expletives than I’ll quote verbatim here, but I’ll say simply that most were taken aback. Here’s hoping they’re back with a ninety minute time-slot sometime soon.
Exactly one half hour after TV On the Radio exited, Pixies arrived without so much as a “hello” ripping straight into their set. The crowd had expanded past the soundboard at that point, as Pixies worked through hits, crowd favorites, rarities and new songs off of their most recent, EP combining LP.
Nearing their fourth decade of on and off activity, Pixies have always remained a North-East band with a reverence for Asbury Park that pre-dated most in the audience. It’s with that in mind and just by looking at the focus in Francis’ eyes that one could sense a bit of urgency in trying to deliver as much as the band could in their strict ninety minute confines.
Pixies seem to have taken something away from returning to the modern landscape of American festival culture, as their set-lists are constructed pretty much on the fly based on the crowd, and the general aural narrative deftly maneuvers not unlike headline appearances by The Cure who have been doing it for decades; hits, crowd favorites, rarities and new songs. Even if you came in only knowing the “Where Is My Mind?”, the construction of the set was engaging enough for fans of all scopes to thoroughly enjoy.
Set highlights included “Monkey Gone to Heaven” because, you know, New Jersey, the slinky sex crawl that is “Hey” and “Gouge Away”. Also, and I’m sure it’s been said before, however Francis manages to hit those screaming notes on “Bagboy” and “Debaser” after all this time, I’d like to take some sort of seminar on if possible.
With the hard curfew of 10pm approaching within seconds, Pixies did sort of an odd victory lap, unsure of whether or not they would be able to continue. Francis walked side stage and talked to someone who was vehemently gesturing five with his hands figuring the band was being gifted another five minutes for a one song encore. Well, they did exactly as they and the crowd wanted tacking on three more songs, including the disco-ball-light sing-along “Where Is My Mind?”, capping a masterful set.
Although shows like this are few and far between, it’s become increasingly clear over the years that when “seen it all” bands like TV On the Radio and Pixies hit Asbury Park, they bring a little something extra out of the reserve to delight and impress. Here’s hoping we’ll see both of them back again.