How a Device and The Pixies saved my Life

The Pixies frontman Black Francis

I know, I know…dark title. It’s, of course, a play on the Pixies first best-of compilation album, Death To The Pixies and the song “On Graveyard Hill” from the bands newly released ”Beneath the Eyrie” LP. The titles sort of engrained themselves on me after seeing, photographing, enjoying, and eventually surviving a recent Pixies show.

First I’d like to give a big thanks to The Pixies and their great staff for their support and understanding. (Special thanks to S.F.) 

Side Stage at Pixies – Joey Santiago & Black Francis

Surviving? Yup, that’s what I said, surviving. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with a lot medical jargon or sad stories. Let’s just say I live with a bad heart. My issue led to having an ICD or Cardioverter-Defibrillator installed a few of years ago, umm yeah, I mean implanted. This high-tech device continuously tracks my heart, making unnoticeable adjustments if it detects abnormal rhythms. It also has the ability to send an electrical shock, if it detects something much worse. The “something much worse” is exactly what I recently experienced while standing side stage as the Pixies perform “Gigantic”.

Let’s backtrack just a little. The Pixies are on their recent co-headliner arena tour with Weezer. During the tour, they scheduled in few solo headline shows at smaller historic venues. The upside to seeing the band at one of these smaller venues is not only the intimate crowd to band setting, but also the band’s freedom to play longer setlists than time allowed on the co/headlining arena stops.

Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago

When invited to photograph a stop on the tour, we really wanted to make it one of these smaller “special” appearances.  We found the March 23rd show at the Cotillion Theater in Wichita, Kansas fit our schedule. So off to Kansas it was. No, really.

Pixies fans lining up several hours before showtime at Wichita’s Cotillion Theater


Cotillion Theater


Fast forward to show day. We made it to Kansas! We arrived at the historical Cotillion Theater several hours before showtime. It was then that I picked up photo credentials and got a feel for the stage layout. As customary, I introduce myself to the crew, staff, security, pretty much anyone that I might interact with while photographing the show.  I found an area side stage where I got permission to store my gear. I’d use this area to pack up and watch the rest of the show after photographing songs 2, 3 & 4 from the pit.


*Tip to young photographers: Always… ALWAYS! Show respect to those working the shows you photograph. Remember they’re there for you as well.

Bassist Paz Lenchantin

The plan went off without a hitch. I photographed the band playing “Wave of Mutilation”,“Bone Machine” and the newly released “On Graveyard Hill” from their new album Beneath The Eyrie. I exited the pit, headed side stage, packed up my gear, grabbed a water and settled in to enjoy the rest of the set. 

Drummer David Lovering

Fast forward about twenty songs. The band had just finished playing fan favorite “Where’s Is My Mind?” and are now in the middle of song 21 of the night, “Gigantic”. That’s when I felt what can only be describe as a weird flutter feeling on the left side of my chest.  It wasn’t pain.  Not a grab your chest feeling,  just a weird flutter.  Almost like a phone vibrating in a shirt pocket. 


I clearly remember my exact thought as I glanced down, “WTF is th.. ?”





I opened my eyes to see the venue medics hovering over me. Once again I heard them repeating. “ARE YOU AN EPILEPTIC?”, I responded,“No…What? No, No, No I’m not epileptic. I have a ICD, a heart ICD”., Obviously something had occurred that made them think that I might have just had an epileptic seizure. My mind raced.  A shock? Was I shocked by my ICD? I sat up and answered their questions. The typical questions asked to make sure you’re all there or not just a drunk. What’s your name? Do you know where are you? Etc…etc… I actually felt okay.  Other than having a slight headache, I felt fine. The headache, I later realized, was the result of smacking the back of my head on the floor after losing consciousness. The surreal part of it all? Hearing The Pixies playing “Rock Music” in the background as I tried to clear the cloudy haze in my head. Did that just happen?


-Did You Know? -Rock and Roll legends Sir Elton John and Slash from Guns N’ Roses both have ICD’s-
Click to see how ICD works

American Heart Association-How the ICD works

The next day I scanned my device, transmitting the data stored in its memory directly to my Cardiologist. Soon after, I was given the exact timeline of events. It showed I experienced Ventricular Fibrillation, which is exactly what the doctor expected to see after hearing my “flutter” story.  She also told me the device tried what’s called a “blast” to restore normal heart rhythm twice before sending full shock. Her exact words,”It did it’s job, it saved your life!”

Luckily, since that night I haven’t experienced any further shocks or even the need for the unfelt adjustments.  I’ve attempted to write this account several times, only to put it away. Never knowing what to say or where to take it, my mind wondering a thousand different ways. In the end, I decided to share with the hope it might possibly helping someone else dealing with similar issues. Sharing also helps me put it away by shining a light over the dark. The diagnosis that led to my having the ICD came after seeing a doctor over feeling exhausted and fatigued. I thought it was stress and working too much. It was not. Listen to your body, it can also help save your life!

Above Video : Soccer Player Anthony Van Loo survives after ICD fires

Okay, the device saved my life, but how the hell did The Pixies help? Simple. The Pixies were putting on an amazing show that evening. If they’d sucked, then I probably would have packed up my gear and headed out early for the long journey home. Meaning, I might have been driving on the interstate when the “flutter” happened, not a good thought. So yes….THANK YOU PIXIES for not sucking! 😉 –  I’m still here. Hopefully, I can catch the rest of the show next time.

See ya on the road — — Safe Travels!


Click to hear new album from the Pixies and Tour Information 

Beneath the Eyrie