#16. I met Black Francis/Frank Black of the Pixies (Tampa, 1991)


I happen to know exactly why the Pixies broke up.

I learned this music industry secret when I was just 18, during the band’s “final” tour. More popular than ever, the Pixies had nonetheless announced their impending breakup.

This was only my third or forth concert, ever. My friends and I, including the girl who played bass in my band at the time, all drove from Ft. Myers, FL, two hours north to the 1000-plus capacity USF Special Event Center, in Tampa. I rode in the open back of my friend Andy’s pickup truck, covered with a blanket.

Because we were all so psyched to see the “final” tour by the best, most original band (which Nirvana was ripping off like crazy at the time), we showed up 10 hours early for the show. With nothing to do but wait around, my bass player and I snuck into the Pixies’s afternoon soundcheck.

We hid up in the balcony, far from the big stage, and watched the band members trickle in. I remember guitarist Joey Santiago walking nervously around the stage with a roll of tape and his guitar. He would carefully distance himself from his amplifiers, then play a recognizable Pixies lick that involved a little feedback, and if it didn’t sound right, he would move to another spot and try it again. When the feedback finally sounded exactly like it did on Doolittle, he would stop, tear off some tape, and lay an X on the floor, so he knew where to stand when playing that particular song. We thought that was cool as shit — because it was.

A few meticulous licks later, security spotted us and escorted us out.

With nothing else to do, and eight more hours until showtime, she and I figured out how to sneak back in.

By now, the whole band had shown up, with the addition of keyboardist Eric Drew Feldman from opening band Pere Ubu (and formerly of Captain Beefheart’s band!). To test their gear, the Pixies played a great, heavy rendition of Metallica’s newly released, first-ever radio hit, “Enter Sandman.”

When security finally nabbed us a second time, a couple of the Pixies waved goodbye to us.

Afterward, we continued wandering around outside the huge venue. On one aimless lap past their tour bus we saw, about 200 feet away, Pixies bassist Kim Deal walk out the venue’s back door. We froze, and stared at my bassist’s idol. Just as Deal began climbing aboard the bus, she spotted her gawking teen fans, stepped down from the bus, and began walking across the parking lot toward us. “Hi guys!” she smiled and waved, and walked right up to us and hugged us. (NOTE: I’ma tell that story in more detail when I get to the K section…).

Kim Deal gave my bass player some words of affirmation, then headed back to the bus. One of the first famous people I’d ever met, Deal gave me the wrong impression about how encounters with one’s heroes often go…

My bandmate and I walked on air the rest of the day. Finally the sun set, and a line began to form outside of the venue. The rest of my friends had gone off to smoke pot, and I sat alone on the cement sidewalk to the left of the ticket window as the line grew and grew to the window’s right.

Somehow, none of those hundreds of fans recognized Black Francis himself, when he walked right up to the window with a buxom, blonde, middle-aged lady in tow. Without a guitar in hand, he looked more like a portly sex tourist than a rock star. Still, my heart fluttered as I stood up to greet him. “I don’t want to bother you,” I softly told him as he collected his credentials. “But I really want to shake your hand.”

“No,” he scowled. Then he pointed at the blonde and chuckled, “Ask my bodyguard, here.”

“No,” she said before I could ask. Then they both laughed at me as they walked away.

I sat back down on the sidewalk, alone. Though embarrassed and dejected, I at least felt a little special, finally knowing the reason why the Pixies were breaking up:

Because Kim Deal is an angel, and Frank Black is a dick.

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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