Boston bands, Pixies and Zulus, bring new life to music at the Duke Ellington Ballroom

By David Trout

For those of you who deemed it necessary to stay away from the Duke Ellington Ballroom while the Pixies played all I have to say is HA! HA! Don’t ever complain that NIU cannot attract good talent for concerts.

NIU Campus Activities Board Concert committee sponsored the presentation of two Boston acts, the Pixies and the Zulus, last Tuesday night in the Holmes Student Center.

The Zulus opened to a most uninterested audience. Whoever said they sounded like “Led Zeppelin meets Jane’s Addiction” was absolutely right. They never stopped for a breath in 40 minutes of pure no-holds-barred rock and roll.

If they had been around in the early seventies they would have been the biggest thing since the wheel. They don’t, however, dwell on the early seventies hard rock sound; they take it to a higher level.

In taking rock to the promised land, the Zulus creted one of the finest three-man harmonica jams in present time – they mutilated the sound to the point where it seemed magical.

After 30 minutes of deciding how to busy myself between acts the lights dimmed and Eddie Van Halen’s “Eruption” blasted through the speakers. Everyone laughed. Two minutes later the Pixies came on stage to the roaring appreciation of a limited audience.

They opened with “There Goes My Gun”; the crowd danced in the aisles, yelled, and generally went insane. The stage was set up much like a Talking Heads show. It was a one color backdrop with limited equipment on the stage. Anyhow, getting back to the show; they did songs from “Doolittle”, “Surfer Rosa”, and “Come on Pilgrim”.

Some of the “old” favorites include “Gigantic”, which features Kim Deal’s fantastic voice, “Tony’s Theme” and their best song “Caribou”. I wasn’t expecting to hear “Bone Machine” and “Where is My mind” from “Surfer Rosa,” but I was bewildered by their ability to intensify the album versions.

For most of you familiar with only “Doolittle” they did almost every song. The high point of this part of the show was an exceptional version of “Monkey Gone To Heaven” during which Black Francis, the vocalist/guitarist, shrugs off the songs apparent environmental undertones and introduces it as a song about “nothing”.

CAB has finally brought a band worth seeing to NIU; unfortunately the crowd was less than flattering. For all of you who couldn’t make it I am sincerely sorry; you missed a great show by one of the forerunners of the music to come in the nineties.

Before the event took place I was graciously granted an interview with the Zulus. Larry Bangor, vocals and harmonica, rounded up Malcolm Travis, percussion, and Rich Cortese the bass player. Rich Gilbert, guitar, was no where to be found.

“Where’s Rich?”, Larry asked more than once. Before he could be found the interview was over.

What has made Boston the hot bed of new music?

Larry replied,”Alot of bands are getting signed now…probably because people think alternative music is the next big thing… for the last few years there have been a lot of good bands and the record companies have been grabbing them.”

They weren’t always the Zulus; Bangor and Travis were in a band called Human Sexual Response.

How was the band formed?

All three contributed,”From 1977-1982 Travis and Bangor were in HSR, we then decided to form a new band with Cortese and Gilbert.”

The Zulus have been given rave reviews from all over the country including one from the Ventura Reporter,”…Led Zeppelin meets Jane’s Addiction in an opium den…”

Their reaction to this comparison was a confused look from Bangor. He then replied,”We don’t take it seriously, it is a drag if someone expects that.” Travis put a new angle on the comparison,”It’s more like Led Zeppelin meets Pee Wee Herman.” Everyone had a good laugh.

The Zulu’s new album was produced by Bob Mould of, the now defunct, Husker Du fame. When asked about the relationship they had making the album Bangor replied, “Really fun, he’s quite a character. He was really interesting and I enjoyed working with him.”

What advice do you have for students?

Travis declared,”Each school should overthrow the administration.”

This is a band to be reckoned with; if you thought Warrant was rock and roll go back to sleep.