After a five-hour drive all the way from our small Iowa town, my friend Josh and I arrived at Alpine Valley around 2:30. We were both incredibly pumped for what we were about the experience, and the great Alpine atmosphere only enhanced this; what a great place to see a show! We picked a spot in the shade to sit down, and saw a purple van come driving around the circle, carrying none other than Jeff Ament in its passenger seat! Didn't get to talk to him at all, but cool nonetheless. Soundcheck started about an hour after we arrived, starting with some noodling (sounded like Ed), then easing into 'All Those Yesterday.' Chills were up and down my spine the moment I heard "the voice," and at that point I knew tonight would be even better than I expected. They proceeded to soundcheck a GREAT 'Leatherman,' 'Sometimes,' 'Tremor Christ,' 'Off He Goes,' 'Smile' (WOW!!), and 'Mankind.' I remember thinking, "Wouldn't it great if we got all these tonight?!!"
We entered the venue as soon as allowed, and after strolling around soaking in the atmosphere and laughing at the people sprinting to their lawn seats (not laughing AT them, but rather laughing because we knew we'd be doing the ones running to our spots next week!) The first thing I noticed was the tower at the top of the reserved seats, the one that Eddie climbed back in 1992. My heart stopped when we sat down in the third row, thanx to the fan club! Frank Black and Co. came on about 7:30 as scheduled, and delivered a very solid, roc kin' set. I've never been much of a Pixies fan, but after seeing Frank live, I definitely take him seriously. I tried to get some practice pictures before the real show began, and am abruptly told by a rather BIG security member that, "One more flash, and the camera's mine."
It's almost 9:00 and the 'Color Red' creeps over the speakers. I grab Josh and say, "this is them!!!" (much in the same fashion as I would three days later in Chicago, substituting, "It's them," for, "It's Baba O'Riley, It's Baba O'Riley!!! :o) ).
Matt is the first one I see come out, and he's followed by Stone, Jeff, Eddie, and finally Mike from the other side (our side) of the stage. The crowd is absolutely NUTS, and we're greeted with a simple, "hello," from Ed; then, with Stone's head-bob in action BEFORE it starts, we're straight into an AMAZINGLY intense version of 'Do the Evolution.' WOW, what an opener!! Eddie crouches low to the ground for the wolf-howl at the beginning, and I'm transformed from a shy Iowa boy into a bouncing, screaming lunatic. After a razor sharp 'Evolution', I see Matt tap the cymbal three times, and we're diving into 'Animal', complete with Ed (and myself) counting off the "12345 Against 1" on our hands. So far things are ... well, words can't describe.
Next up is one of my absolute FAVORITES with 'Last Exit'. I'm so utterly entranced at this point that I could have wetted myself and not known it. Towards the end, Eddie COMPLETELY forgets the words (he was obviously a little drunk), and after jamming for a few seconds, the band realized that Ed's mistake is unredeemable and stopped as well, to which Ed says, "fuck that song, lets get to the next one." To this I yelled my approval (isn't it funny how whatever Eddie says, if you're at the show, you just go nuts? He could say, "dogs are cute," and we'd all still just love it and shout our appreciation :>) )
Mike charges us into 'Brain of J', complete with a great "whoooooooose" line, which to me is a barometer of whats to come. It seems that when Eddie is really grooving', he just NAILS that line. Another Mike song follows, and we're finally allowed to breath a little for the first verse of 'Given to Fly.' It seemed like the entire 35,000 people were in unison as the "arms wide open" line was song; truly a sight to see. At this point, I'm finally allowed to soak in the other members of the band. Stone is just bouncing around in classic Stone fashion, Jeff is all smiles the entire night, just doing that little groove things he does with his shoulders, Matt is hard to see from my vantage point, but not hard to HEAR!! Mike ... well, more on Mike later (you've heard it all before).
'In Hiding' just shocks me, not that its odd to see it so early in the set, but because I just LOVE the song so much. I'm in pure bliss as Josh and I try to reach the perfect pitch for the "now I...I'm in hiding" part. As soon as Eddie completes the last words, he retreats back to strap on his guitar, all while Stone is finishing up his great melody. Almost immediately after Stone finishes, the greatest opening cords possible just FILL the place. 'Corduroy' has always been special to me, and its clear that we're in for an intense version, because Ed's just zoned in on his guitar. "The waiting drove me mad!," ... so true, so true. The jam afterwards is awesome, and before we know it, we're taken softly into 'Wishlist.' Not the best version I've ever heard, somewhat fast, but great vibe. During this, the lighters were displayed for the first time, and Ed is obviously taken back by the seemingly "50 million hands upraised and open towards the sky."
Zip, Zam, Boom ... 'Lukin'!! I NEVER expected to hear this, and man, does it deliver live! ... 50 seconds of pure PUNK! Sometime in the first five or six songs, Ed said in amazement, "Jesus, there are a lot of you!" He seemed really happy the whole night, which made me very grateful.
We hear Matt's little two-beat intro into 'Even Flow,' and Alpine is back in 1992 at Lollapalooza; yes, this version was THAT good. Just totally rocked out the whole way. Next, after Eddie says hello to his brother in the audience, we slow down with a little 'Daughter,' and Stone is feeling it, as he was all night. The song's a blur until "tag zone," when my jaw just bottoms out when I hear 'Stuff and Nonsense'!! I'm screaming to Josh that this is my FAVORITE-TAG-OF-ALL-FUCKING-TIME!! The first show I ever heard was a recording of the 3/17/95 Melbourne radio broadcast, and that tag just totally got me. I've loved it ever since, and I just cannot believe my luck to hear it tonight.
'Dissident' is next; Josh and I talked on the way up that we could definitely do without hearing this at all over the weekend, but nonetheless, I still found myself head-banging (along with Eddie) to the bridge part where Stone and Mike's guitars just grind up against each other. Eddie again on guitar, and "off in the sunset" we ride. 'MFC' is tight as can be, with the jam at the end exquisite. On to 'Betterman,' which doesn't feature the 'Save it for Later' tag, but rocks anyway. EVERYONE sings along at the end, to which Ed comments how beautiful it is to have this many people singing along to his words.
Mike's getting a little fidgety, and I get the feeling that we're gonna get another "solo" song. Ed starts talking about how Stevie Ray Vaughn played his last show at Alpine Valley, and proceeds to dedicate the next song to him. BAM!! ... into 'Red Mosquito,' definitely not one of my favorites, but that was before tonight! The song rocks, and Mike just shines throughout, just really getting into the music (as always). Next up we get the PRIVILEGE of hearing 'Black'. Immediately I think of my mom (I know you're thinking, 'you sick bastard', but its not like that, its her favorite song on the PLANET). I sing along in my own world, just giving what was left of my voice to the "I know someday you'll have a beautiful life" line, after which we are treated to the BEST solo I've ever heard for this song (hey, Chicago wasn't until 3 days later!!), Mike just completely going nuts, throwing his body all over the stage. And they're off ...
The boys come back out after a few short minutes later, and I turn and say to Josh: "Hail Hail." I'm right! Just a loud, roaring version. Its so great at the beginning of sets, but man, it really fit here. Next up we get one of the two songs Josh and I really wanted to hear tonite (the other one coming later) ... Mankind! Stone just beams, and Eddie is dancing all around the area behind Stone and beside Matt (who's still playing beautifully, by the way). Great, Great, Great version. Ed with guitar: act three, follows, and he introduces the next song by bragging up Neil Young: "Once upon a time, we made a record with Neil Young ... we only played, he did all the singing, blah blah blah ... so it goes to show that in six days, Neil can write 12 songs, and we can only write two." Josh frantically grabs at my shirt, hoping to hear his favorite all-time cover, 'Rockin in the Free World,' but instead we get 'I Got Shit', which really rocked tonite, and featured the 'Cinnamon Girl' tag.
I seem to be the first person in the entire place to recognize the now-common slow intro to 'Rearviewmirror', but as soon as Matt and gang kick in, Alpine is once again singing along. The interlude is just a totally relaxing, entranceful jam (led by Ed), and after about a minute of the slow stuff, Jeff slowly points us back into assault mode at the "saw things" lines. The end is complete with tonight's strobe light placement (strobes would be used during 'Habit' tomorrow night), which really gets the crowd ready for the anthem. At this point, I'm looking directly at Stone, and as soon as I see his face, my many hours of homework watching videos comes in handy, because I know right away we're getting 'Alive.' Live recordings DO NOT give this song justice. Even now, when I listen to the recording of this show, 'Alive' just is NEVER the same as when you're there (not that any of the songs are, but especially this one). I'm shocked at the end when Eddie walks over to our side, throwing wine towards us, and proceeds to put a tag on 'Alive'!! ... something I've never heard him do. I really have no idea what he was saying until the end, when he said, "There's no way we can top this tomorrow night." With that they're off again, but this crowd will not settle for less than two encores.
This is where the other song Josh and I wanted to hear tonight comes in. Admittedly, I'm not the biggest 'Yellow Ledbetter' fan out there, but hell, we're RIGHT IN FRONT OF MIKE FOR CHRIST SAKE!!! Sure enough, they come back out to thunderous applause, with Ed again dedicating a song to Stevie Ray Vaughn. When he said this, my eyes just FLEW straight to Mike, and sure enough, the opening cords of 'Yellow Ledbetter'!! Josh and I just can't control it anymore, we're jumping up and down, hugging each other, and end up arm in arm singing along as loud as we can possibly handle.
Mike's solo at the end is nothing short of eternal, and the rest of the band agreed. Matt just leaned by Jeff on Jeff's amp, watching intently; Stone was on his side of the stage just standing there, having already taken off his guitar; and Eddie was down on one knee; elbow rested on knee, chin rested on hand, and the look on his face is just PRICELESS. He had the biggest shit-grin on this face, and its obvious that he's extremely happy with his, the band's, and Mike's, performance. They walk off, and Josh and I walk up the hill, only to collapse halfway up, feeling completely drunk (no alcohol in us). It was that good. We celebrated with my first ever cigar (I don't smoke), and left knowing that we got to do it all again tomorrow night!! wow, what a band ... what a show!!