Wednesday, December 6, 2023

SunFest Reviews: Hozier, Pixies

[NOTE: The Week Ahead will run on Tuesday this week.]

When I arrived at SunFest on Saturday night and saw the massive sea of people watching Stone Temple Pilots (v. 2.0) perform their fatuous frat-rock singles to audiences that still remember ZETA, I had some hope that, maybe, if I showed up for Hozier 10 minutes before start time, I could still find a decent place to stand.

How naïve. It may have been the Irish phenom’s first time headlining a festival—a fact he mentioned with gratitude and humility a couple of times during his set—but he carried an audience of thousands, packed as the far as the eye could see, through nearly every track on his self-titled debut and then some. From my vantage point, he was the size of certain Florida mosquitoes, but the distance didn’t dilute the power of his music, whose uniqueness and intensity increased in a live setting.

Inevitably, half of those people showed up just to hear “Take Me To Church,” and they filed out like lemmings once he played it, but it was the deeper cuts that were most affecting, aided by a cellist and a pair of backing vocalists. He opened with the lovely and direct “Like Real People Do,” whose opening notes were met with a chorus of adolescent squeals not heard since the Beatles in ’64.

“Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” was driving and album-perfect, and a hypnotic version of “It Will Come Back” was aided by Hozier’s description of the song as “about doing the right thing, and cutting off all the ropes and letting go.” “To Be Alone” was Hozier’s zenith; this rousing blues rocker was thunderous and gut-punching, slaying everybody who was paying attention.

Which certainly wasn’t everyone in my direct radius. For what it’s worth, of the three SunFest acts I attended this year, the Hozier crowd was the rudest, chattiest, most obnoxious and most self-absorbed, and they so ruined the intimate solo rendition of “Cherry Wine” that I abandoned by space in the boondocks for a spot in the hinterlands, a ZIP code away from the teeming masses.


Like Real People Do

Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene

From Eden

Jackie and Wilson

To Be Alone

It Will Come Back

Cherry Wine (solo acoustic)

1 Thing (Amerie cover)

Someone New

Arsonist’s Lullaby

Foreigner’s God


Take Me to Church

Work Song

The next day, I was back for the Pixies, inexplicably slated for a boiling 2:15 p.m. time slot when they obviously should have headlined the whole damn festival. It was my first time seeing the Pixies with bassist Paz Lenchantin replacing the irreplaceable Kim Deal, and she was most animated Pixie onstage; better yet, if you closed your eyes, you could almost trick yourself into thinking you were still hearing Kim.

As is their wont, nobody in the Pixies spoke a word to the audience, playing for an hour and 15 minutes without so much as a 30-second break between songs. They performed what could almost be considered a dub mix of “Gouge Away,” extending the song in dancier directions. Played third in set list, it was followed by a string of vintage hits in whiplash succession, a true embarrassment of riches: “Head On,” “Wave of Mutilation,” “Where is My Mind,” “The Holiday Song” and “Nimrod’s Son,” the latter performed with a slowed-down second verse that lulled us into submission before taking us home with a furious finish. “Vamos” also differed from the album track, in that it provided a captivating solo for guitarist Joey Santiago, who set down his instrument and “played” it using only feedback pedals, for a spastic noise assault.

The more the set list progressed, the more inaccessible it became for the casual fan, with harsh contributions like the ear-bleeding masterpiece “Rock Music,” deep cuts like the surprising “Trompe Le Monde” inclusion “Subbacultcha,” and one song even I didn’t recognize. Three tracks in a row from “Indie Cindy,” the band’s polarizing and overproduced comeback album, sounded like classic Pixies when played alongside their late ‘80s brethren, especially the anthemic head-banger “What Goes Boom” and the thrilling “Blue-Eyed Hexe,” on which Frank Black seemed on the verge of gloriously blowing out his vocal chords.

But when it was all said and done, I think most us were just a tad disappointed—not at the Pixies so much as their unattractive timeslot, which capped their set list at 23 songs instead of the usual 30-33. When you think of the obvious fan favorites that somehow didn’t make the cut—“Here Comes Your Man,” “Gigantic,” “Monkey Gone to Heaven,” “Caribou,” “Velouria,” “Planet of Sound”—it’s easy to feel short-changed. There’s always next time, I hope.




Gouge Away

Head On

Wave of Mutilation

Where is My Mind?


Nimrod’s Son

Break My Body


Greens and Blues



Rock Music

What Goes Boom

Blue-Eyed Hexe

Magdalena 318


River Euphrates

Isla de Encanta

I’ve Been Tired



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