The Breeders, Birmingham Academy, 13th April 2008

So here I am, and there I was – enjoying a sticky-floored Sunday evening at Birmingham’s bijou Academy 2. I was there to see The Breeders and it was all thanks to my friend – macaroon chomping Friend-of-Garfield Jez Higgins – who generously gave me the ticket that he bought just seconds before he realised the gig clashed with his Wedding Anniversary. These things happen, and lucky for me they do. Thanks for the ticket, Jez and Nat. Hope you had a Happy Anniversary.

I got to the venue fairly late as I’d spent most of the day recovering from the previous night, which happened to be my Mum’s 70th Birthday Party. I’ll write about that some other time, assuming my dangerous dance moves don’t end up on YouTube first.

Anyhow, the dramatis personae for the evening were my friends Sal, Dave, Pete & Steve. When I arrived at The Academy, Sal – who’d travelled all the way up from Bristol – was nowhere to be found while Dave (who works at the venue) was, um, working at the venue. I caught up with Pete and Steve shortly after catching the tail-end of Jim Noir, the support act. Jim Noir seemed like fun, or at least their tail-end did. I can’t comment about their top-side, let alone their midsection.

Anyhow, we were all there to see The Breeders – and mighty fine they were, too.
The Deal twins, Kim and Kelley, were on top form. Bookending the stage with the rest of the band in between, they provided a steady stream of betwixt-song banter and oblique sisterly in-jokes that entertained the huddled masses no end. With delicate ferocity they blasted through tracks from their new album, Mountain Battles, as well as enough vintage material to keep decrepit old farts like me happy and content. The new stuff was well received, their classics like Cannonball really lit up the crowd, but for me the highlight was their sublime cover of The Beatles’ Happiness is a Warm Gun. I’m not a big fan of Beatles’ covers, but this was an exceptional exception.

All in all, then, a good gig by a band I’d always wanted to see live. To some in the crowd, though, it was more than just that. To alt-rock fans of a certain age – and, let’s be honest, I’m talking specifically about my age here – there’s something quite special about Kim Deal. Sure, as the effortlessly hip frontwoman of The Breeders for 18-odd years she’s earned her rock and roll stripes. As the bass guitarist, backing singer and sometimes co-songwriter with the seminal band Pixies, however, she’s long since been elevated to the status of living goddamn legend. I got the impression that a few hardliners had only turned up at the gig to get a quick fix of idol worship to tie them over until the next Pixies reunion. It was a bit like Beatlemaniacs at a ‘Wings’ concert, I suppose.

Of course, that sort of stuff can sometimes get embarrassing.

Somewhere between the tail-end of Jim Noir and the front-end of The Breeders I was catching up with Pete and Steve and looking out for Sal. We were nattering away about nothing untoward when a tall, 30-something, intense-looking chap in a Ramones T-shirt muscled-in on the small talk and – with an edge of inappropriate urgency – blurted out to Pete: “I like your Parka, mate.”

“Um, thanks,” said Pete, suddenly aware of his parka.

“Yeah,” said Ramones T-shirt man (let’s call him ‘Joey’). “I love parkas I do. F*****g brilliant, they are, The King of Coats. I hope you pull some fit bird in a Lambretta tonight. Some fit bird (Right?) who drives her Lambretta into the Acadamy (Right?) and f*****g pulls you ‘cos of your Parka, (Right?).”

Ummm, right…” said Pete.

Joey was speaking in that unmistakable, uninterruptable tempo that’s commonly associated with those with a penchant for industrial-strength Colombian Marching Powder. He was, I’d decided, a victim of substances beyond his control. Being stone cold sober I wasn’t equipped to deal with this and decided to exuent stage left at the first opportunity. ‘Joey’ must have been reading my mind, because just at these thoughts were crystallising in my cranium he jabbed a gnarly finger at me and said:

“Your jacket’s shit, man.”

Before I had a chance to defend the reputation of the Levi Strauss Company or say something witty, clever and self-effacing like “I prefer to think of it as à la merde…”, our new gig-pest pal-apparent immediately launched into a high-tempo verbal rampage that went something like this:

“The Pixies, man, they changed my life. They changed my f*****g life. When I first heard the Pixies, man, I was listening to them with this mate from Leeds (he’s into dance now – he only listens to Dance now, but he was well into the Pixies back in the day – he’s a DJ in Leeds) and the Pixies, man, they sounded like nothing else we’d ever heard. Seriously, man, like nothing else. I couldn’t listen to any other music, man, not after listening to the Pixies. That’s how much they changed my life.”

There was a contemplative pause that lasted for about a beat.

“I got Title TK when it came out,” he continued. “I haven’t listened to it yet. It’s still in the cellophane wrapper. I’m afraid of listening to it. I don’t want it to ruin the memories…”‘

Title TK‘ was an album by The Breeders. It was released six years’ ago.

The monologue continued for quite some time, lurching in many directions but never straying too far from the key anchor words of “Pixies”, “Changed” and “Life”. While all this was going on, I was desperately trying to make my excuses and leg it. After all, I had a legitimate excuse: I had to find my good friend Sal. She was a stranger to Birmingham and I didn’t know whether she was a gig-MIA or at an NIA-gig. But every time I started to say “Must dash – I’ve got to go and find my friend from Bristol” Joey trampled the words to death before my very ears. This happened on numerous occasions and I never made it past the first adverb.

“You were talking about gigs at Camden Palace, weren’t you, right?” said Joey, after we specifically did not talk about gigs at Camden Palace. “I’ve been to Camden Palace,” he continued. “London’s really mad, innit? I’ve got this anecdote about Camden Palace: I was going to a gig at Camden Palace (can’t remember who it was – I was really f*****g wasted) and I’d never been there before and I got off at Camden Tube Station and I didn’t know where I was going so I asked this taxi driver ‘Where’s Camden Palace?’ and he said ‘Cor Blimey, stone the crows, mate – that’s about a mile and a half away’ and I said ‘Mile-and-a-half? That’s how far I walk to the corner shop every day!”

And that, it seemed, was his anecdote.

He told us many things. He told us that he wasn’t from Stoke but people from Stoke have told him you can’t get grass in Stoke. He told us about a t-shirt he was going to make especially for the Breeders’ gig: “I made a t-shirt (Right?). I made this f*****g t-shirt. F*****g hilarious it is. Wait ’til you see it. Shit – I forgot to bring it. I meant to bring it tonight. I made it for tonight. It reads: ‘What’s the Deal, Kim and Kelley?’ Geddit? Deal… Kim Deal? Geddit? ‘Kim and Kelley’? D’ya geddit? Geddit? Geddit? Geddit? Geddit? Geddit?”

We got it.

“But, man,” he sighed, “I love the Pixies.” Something had suddenly changed in Joey’s voice. His tempo had slowed down. Uh oh, I thought. This can only mean trouble.

“Yeah, the Pixies really changed my life. And Kim changed my life, too. There will always be a special place in my heart for that woman.” There was a pause. Joey took a deep breath. You could just tell that this is the moment was what his whole, weird monologue of wrong was building up to. There was a tangible sense the was going wrap things up by saying something profound, something that would give us an insight into this odd, tortured soul.

Then, at the top of his voice, he bellowed: “I’ve thought about Kim Deal whilst wanking myself silly more than any other woman on this planet.”

My jaw dropped. Others’ did, too. Despite being a packed venue, the place seemed to suddenly go very, very quiet. All eyes were fixed on Joey, and then all eyes were fixed on us. Accusing looks that seemed to say: “We hope you’re proud of yourselves! You must have put this poor, easily-led simpleton up to it, you shower of shites!.”

At this exact point my friend Dave – who works at the venue – walked by and shot me one of those unmistakable is-he-with-you? looks. I responded with my unmistakable don’t-be-so-f*****g-ridiculous look.

I think it might have got lost in translation. I need to work on my don’t-be-so-f*****g-ridiculous look.