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Like the gray clouds that hung overhead all night, Thursday's sold-out kickoff concert in the Surly Brewing Festival Field season with the Pixies and Modest Mouse did not look too promising going in.

Both influential alternative bands from different eras — the late '80s and early '90s in the Pixies case, the 2000s in Modest Mouse's — have a checkered history of being spotty live acts. There have even been times their idiosyncratic and gruff-mannered frontmen have seemed downright antagonistic and miserable being on stage.

Fortunately for the 6,000 fans who turned out Thursday in Minneapolis despite the weather (and the occasional bad attitudes), the rain mostly held off, and the bands each rose up and put on enthusiastic performances that well represented the best of their discographies.

After a rich, neo-twangy opening set by smoky-voiced barroom balladeer Cat Power — who's back to singing more of her usual material after her exhilarating spring tour re-creating Bob Dylan's 1966 concerts — Modest Mouse started out weird and winding with the nine-minute epic "The Stars Are Projectors." From there, though, things remained relatively straight-ahead for the Portland, Ore., rockers of "Float On" hitmaking fame.

Sporting a half-shaven head, Modest Mouse bandleader Isaac Brock sparked up audience participation early on as he animatedly sang a couple of fan favorites, "Fire It Up" and "Doin' the Cockroach." The latter came off like a Gang of Four razor-funky tear.

Brock also seemed tickled to drop in a surprising cover of the Cure's moody oldie "A Forest" mid-set. Then he so playfully and colorfully plucked a banjo during "Satin in a Coffin" that one audience member felt compelled to yell, "More banjo!" That, too, was most unexpected.

With daylight still brightly covering the stage — Thursday was the summer equinox — the Pixies took the stage at 8:30 p.m. and went full tilt right away. Their opening song, "U-Mass," sounded extra-crunchy and snarling. That fast-burning fan favorite quickly gave way to two others, "Wave of Mutilation" and a cover of the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Head On."

The Pixies' 59-year-old frontman, Black Francis (aka Frank Black), not only looked eager but also appeared to be in good shape. For the most part, he proved able to still bellow, scream, wail and moan like he did on record in harrowing-sounding songs such as "Gouge Away," "Debaser" and the night's penultimate song, "Where Is My Mind?" He did alter/toy with his delivery in a few tunes with amusing results, too, like adding a vocal effect in "Planet of Sound" that sounded like a voice out of a '50s sci-fi movie.

Maybe as much as Francis, people were also paying close attention to bassist Emma Richardson on Thursday. The Band of Skulls alum joined the Pixies only a few months ago. She is the third woman to fill the position left by the band's original bass player, Kim Deal (now focusing on her own group, the Breeders). Like her predecessor, Paz Lenchantin, she does the pivotal role justice.

Richardson's harmony vocals in Deal-heavy tunes such as "Caribou" and "Bone Machine" were spot-on. She even took over as lead singer with resounding success in a cover of the "Eraserhead" soundtrack nugget "In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)." The other two original Pixies, guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering, remained as integral and electrifying as ever, too.

With Richardson being one big new element, the band seemingly did not want to hit the fans with too much other newness. They ignored their decent albums of recent years and stuck mostly to their 1987-1991 canon. Kind of like with the could've-been-worse weather, no one seemed to complain.