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REVIEW: loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies

Say it loud: This is one of the year's best documentary films.

By Wayne Francis
Jacksonville, Florida


Steven Cantor and Matthew Galkin

Stickfigure Productions


loudQUIETloud Trailer


I had the great fortune of watching loudQUIETloud: A Film about the Pixies in a small theatre during the Jacksonville Film Festival, and it was easily the best film of the festival, and unquestionably the best documentary so far this year. Like many small coffee-house type venues that show film festival movies, the theatre where I saw the film had outdated sound technology and uncomfortable seating arrangements, but in this case, that didn’t matter.

This documentary was both visually stunning and musically entertaining; and I’ve never bought a Pixies album or attended their concerts, but I enjoyed every minute of these filmed shows, and it was a delight to see that the concerts were shot and edited with great precision and awareness to the excitement that accompanies live performances.

The Pixies parted ways in 1993, and this film chronicles their reunion tour of 2005, the good, bad, and ugly of it all. As for the good, the band performs flawlessly and still inspires large audiences to cheer like mad. As for the bad, the band uncomfortably sits backstage without ever speaking, and during individual interviews, they show little interest in each other. And as for the ugly, a few members have gained some pounds, and lost some hair, (there's some scenes of members shaving their heads bald before performances to minimize the appearance of receding hairlines) but nobody seems to care; the Pixies sell great music, not image.

The music, to be sure, distinguishes them from other artists; when they first began playing as a group, many people called attention to the fact that a band with such revolutionary, aggressive music had remarkably ordinary taste for fashion and style. Imagine that.

As concert docs go, this film rates among the best. It’s no surprise to learn, after watching the Pixies perform live and seeing the audience respond with such intensity, that Kurt Cobain and other alternative rock bands that followed him indirectly attribute much of their success, and the success of alternative rock music in general, to the Pixies.

And while this film could stand alone as a great concert doc, it also captures some striking footage of the band between performances. When they sit beside each other before a show, there are long, awkward silences. Lead singer Frank Black is conscious of this, and says that the band doesn’t hate each other, it’s just that they don’t like talking to each other.

This is as far as the film prods into what is surely a deep, complicated past that, as I can best decipher, contains an abyss of secrets closely guarded by band members. What’s no secret here, though, is that the band still draws massive crowds to their venues, and do not disappoint in their live performances.

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