Tour pairs Reid Paley and a Pixie
Reid Paley -- As he tours with Black Francis, the audience can expect two solo sets and the two mixing it up.
Share with others:
In a town previously known for doo-wop and blues-based bar bands, Reid Paley came along in 1980 to help ignite a new scene with a four-piece band called The Five that could have become one of the era's more formidable post-punk bands had anyone been paying attention to Pittsburgh.
Mr. Paley was a Brooklyn-born singer who came here for college and made his impact not only as the howling voice of The Five but also as a catalyst in organizing the scene and being a thorn in the side of the old school bands.
In 1986, The Five picked up and moved to Boston, where it made one more album, before disbanding. During his stint there, Mr. Paley struck up a friendship with Black Francis (aka Frank Black) of the Pixies, which opened for The Five on at least one occasion.
"They were a great band," Mr. Paley says. "They kind of offended certain people in the Boston rock scene, because it was a very strict garage-rock kind of thing, even back then. And The Five, we showed up in Boston, a bunch of guys with long hair, and some members had tattoos, and we were like Led Zeppelin compared to what was going on in Boston at the time. It was good, but it was all kind of garage-rocky. These were people who were used to playing in clubs with nice PAs and lighting systems, and we were troglodytes from Pittsburgh by comparison."
Along with touring together, the Pixies frontman produced Mr. Paley's 1999 debut, "Lucky's Tune," and their writing collaborations appeared on some of Black's mid-'00s albums, including the song "I'm Not Dead (I'm in Pittsburgh)," which isn't as insulting as it sounds.
In 2010, they hooked up for "Paley & Francis," a raw, bluesy Americana record cut over two days in Nashville.
Mr. Paley says of their working relationship, "It's different each session. We've done the sitting in a room and throwing ideas back and forth, and putting together songs kind of organically -- music, words all piling up at once. On the 'Paley & Francis' thing, he was in town here, and we spent three kind of relatively short afternoons sitting in my apartment after drinking strong coffee and sat with guitars and worked out a bunch of song forms. At the end of that, we had a bunch of stuff and decided to each take half the songs and finish them off with lyrics and what have you."
Now, they're on tour together, playing a sold-out show at Club Cafe tonight. People can expect two solo sets and the two mixing it up.
"We'll see what happens. I'll play, he'll play. Maybe somewhere in there, something will happen, who knows. We'll figure it out as we go along. We'll work it out on the drive up the Hudson."
Since the '90s Mr. Paley has been back in Brooklyn, which has become a popular launching point for indie bands from everywhere.
"It's really not a scene," he says, "it's like an every-man-for-himself thing and then there's groups of a couple bands here and there that like each other. People show up here for 10 minutes and they're a Brooklyn band. ... The digital age has made everything much more careerist and venal. I'm not hooked into any scene, because I'm not indie, I don't wear skinny jeans and I'm too old."
Looking back at the underappreciated punk explosion he helped fuel here, he says, "I'm glad to have been a part of it. If there was technology then like there is now, that whole scene might have gotten more notice. On the other hand, if there was the technology that there is now, it might not have happened that way, because part of it was just that feeling of not having anybody looking at you and not wanting to have anybody look at you, so you just did whatever the [expletive] you wanted to do. And that's how you got bands like the Cardboards and us."
They were a far cry from the established bands in the scene, such as Diamond Reo, the Silencers and the Iron City Houserockers, and the result was a rivalry between the two camps.
"Karl [Mullen, of Carsickness] used to do a lot of yelling," Mr. Paley said. "Karl would bait Norman [Nardini], and I guess I was lumped in with that. I, of course, was thinking, anyone who plays any kind of music, God love you, there are easier ways to live. There are easier things to do. There is nothing that the universe will punish you more viciously and more swiftly for than picking up a guitar and writing a song, I'll tell you that much."
First Published February 12, 2013 12:00 am