The Breeders Play to a Bunch of Breeders: Live at The Bell House, 3/29/13

on Mar 31, 2013

A warmly rapturous opening applause.

Electrified yelps of excitement only minutes later, after the Deal sisters and Co. started from the start with a brick-solid charge through "New Year," when Kim started doing the 'awoooha' opening of "Cannonball" into the white crushed-paper-cup-looking thing attached to her mic.

Later, a man in the crowd yells, "Thank you for doing this!"

Later still, in response to a few audience requests, another yells, "Play whatever you want!"

Tickets for the show had sold out quickly -- within somewhere between two and five minutes, depending on where you read it -- many weeks before, but, even with all that time to get used to the idea of the Breeders reuniting to play Last Splash live, it was still as if the audience couldn't believe its good luck. Twenty years later, one more chance to pogo to "Divine Hammer."

Not that everyone at the Bell House was old enough to qualify for an Alternative Nation lifetime membership. Last Splash's saturated green and red cover may have been a ubiquitous fixture of a specific long gone time and place, but its songs, like most of those graced by Kim Deal's own particular Midas touch from the '80s and '90s, have aged well. Or, really, the album hasn't aged much at all. Its let's-try-anything energy gives it a perpetual youthfulness. In 1993, a life raft adrift in a sea of self-serious grunge, Last Splash was a rare thing; a predominantly fun rock record that also went on to sell over one million copies.

Doesn't look a day over 10 years old
Watching them resurrect the album from start to finish wouldn't have been nearly as rewarding if it were merely a rote recitation. Fortunately, it was the opposite of the monastic backstage vibe seen on loudQUIETloud, the Pixies reunion tour documentary. It felt more like being privy to, say, their third practice back together: some parts here and there were maybe still a little loose in a good way, but overall things were really starting to click, and you could tell they were excited simply to be on the same stage with one another again. The palpable joy and freewheeling banter (Kim confirming with bassist Josephine Wiggs that she could have walked to the gig from her house) was underscored by the pains they went through (swapping instruments for certain songs, having to get a new minimoog for just one bit) to faithfully reenact the record as it was made. The attention to detail showed how much affection they still have for the music.

They don't always ban photography
They must have been taping the show for historical purposes, given all the signs posted insisting that photography would be punished by immediate ejection. After seeing a couple of  iPhone-tographers get shut down, this writer went with the rules, hence none of the blurry from-the-back-of-the-room pics you'd normally find here. However, bigger, or braver, fish took pics: here and here, for two. It should make a great DVD whenever it comes out. Hopefully they will keep in all the songs from Pod (their debut, which is every bit as good as its successor) that made up the extended encore.

Here is the exact moment I decided to love the Breeders: It was the fall of 1993. I was in the car with my dad, driving west along Roxbury Ave. up the hill to our house in Arbor Heights (the name sounds fancy, but the neighborhood was, and is, not) in ass-end of West Seattle. "Cannonball" came on the radio. As we ambled toward the stoplight at the intersection of 35th, my dad made the very fatherly statement, "This isn't even music." 

The thing is, my dad rarely said that kind of thing. Thanks to him, the first music I remember hearing as a child was the Clash and the Smiths. He bought Nevermind when it first came out, as well as Alice in Chains' Dirt. In fact, two years earlier, when we were driving around the San Juan Islands on a heat-baked family weekend trip in the summer of 1991, he cranked up "Man in the Box" on the car radio after I complained that it wasn't musicHis positions had never left me much to rebel against, so I had to take it where I could get it. Asserting my fandom, it might have been the first time I had listened to "Cannonball" all the way through. 

A parting thought: Pacer, the one and only album released by the Amps, is ripe for rediscovery. A temporary outlet started as a way to keep active while the Breeders were short a couple of members, Kim Deal's 1995-96 endeavor received a mixed reception in its day. For an artist from two high-profile bands notable for sounding chaotic and spontaneous, the Amps still managed to come off as a little bit more chaotic and spontaneous. "Tipp City" made it on the radio, but it should have been bigger than it was. Now that all things 'lo-fi' and 'side project' are held in generally higher esteem than they perhaps once were, it might not be a bad idea for 4AD to at least consider a similar 20th anniversary re-release in 2015...