The Breeders Give Birth to a Good Time
“Hey, nothing’s in my heart
I’d rather be cool than be smart
Hey, what I’m thinking of
I’d rather be cool than be loved
Here is what I feel
I just want a girl as cool as Kim Deal.”
—Dandy Warhols, “Cool as Kim Deal”
18 Oct 2001: Troubadour Los Angeles
I can’t say there was much fanfare announcing that the Breeders were stopping by the Troubadour in Los Angeles for three nights to warm up for the tour that will probably follow their upcoming album; in fact, I only heard about it from a post on a Pixies fan site and I scan the L.A. Weekly religiously for upcoming shows worth the money. But once inside the Troubadour, there was no mistaking the love that the crowd felt for the band. You could tell by the buzz that filled the tiny club’s atmosphere.
So when Kim Deal took the stage and announced that the band would be playing songs old and new, the hoots and howls punctuated each of her words; someone even started throwing out the names of Pixies songs for her to sing, although she declined that suggestion with a smirk. “You’d have to pay a lot of money to hear that one,” she might have even said when the fan requested “Gigantic”, a Pixies staple from Surfer Rosa. Like I said, it was hard to hear her.
It was even harder to hear her sister, Kelly, although her lips seemed to be moving endlessly in some interior monologue, eyes continually blinking, smiles breaking sporadically across her lips. And to be truthful, many of the night’s finest moments came when the two identical twins traded barbs and jokes across the stage: Kim haranguing Kelly for taking too long, Kelly telling the crowd, “She is gonna kick my ass tonight”! Between the joking and the Deal sisters’ requests for monitor volume from the club’s P.A. system, the concert resembled less the comeback event that—wrong or right—it’s come to be seen as than it did an old-fashioned living-room jam session.
Which was cool with the crowd because Kim Deal’s attitude about her fans has always seemed to run counter to that of her ex-Pixies mate, Black Francis, who is nowadays a notoriously tough interview and even harder to chat up during a concert. Kim, on the other hand, spent almost as much stage time heckling and conversing with her audience, her band, and her sister as she did singing—a sure sign of someone who takes her stardom and ascension to the indie pantheon less seriously than you would think. It’s a refreshing smackdown to witness, a rock goddess deconstructing her own celebrity, however shrinking, and it reminds you why they called it “indie” in the first place. Not only did I find out during the course of the concert where she’s living these days—a certain street in East Los Angeles—but she actually told the throng of fans that stuck around after the concert waiting for her autograph where she’s been playing pool lately.
That was after she signed one adoring female fan’s breasts, that is. What a gal.
When it finally came down to the music, the Breeders didn’t disappoint the hungry crowd that bobbed along to favorites from Last Splash, the Safari EP, and their masterpiece, Pod. Kim and Co. sprinkled standout tracks like “Doe”, “Iris”, “Divine Hammer”, “Saints” and “Safari” in with some rousing peeks at a few new songs from their highly-anticipated disc; they then announced Kelly’s turn at the mic for the possible jab at Black Francis that is “I Just Want to Get Along,” one of the Breeders’ oldest tunes. And, of course, after that song concluded, Kim raised her hand and thanked everyone for coming, making sure to note that they’d be right back because they had an encore. Which was a relief because they had only been onstage for about an hour, a short amount of time for a band that only has to drive the short distance to East L.A. to get home.
Even though everyone knew the Breeders were jumping back onstage soon, they hooted and clapped anyway, lost in the spirit of fun that seems to issue from Kim Deal like another quirky lyric, before the band reemerged to perform “Fortunately Gone” from Pod—a “real pretty song”, as Kim called it. When she asked the audience if she should plug the digital delay in for the rousing “No Aloha” from Last Splash, they broke into more drunken laughter and shouted requests, satisfied with the joyride.
Such camaraderie and honesty made it pretty easy to overlook the technical problems with the show and some of the problems with the band’s performance. It was hard not to notice that Kelly looked a little bit lost at times, or that she forgot some of the lines to “I Just Want to Get Along,” but hey, if Kim didn’t care, why should we? Especially considering the aggressive and focused way Kim dove into her own vocal and guitar work; she certainly didn’t rest on her laurels and go through the motions when it came her turn to sing the songs her fans loved the way she used to sing them, something many rock music vets do when they hit the stage. No, it looked like Kim still had the fire in her belly, the area where Breeders do their finest work, the pocket where they store their gifts.
And she also still has a heart the size of the glistening organ on the cover of Last Splash—her roadies practically had to drag her out of the Troubadour as she tried to autograph everything that everyone put in her face, including the aforementioned breasts that had been pressing so urgently against my shoulder, trying to squeeze past me to the front of the stage. “I’m no longer a virgin”! Kim shouted after she had signed her first pair of tits in the history of her career, before finally leaving the throng to shake the hand of some child on the stage, whose mom looked like Ellen Degeneres. “Neither am I”, purred the fan, as she walked away probably figuring out how she was going to preserve her bouncy autograph. It was a fitting conclusion to a fine evening.
That night, everyone got a chance to have a girl as cool as Kim Deal.