If I had to guess, I would assume playing any show on Cinco de Mayo would be a fairly surreal experience. Compound that surreal scenario with the variables of opening for The Pixies at the Mother Church, and I’d imagine a band like Public Access TV would be smack dab in the center of a Dali-an fever dream, or at least whatever the musical equivalent may be.
Nevertheless, the New York new wave quartet of Xan, Max, Pete, and John all but dove head first into the absurdity of playing on Cinco de Mayo. Realistically, its likely their professional proclivities set the precedent of May 5th’s Ryman stop as just another (unequaled) live set, but who knows?
Luckily, the crowd didn’t fully extend the surreal nature of playing a show on Cinco de Mayo in Nashville, as festivities were mostly in spirit rather than garb.
There were a few folks sporadically placed throughout the Mother Church pews (meta?) enacting the typical (and unfortunate) misappropriation of Hispanic culture, but for the most part, the crowd was what one might expect for a Pixies show.
Thankfully, its safe to say more thoughtful minds prevailed.
That being said, Public Access TV revamped the peculiarity and bemusing nature of their show and its respective date by focusing more on the unique nature of the local rather than an increasingly misappropriated holiday. In lieu of wearing a sombrero or mariachi outfit, Public Access TV went 50/50 in terms of wardrobe.
Front man John Eatherly and drummer Pete Star opted for the uniform garb of a post-punk band – non-descript solid colored tee and pants – while lead guitarist Xan Aird and bassist Max Peebles paid homage to Ryman performers past, in a cowboy hats and western wear.
Naturally, there was plenty of amusement on behalf of The Pixies’ faithful in recognition of Aird and Peebles’ observation, which was quickly parlayed into equal musing at PBTV’s music.
In a way, PBTV’s music (in general) is equally as surreal as their unique Nashville stopover date. First off, the band name itself carries potential to throw the uninitiated through a loop of confusion when it turns out they’re a band instead of late night local television’s favorite platform for the boring and strange (actual public access television).
Secondly, PBTV manages to take their enchant for new wave in a direction most of their contemporaries seem unwilling to venture. Rather than operate as the latest iterations of an uber-sad Ian Curtis, they toe the line between despondent and buoyant.
Take the band’s Ryman set, for instance. Similarly to their seasoned touring counterparts The Pixies, they’re soundly rooted in their pop-punk ways, but there’s a playful banter between guitars and melodies on songs like “Careful.” The track talks about taking “everything and more” in threatening jest, all while keeping a hopeful and whimsical tone, thus completing the thought that everything will be “alright” after heartbreak, ache, or anything other extension of emotional pain.
And therein lies the surreal nature of Public Access TV, the band. Each member appears to be relatively young – spry and undoubtedly positive in outlook – and well aware of the prospects that lie ahead if navigated properly.
The fact that Aird and Peebles sported Opry-esque looks during their Ryman set offers up a knowledgeable perspective from the group, and one that doesn’t take itself too seriously, to boot. Eatherly even took a moment to recognize their distinct setting, simply, but nevertheless grateful – “Its really fucking cool to be in the Ryman. Thanks for coming early.”
Age is relative in music, and talent is the true barometer of the meritocracy, but PBTV has all the machinations of a surreal tour de force in the years to come, melding youthful vigor with seasoned sagacity all in one promising package.
So yes, Public Access TV’s Ryman set was certainly one of unique standing with regard to date and place, but their live set will undoubtedly be the standard for years to come. That being said, don’t expect them to lose their youthful wonder and exuberance in an instant, as Eatherly still took a moment in the show to point out that the show was even still more surreal for them with regard to his mother’s attendance.
“This is a hometown show for us… kind of. My mom is up there.” Eatherly took a moment to point up the Ryman balcony as the house lights came on.
Probably safe to say there are fewer scenarios more surreal than opening up at Ryman Auditorium for The Pixies on Cinco de Mayo when your mother sits in the balcony.