"Only twenty people were supposed to know about this. This is like a rehearsal," announced Breeders guitarist Kelly Deal during a free surprise performance by her band on Tuesday night at a seedy nightclub called Mr. T's Bowl in the northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Highland Park.
It was an accurate enough description, given the technical snafus and expected flaws of the unannounced show. Having been on semi-hiatus for the past five years after splintering into a myriad of side-projects such as the Kelley Deal 6000 and twin sister/guitarist Kim's the Amps, tonight's "rehearsal" signaled a long-awaited rebirth in activity for the alternative rock band, who, other than a handful of live dates a few years back and a song on the soundtrack to the 1999 feature film The Mod Squad, haven't released a full-length album since 1993's platinum-selling Last Splash.
Backed by a nondescript trio on guitar, bass and drums, the Deals appeared confident and well-relaxed while they entertained the packed club in an eleven-song set that clocked-in at just barely over half an hour. A previously scheduled show on Saturday at the same venue failed to materialize when, reportedly, not all of the band members could make it down to the club.
Kim Deal sounded hoarse from time to time as she strained to reach notes, and the band clearly showed occasional signs of timidness in playing live after a lengthy absence from the stage. This reckless atmosphere also spread into the crowd, where the Deals fielded chatter and comments from audience members ranging from requests for songs by the Breeders, the Amps and Kim's previous group the Pixies, to blurted-out street names from the sisters' hometown of Dayton, Ohio. Kelley's response to the latter came in the form of a catty "Who's from Dayton? Oh God! Aren't you glad to be in California?"
After kicking things off with a rollicking "Tipp City" (from the Amps 1995 album Pacer), they fell into the surf-rock instrumental "Flipside" in which Kim spent the duration of the song playing her guitar while on her knees. The crowd voiced their rabid approval during vintage tunes such as the pre-Last Splash "Safari" and a nearly-comatose version of "Pacer," while during "Cannonball" -- the song that launched the Breeders into the realm of mainstream acclaim via endless video airings on MTV -- the Deals requested that the crowd mimic the song's opening "aaa-OOOOH-aaa" sounds before the band plunged into a wash of feedback-filled riffage and broken harmonies. "Mom's Drunk," one of the new songs premiered tonight, exhibited the fleeting surf/minimalist-pop tendencies of their earlier material, as did the set-closing and ultra-pop "Fire The Maid."
While the Breeders haven't confirmed any definite plans about a new album, their record label, 4AD, reports that the band are planning to begin work with alt-rock producer Steve Albini on a new album in January, with a release tentatively scheduled for next summer.