In 1993 an empty Last Splash CD case permanently resided at the top of the other CDs sprawled across typical student detritus that grew next to my bed – an overflowing stolen pub ashtray, penguin biscuit wrappers and unused packets of fruit-flavoured condoms. (Only the mint one ever got used – weird I know how does that qualify as a fruit?)
Living life as a 2D person skating through a spoon-fed education system I only ever got as far as listening to music or watching films. It wasn’t until The Noughties and getting together with you my ex ex ex that Kim and Kelley et al became real. I mean really real. Beyond 3D. 4AD. As you can probably tell I don’t know how to explain it, really I don’t but whatever it was that you did to me. Thank you. You made me a much much cooler kinder human than I would’ve otherwise been – one that would probably still be rocking out to Wet Wet Wet.
Post 9/11 in a world just before the internet broke all the rules you had nothing apart from a grey duffle coat and your music. I had even less. We clung to each other for dear life. Once after we’d made out under your Mickey Mouse duvet in a dive of a student room on the most burgled street in Manchester I told you I’d renamed my breasts Kim and Kelley. (Stage left and stage right.) Under the left one I was going to get a tattoo saying ‘The Kid’s Got Heart’ in a comic sans. (It was a fun and fresh font once.) This line was a line Bob Dylan said when he first saw Kurt Cobain play. I told you, I imagined, when I was on the slab in the mortuary and the porter slid me out of a filing cabinet drawer, the breast, now walnut old and drooped under my armpit, would make way to reveal these mortifying words. You didn’t think it was weird. Laughter bubbled out of your little mouth and your eyes shone like black coals framed by mahogany thick hair. From then on for the next five years we told each other everything. I said way too much and drowned you out to the last drop.
Tonight under a lazy can’t quite be bothered to be a pitch-black Barcelona sky it’s many lifetimes and girlfriends later. The Breeders are about to play the album in honour of it being twenty years since its release. They (like you) are ingrained in me, concentrated over time, until no twist of DNA is spared the painful shiver of excitement at seeing them in the flesh again. We’re friends now you and I. That makes me happy. You are not here. That makes me sad. I wish you were though, squeezing my hand and telling me in your sweet unsure voice how Kim is the same age as your mum, Kelley knitted herself off the junk and how she once made a handbag out of a cardigan that used to belong to Steve Albini. It is a silly and impractical to way to think. I know but I can’t help thinking it anyway. A friend of mine whom I also love very much would tell me in no uncertain terms that I am being illogical and to stop wallowing. During this imaginary conversation I see myself stare back blank faced and think, what does logic have to do with the heart?
I spy Kelley or is it Kim no it’s definitely Kelley creep onto the stage in a cool 90s blue on blue striped indie jumper. She fiddles with her monitor. She raises and lowers both hands up and down shushing the cheer from the crowd. She goes off. The musketeers return and form a flat line-up as close to the front of the stage as possible with Jim MacPherson on drums behind. They are the originals. Left to right as we look at them: Carrie Bradley on violin and keyboards and vocals, Kim on lead vocals and guitar, Josephine Wiggs on bass and drums on Roi, and Kelley on guitar and vocals on I Just Want to Get Along.
I automatically film it on my iPhone3GS. You can hear my friend saying, ‘Are you being one of those arseholes that video so people behind can’t see?’ I looked around and thought everyone’s too old to mosh anyway. A minute into the first song New Year we’re bouncing around shrieking it’s us it’s us we are the mosh-pit. And a killjoy moment changes into warmth washing through me.
Kim is twenty metres away standing firmly in front of two mics. She’s 52. She be bigger now, stronger, legs planted like trees in the ground like a recently erupted oil geyser. The second old-time jazz mic held together with white gaffa tape doesn’t shy away as she bows down to check and awoooah into it. Josephine Wiggs slides and fingerbumps the neck of her bass. Ban nar nar nar na na. Cannonball. It sounds weird. Is it too slow? Maybe it’s me that has slowed down? What has happened to me in all the twenty years since I danced on tabletops at the Purple Turtle in Reading missing archaeology lectures left, right and centre and singing my closeted heart out? It wasn’t until years later that I discovered the lyric that meant to so much to me ‘the bong in this rare gay song’ the one suddenly on a pedestal in the middle as the rest of the music falls away was in actual fact ‘the bong in this reggae song’. Oh queer. We hear what we want to hear.
Josephine Wiggs keeps it real at la fiesta de la musica by mentioning how cold the weather is at the end of the song. She repeats this British tic at the end of other songs. She is cold I guess in her leather jacket, boots, combats and Yessir! Army Cap. Yet I find her endearing and strangely warming to remember that she is a Brit-By-Jove and that bassline is part of an American stream of coolness that has washed through pretty much every alt-indie-rock band worth their salt in the last twenty years. Pod, The Breeders first album was Kurt’s favourite LP. The Pixies were the coolest indie-rock outfit there everwas. And everyone knows all the best Pixies songs are the ones sung by Kim. Therefore Kim is…well you figure it out…
Before the band play Do You Still Love me Now? Kim nervously asks for some marijuana over the mic and babbles / urges us all to look at La Luna, La Luna. I turn my head and stare at the silver shimmering mirrorball of reflected sunlight all animal all magnetized. The sky suddenly looks much darker.
Does love ever end?
When two hearts are torn away?
Or does it go on?
And beat strong anyway?
As I turn my head back from La Luna to the stage a bubble the size of a pamplemousse floats overhead. I watch it go over the crowd and duck and dive on the cold wind. It passes me, it passes my friend, it passes the two blonde sisters in cropped black leather haute couture jackets – honestly the most astonishing Breeders fans I have ever seen – and they know all the words! – it passes Kelley, then it floats on until it disappears into a dark black corner of the stage. I think the moon is bubble of air, the earth is a bubble of air. One day they will pop. One day all of this will pop. Pop!
As for me here now stood elevated on the bright orange plastic casing of the cable cover to get a better view I ask myself – does it get any better than this? It occurs to me scanning the crowd of mainly sexy Spanish men with their alt-gfs in tow that my hopes of hanging out in a crowd of interesting women is largely null and void. The best of times change and thankfully so do the worst. I look at Kim and Kelley and wonder if they are happy. It’s strange because whenever I think about them I don’t think about them on stage singing and playing guitars they are always on the porch swing at night at their parent’s farm in Dayton, Ohio. Despite the damage of life they seem happy. They regularly break-out the same half-moon smiles in synchronicity. Twins. They must be happy making all this music that has made so many other people happy. It makes me happy and I’m just one person. It must satisfy something. And then….they play Safari. I have no idea what this song is about but I hope it makes you happy too.