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Coachella: Pixies Return 10 Years Later With Something to Prove

Frontman Black Francis played as if he had something to prove rather than some money to collect.

Pixies Coachella - H - 2014
Associated Press

When Pixies played Coachella 10 years ago, the band's set was a defining moment in both the festival and the group's history. Pixies' main stage set in 2004 was the first major reunion gig for the act, which, in its heyday, had never broken through more than the college-radio club scene.

Pixies' surprising, star-powered legacy was emboldened by the signifiers of cult status -- tape trades and older-brother recommendations, file-sharing and rock-star endorsements, rather than radio play and MTV coverage. It was exciting for everyone and launched Coachella's international reputation as the place where band reunions, even those deemed impossible, could actually happen.

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But this year's last-minute addition of Pixies brought the quartet to the desert with a different agenda: After 10 years of nostalgia-drenched reunion tours, they're now in a promotion cycle for Indie Cindy, the band's first album in 23 years. Unsurprisingly, those critics concerned with the band's legacy have already blasted it for sullying their perfect rep. (Pitchfork infamously gave it a 1.0.) Their placement -- in a spot in the Mojave tent against major acts on both the main stages -- begged the question of whether anyone still cares about Pixies.

The answer, thankfully, is yes. Despite a Coachella crowd that's appeared indifferent to fellow legacy acts like The Replacements and The Afghan Whigs, kids packed the venue to yelp through "Wave of Mutilation" and "Bone Machine," seemingly unaware or uncaring that founding bassist-vocalist Kim Deal's spot onstage has been taken by A Perfect Circle's Paz Lenchantin. That move has found the band derided in hardcore fan circles but here seemed to have emboldened the rest of the group.

Frontman Black Francis performed as if he had something to prove rather than some money to collect and drummer David Lovering bashed hard. Guitarist Joey Santiago was clearly invested, wailing through "Vamos" at the close of the set before flipping his Les Paul around and playing the pickup toggle switch, left-handed, while holding it aloft.

And those new songs? While they may not have gotten the crowd response of "Caribou" or "Where Is My Mind?" they don't stand out, either. The newer tracks are secondary cuts, for sure, but secondary cuts that don't get in the way of those that brought the band to prominence -- and could have come from any of their primary albums.

The new material is also a sure sign that Pixies aren't going anywhere again. At this point, that's still cause for celebration.

This article first appeared at Billboard.com.