Spring Arts Preview 2015

45 things to experience, see, and read before summer.

boston spring arts preview 2015

boston spring arts preview 2015

The Pixies come home to Boston this May with a performance on City Hall Plaza. / Photograph by Jay Blacksberg

Pixies Calling

At springs’s biggest music fest, a homecoming for Boston’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band.

Here’s an easy bet: It’ll be the oldest band on the bill that gets the loudest cheers. Sure, there will be plenty to shout about at this spring’s Boston Calling, with alt-rock stalwarts like TV on the Radio, My Morning Jacket, St. Vincent, and Beck, who just won the Grammy for Album of the Year. But none compares in local cachet to the Pixies, whose abrasive yet melodic surf punk ruled the underground in the ’80s and early ’90s. After a 22-year hiatus, the group began releasing new music again in 2013, culminating in last year’s Indie Cindy. And the reunited band has been touring since 2004, most recently with three-quarters of the original lineup: singer/guitarist Black Francis, guitarist Joey Santiago, and drummer David Lovering. (Bassist Kim Deal’s latest replacement is Paz Lenchantin, formerly of A Perfect Circle and Billy Corgan’s Zwan.)

Though they’ve gigged at the Hollywood Bowl, the Sydney Opera House, and Coachella, the upcoming set on City Hall Plaza stands out as the Pixies’ biggest homecoming. “I used to walk up and down Government Center’s steps going to and from college on the T,” says Lovering, “and now I’ll be sitting on a throne there.” Adds Santiago, “This Boston festival feels special, considering we once rehearsed at a cheap space in Boston with the smell of raw sewage. From poo to fresh air: That’s a hell of a journey.”

Last year, the group celebrated the 25th anniversary of their watershed album Doolittle by performing the disc in its entirety. They’re tight-lipped on the set list for this gig, but Lovering says the band will “try and iron out new material by playing it live just like we did at Green Street Station, TT’s, and the Rat all those years ago.” Back then, the Pixies were a band always on the verge: They were massive on college campuses, but their MTV appearances were relegated to the wee hours of 120 Minutes. Titans like Nirvana and Radiohead have long cited the Pixies as a major influence, and yet the band members themselves are hardly ready for legendary status. “I’ve always thought that the prerequisite to be a legend is death,” Santiago says. “I’m happy to be alive and doing what I love to do. Let’s just leave it at that.” —Matthew Reed Baker

5/22-5/24, City Hall Plaza, bostoncalling.com.

Seven Hometown Gigs You Can’t Miss

Speedy Ortiz
April 22, The Sinclair

On Speedy Ortiz’s new Foil Deer, academic turned frontwoman Sadie Dupuis reignites the fire and intensity of angular ’90s-style indie rock. Which is why, even though they’re technically from Northampton, Boston’s claiming them the way we used to claim Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh.

They Might Be Giants
April 23, House of Blues

With its Dial-A-Song project, this quirky, long-running duo from Lincoln has been broadcasting tracks to fans via telephone answering machine since the ’80s. The 2015 version has them releasing new songs each week via YouTube.

Ex Hex
April 24, Great Scott

Long before she teamed up with Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein in Wild Flag, Mary Timony was an indie guitar hero in her own right. Now she’s back to leading her own group, with a garage-rock edge that’s even more accessible than her legendary Boston-based group Helium.

Kiesza & Betty Who
May 6, House of Blues

They’re pop divas hailing from different genresnot to mention different hemispheresbut they share an alma mater: Berklee, which is becoming something like the Juilliard of Top 40.

May 8, DCU Center

The Lawrence-bred hard-rock group got Mayor Walsh to proclaim August 6 “Godsmack Day” upon the release of last year’s 1000hp. But their big comeback show will take place in Worcester, where their suburban thrashing has long had a bigger following.

San Fermin
May 8, The Sinclair

Rhode Island-born and Massachusettsraised Ellis Ludwig-Leone studied composition at Yale and apprenticed with Nico Muhly. His eight-piece art-pop ensemble returns behind a new disc, Jackrabbit, that’s drawn praise from unlikely corners, including the New York Times’ Paul Krugman.

June 24-25, TD Garden

Thirty years on, Donnie Wahlberg’s Dorchester crew is still, improbably, hangin’ tough.