Through the lens of her camera and the rhythm of the music, photographer Edie Olender reminds us to savor the present moment and appreciate the beauty of live performance, capturing the fleeting moments of Modest Mouse and the Pixies’ show at Place Bell in Montreal.

It’s 10 p.m. on Saturday, June eighth and my dad is texting me from Budweiser stage in Toronto where he’s watching the Pixies. He sends me a video of them playing Where is my Mind. I’m across the province in Ottawa and packing my bag for tomorrow. I’m not there with him, but through the photos, I get to experience the show with my dad.

Now it’s noon on Sunday and I’m in the car to Montreal. Here Comes Your Man plays on the car stereo. Here I go.

And then it’s 7 p.m. and I’m in the lobby of Place Bell. I’m chatting with another photographer. I don’t remember what I said. Before I know it, I’m walking into the photo pit and conversing with a lady at barricade. It gets dark and then I’m looking through my lens for the next three songs.

I make my way back to my seat as Modest Mouse, an American alternative rock band known for their humorously nihilistic lyrics, sung out Be Brave into the arena: “Well the Earth doesn’t care and we hardly even matter / We’re just a bit more piss to push out its full bladder.”

Finally at my seat, I really looked around for the first time in a while. Issac Brock’s deep and theatrical voice pulsated rhythmically alongside the percussion and bass. Their cover of The Cure’s A Forest was perfectly aligned with their band’s existentialist themes. Suddenly the stage was illuminated by fake flames while Brock’s voice boomed out This Devil’s Workday. Coupled with snippets of dramatic horns and campy banjo, it felt like being transported into something the likes of Sweeney Todd.

Coming back home to write this review, the lyrics “I can’t remember if your eyes were blue or green or red,” kept playing through my brain. We always try to remember more than we can, but our memories are tinged with vignettes and noise. I was trying so hard to remember that moment and take it all in to the point that I was living in my own mind. I was convinced I made up those lyrics because I couldn’t find them attached to any released Modest Mouse song. After a rabbit-hole Reddit dive, I found it came from their new song Third Side of the Moon which debuted just a few days beforehand on this tour. How ironic I questioned my memory of a song about fuzzy memories.

Then I was back in the sauce of it all, seeing only through a lens. I was a few feet away from Black Francis, Joey Santiago, David Lovering, and touring bassist Emma Richardson, swaying in the awe of the Pixies’ distinctive screeching and wailing guitars that blend abstract surf rock with a heavier punk edge. I was taken with their rendition of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Head On; Francis’ gravelly vocals and Santiago’s bent guitar riffs were reminiscent of Reid’s reverberating gritty sound, but with the classic Pixies shrill.  

I was so enthused in the moment that I don’t remember anything more from before I sat back down; all I have are my photos to remind me. Back to my seat, I had the opportunity to look around again. To my left, a mother, father and daughter are dancing wildly to This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven. My manager from my nine-to-five office job jumps up beside me to dance too, just as free as the young child near us.

A standout moment of the show was when the Pixies played one of their new unreleased songs, Vegas Suite, followed by a cover of Peter Ivers and David Lynch’s In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song). The lyrics “he’s coming to save us / I hope he don’t hate us / I hope he forgave us,” from Vegas Suite followed sequentially by “In Heaven / Everything is fine,” left me with this impending feeling of missing something. The successive placement of these songs in the set-list inspired a reflection of western piousness. Not in a devout Bible Belt sense, but rather in a superficial materialistic devotion to glittering solace. We look for forgiveness in distractions.

We go to concerts to feel something. You feel the bass shake your ribcage and you experience something that you can only hold in that moment. So we take pictures to try to keep it from disappearing; snapshots in our mind and snapshots on our phones. But in all that time trying to hold onto the past and grapple with the future, we misplace our mind somewhere in the mess of it all. We are always searching for Heaven on Earth, waiting for your man to come. What if he’s right in front of you?

At this point in the show, I put my phone away. I didn’t want to watch anymore of it through a lens. Heaven was right in front of me, and I was missing it. I left this show with the resolve to stop trying to find my mind and to simply experience the present for what it is.

Photographer / Writer

Edie Olender (she/her) is an Ottawa based photographer and content creator. Growing up in a creative household, she was given her first digital camera at the age of six. By age ten, she started experimenting with film photography and has continued to pursue both digital and film throughout her high school and university career. Inspired by the likes of Joan Didion and Eve Babitz, she also contributes to Indie/Alt through her conceptual reviews. Outside of photography, she is pursuing her degree in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Ottawa and is a proud cat mother to her son Stripey.