The Breeders
The Bell House, Brooklyn, March 29
by Stephen Slaybaugh

That the first announced show for The Breeders’ Last Splash Anniversary tour sold out in just a couple minutes is a testament to the exalted place that album holds in the consciousness of all who lived through the rise of the so-called alt-nation. One might attribute the fervor to the prevalence of ’90s nostalgia, but as I recall, “Cannonball,” Last Splash’s big single, occupied a ubiquitous place in the summer of 1993 that few songs are ever able to sustain. Sure, predecessors like “Doe” and “Gigantic” were just as (if not more) worthy of the attention, but it’s hard to deny the song’s appeal or (obviously) say Kim Deal wasn’t worthy of the success.

So while such full-album anniversary shows have become commonplace, The Breeders running through Last Splash in its entirety still seemed like something exceptional. And though the Deal sisters have continued on as The Breeders with various line-ups in the 20 years since Last Splash’s release, this tour has reunited them with the rhythm section of bassist Josephine Wiggs, who most recently has been scoring films, and drummer Jim MacPherson, who hasn’t been seen behind the kit since his time with Guided By Voices, that played on the album.

On the entrances to The Bell House’s main hall, signs were posted that videotaping and photography would not be tolerated (hence the hastily shot photo above), which helped lend the show a feeling of intimacy and not a spectacle of internet sharing. So after a short but sweet set from Julia Reed, the Deal sisters, Wiggs, MacPherson, and violinist Carrie Bradley, who played on Last Splash and other Breeders recordings, took the stage, and with a simple declaration from Kim that they were “going to play Last Splash now,” jumped headlong into “New Year,” whose transition from slow intro into a speedy blitzkrieg of riffs was the perfect start to a night that seemed to only get better as it progressed.

And with “Cannonball” being the second track on the record, that’s saying something. What could have been anti-climatic, merely seemed like a blowing out of any cobwebs or giddiness, and made way for the remainder of an album that seemed even more wonderfully eclectic and chancy than I remembered. As is the norm with Kim and Kelley, there were knowing glances and inside jokes, which attributed to the feeling that such jawdropping moments as “No Aloha” have always been the norm around the Deal household.

The band took pains to make sure that the record was replicated much like they recorded it, using similar, if not the same, equipment, and MacPherson and Wiggs swapping instruments on “Roi” as they originally had. As mush as the big guitars of that track and others satisfied a visceral need, the record’s tender moments also stood out. In particular, “Do You Love Me Now?” embodied that contrast between delicate yin and roaring yang. Still, hearing the record in its entirety it’s hard not to notice the big hooks. Even at the 33-minute mark, there’s “Saints” a jackhammer of a song seemingly geared for cruising along I-70.

So how do you follow up such a set with an encore? You start with a cover of hometown buddies Guided By Voices’ “Shocker in Gloomtown,” which The Breeders recorded for their Head to Toe EP, whose title track followed. You also play three songs from Pod—The Beatles’ “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” “Lime House” and “Oh!”—and the title track and “Don’t Call Home” from the Safari EP. The only thing better would have been all of those records in their entirety. As it was, though, this show was about as good as it gets.

How to Dress Well
The Basement, Columbus, March 29
by Kevin J. Elliott

Few pairings on the indie tour circuit have been as baffling as that of How to Dress Well (pictured above) and Sky Ferreira. In theory, they seem to come from opposite sides of the spectrum. On one hand, How to Dress Well’s Tom Krell manufactures stirring, soul-searching R&B out of base elements. Meanwhile, starlet Sky Ferriera seems trying to escape the role of the manufactured, completely severing her glittering pop past in favor of riff-ripe bohemian funk. But as Krell’s transcendent set oozed into Ferriera’s plastic thump, it was apparent the two are a perfect match. Both sit on the edge of ’80s and ’90s pop radio nostalgia. Krell evoked everyone from Jodeci to the Art of Noise, while Ferriera channeled Madonna (circa “Crazy for You”) and No Doubt. There was a rarefied air in a club void of ample sight lines. The beat seemed ever-present and the electronic baubles of rollerrink histrionics sugared the mix.

Unfortunately, I arrived to see Krell performing his last series of songs , but I imagine that was all that was needed to know Krell’s has to be the most angelic voice in the most uncomfortable setting. His quiet storm could fit in cathedrals, though, and the audience was enraptured by his every note. It was cramped, but Krell was swelling with emotions. Flanked by friends on synths and samplers, he was free to close his eyes, contently shudder and sing towards the altar of whatever abject vision of god (who obviously listens to D’Angelo). Or maybe he’s just the lone boy-band in David Lynch’s fictional Bang Bang Bar for an audience who doesn’t get the reference. I was convinced beforehand that it couldn’t work from a stage, but I was truly proven wrong.

Sky Ferriera didn’t kill the vibe with the spotlights and the full band for hire behind her. In fact, though there lacked some chemistry between Ferreira and her hand-picked cohorts, she ignited a completely different atmosphere. Songs from her Ghost record were featured, including a rousing “Lost in My Bedroom” sonically enhanced by a live crew and the ringer finale of mixtape staple “Everything Is Embarrassing.” But there was nothing from her recent past like the vibrancy of “One.” That’s a shame, as the chunk of songs that served as a preview from her upcoming album leaned a bit heavier on the “rawk.” Ferreira surely knows where she’s headed, though, and would complement every one of those slight missteps of aggression with catchy, whipsmart cool. There was a knowing stoicism in her pixie stare. She knew the crowd knew her history—buddies with Michael Jackson, pals of the arguably the hottest producer today, Dev Hynes—but that didn’t seem to make her stutter. Instead she made a model of how a pop star in the ’10s should go forth.