After sloshing through the rainy Portland night, my roommate and I entered the Wonder Ballroom to find the singer of the first opening band, the Paper Upper Cuts–a Hispanic, sexually-ambivalent smiley bastard who reminds one of Duke Phillips’ drunken country bears–agreed with me that it was indeed a special, if not rainy, night, thanks largely to the Breeders, to whom he referred to as “sex.”

He’s not bad, that Paper Upper Cuts, and here I use the singular, as he’s the only fella in the band. That’s right, he’s yet another one of these multi-talented musicians who plays everything all at once with the help of a few looping tape machines and what, a Luddite such as myself could only imagine, must be some kind of computer stashed away somewhere in there with his drum kit, his keyboard, series of circuitous wires, and whatnot. There was even a flute that remained in place on top of his cymbals when not in use. Interesting stuff, good not great. And Paper’s stage presence could use a little help; a bit too spastic and goofy, he seemed more nervous than unique.

Brooding as usual, my roommate remained by himself, leaning on the left-side wall where he quietly judged the audience and hated the music, as he tends to do. But I felt too good to have my night contagioned, and besides, I wanted to stay up front in order to be first in line to catch a glimpse of Kim Deal.

First, it was the second opening band, Pelican Ossman. She plays the drums and resembles Harriet from Small Wonder; he looks to be a refugee from My Own Private Idaho and struts his stuff with a sparse, late ’50s rock guitar. Together, they sound greatly influenced by the likes of the Moldy Peaches and Beat Happening. Light and simple fare that gets you moving and has a kind of “little brother and sister playing in the garage” sound that brings with it happy nostalgia. Not bad.

Just as I found myself surprised to be cupping my hands around my mouth to shout, “Wooo!” between songs, my roommate texted me, “I’m outta here,” and that was that. It was also around this time that the moderately sized Wonder Ballroom began filling to the brim with Sleater-Kinney looking boys and girls in their mid-to-late-30s. I felt left out for being the only person in the crowd not to be wearing glasses.

Pelican stepped off, and I stayed up front, while I watched as roadies built the massive wall of amps and speakers that literally sealed off the back black curtain area of the stage. Right up front as I was, I knew that this would be loud. And how! Other kids milling about were inserting their brightly colored earplugs, and one girl even put on her earphones that she clearly ripped off from a shooting range.

Up close and personal, the Breeders’ weapons of choice appear older than I am, the kind of guitars and bass that one would find at a garage sale, duct tape included. It was also then that I noticed one large black box with the label PIXIES stenciled on it in white paint, and then it hit me: Oh my god, I’m about to see Kim Deal in person. Keee-ryst! I caught just the end of their set–sort of–at Coachella last year, but that doesn’t count at all.

After 45 minutes of patient waiting, the stage lights went lavender, the Hank Williams on the venue speakers faded out, and the crowd went wild.

Out comes Kim’s twin sister Kelley, and I immediately flash on Teddy Ruxpin. She’s in brown felt, a bit chubby these days, and absolutely cherubic… in a seedy, punk rock kinda way. The bulging, sweaty crowd pushed ever closer against me. CRACK! went the first drum beat as Breeders percussionist Jose Meledes literally jolted me into attention–there you are, Jose!–and the rest of the band began the show. Immediately, I found that my back no longer hurt and even my foot was feeling a bit better. I was into it right from the get go. This is real rock music, pure, true and American. “No substitute” kinda shit. I couldn’t help but keep smiling, laughing, bopping my head, and occasionally jumping up and down as though on a pogo stick. And normally I’m way too embarrassed to get like that at shows.

You stand there listening to the Breeders in such a relatively intimate setting, Kim and company leaning back, sweaty as all hell, eyes shut tight, belting it out–they’re playing a vitriolic punk version of “Happiness is a Warm Gun” at a point, even–and all you can think about is the fact that you’re watching someone who helped spawn such groundbreaking groups as Nirvana and will surely continue to spawn groups well into the future.

And still the show went on, eliciting in me a feeling I’ve only experienced before at Sonic Youth shows or at a gig I saw of Wilco before Jeff Tweedy started writing “Dad rock” songs. But, there I was, still bopping and sweating, trying not to bump into the two identical Lilith Fair dropouts in front of me who never moved an inch. Never in my life have I screamed so sincerely for an encore, and we got one to beat the band.

Kim’s stage presence–constantly shoving her sister, swilling Heineken after Heineken, making fun of all the other band members–was equally jubilant, and at one point I smirked as she posed the question we’ve all known to be true, “Is it just me, or is everybody moving to Portland all of a sudden?”

Well, I may be one of the very, very many who “just moved here two months ago,” but I will say this about my time spent in the town thus far: I suggested to Todd Haynes that he watch the Criterion edition of Berlin Alexanderplatz, I saw Gus Van Sant walking across the street, I complimented Shannon Wheeler on his being much nicer than I thought he’d be, and I shook Kelley Deal’s hand after one of the best rock shows I’ll ever experience.

by Mathew Klickstein

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