Say what you will about Charles Thompson, he's a consummate consensus builder: Whatever the moniker, be it Frank Black or Black Francis (for this show he was billed as the latter), he makes his audience comfortable (whether they're fans or not — more on that later)) as he jokingly pointed out prior to performing the first song of his set ("It helps make people comfortable when I open up with this."), "Where Is My Mind?," at The Parlor Room last Saturday evening.
Francis, who makes his home in the Western Massachusetts, favors tiny venues such as The Parlor Room, often popping up unannounced to play some short sets. The venue's cozy and intimate vibe makes it impossible for barriers between performer and audience
Francis brought out fellow label mate (The Bureau Records), Jeremy Dubs, to accompany him on drums. Together the two barreled through 25+ songs spanning Francis' vast solo output and some Pixies-era songs.
But those details aren't important, these are:
What is it about the post 90's-era indie music audience? When did it become acceptable to bring an infant to a rock 'n' roll show as one audience member did (sure, it was an early show and they slapped a pair of protective "cans" over its ears, but this wasn't Meltdown)? Also, what gives them permission to sit through a performance by one the most influential post-punk visionaries and politely applaud? There's something about a collective genteel mentality that smacks of exhaustion, indifference, or hipster smugness. Whatever it is, it's a buzz wrecker for sure. It used to be that one's cherished memories of rock 'n' roll shows was the unpredictability factor — a fight or fire breaking out, a singer suffering a heart attack onstage, some moment of levity, but not anymore. Too much politeness.
One of the few people in the room who weren't stiff was my enthusiastic companion who had never heard of Frank Black/Black Francis prior to the show (Me: "What about The Pixies?" Her: "Nope.")! As she bopped and swayed her head with abandon to the music, it was refreshing to see somebody respond with the appropriate measure of exuberance (and wolf-whistles) and sense of of awe at such a incredible performance. And when the show was over, she delivered a rather understated pronouncement: "That was fun! He's pretty good."
Yeah, he was pretty good.