The Pixies “Acoustic Sessions”: See the Alt-Rock Stars Rehearse for the 2005 Newport Folk Festival

Think New­port Folk Fes­ti­val and what comes to mind? Pete Seeger, right? John­ny Cash, Mud­dy Waters, Joan Baez? Or, more recent­ly, The Avett Broth­ers, Ali­son Krauss, Lucin­da Williams? You’re def­i­nite­ly think­ing Dylan, freak­ing out the folkies in ’65 by plug­ging in his Strat. Are you think­ing of the Pix­ies? No? Me nei­ther. Prob­a­bly one of the last bands I’d think of. And yet, the Pix­ies played the New­port Folk Fes­ti­val, or—as Pix­ies front­man Frank Black jokes above—they went “reverse Dylan,” swap­ping their big amps and elec­tric gui­tars for acoustics and a whole lot of low-key charm. Yes, it’s true, as Spin points out, that the fes­ti­val has “a rich his­to­ry of unit­ing dis­parate gen­res of music,” but to be hon­est, I wouldn’t have imag­ined an acoustic Pix­ies set, wouldn’t have thought such a thing were pos­si­ble, had I not seen it in the “Acoustic Ses­sions” film above.

Yep, the band best known for quiet/LOUD dynam­ics and muti­lat­ing walls of sound rose to the folk chal­lenge in 2005. Above, we get to see them rehearse in Hart­ford and take the stage in Albany for a dress rehearsal (where Black goes around and asks each mem­ber of the band if they are “scared”). They had only just reformed the pre­vi­ous year, after an eleven year hia­tus dur­ing which it seemed we’d nev­er hear from them again. Through­out the nineties, Singer Frank Black (or “Black Fran­cis” in the Pix­ies hey­day) had plen­ty to do with his Frank Black and the Catholics. Bassist/singer Kim Deal hit a rich vein of suc­cess with The Breed­ers and their mas­sive hit “Can­non­ball.” While every­one pined for a Pix­ies reunion, few peo­ple expect­ed it to hap­pen (and when it did, for them to rock as hard and loud as they did). And maybe the last thing on any­one’s mind was what’s hap­pen­ing above. The band seems pret­ty shocked them­selves, espe­cial­ly Deal. In one exchange, Black says, “You know what acoustic means? Not too loud.” She responds dri­ly, “I’d rather get shot in the face.”

But it’s fan­tas­tic! The songs come through crys­tal clear, just as tune­ful, melod­ic, and strange as the first time you heard them blast­ing from your car stereo cas­sette deck (espe­cial­ly “Wave of Muti­la­tion” at 14:00). And their off-the-cuff ban­ter is price­less. Enjoy it, and Hap­py Fri­day.

The full New­port Con­cert is avail­able on DVD. This site has the setlist.

 Relat­ed Con­tent

The Pix­ies’ Black Fran­cis Cre­ates Sound­track for Famous Ger­man Expres­sion­ist Film, The Golem

Bob Dylan’s (In)Famous Elec­tric Gui­tar From the New­port Folk Fes­ti­val Dis­cov­ered?

Josh Jones is a writer, edi­tor, and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him @jdmagness

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