Even though it came out in late 1993, no song says “1994” quite as vividly as the Breeders’ “Cannonball,” and you can almost narrow it down to a specific season – that brief alternative-is-the-new-mainstream moment that ended with Kurt Cobain’s suicide in April 1994. “Last Splash,” the million-selling album that yielded up the left-field hit that was “Cannonball,” arguably stands as the last gasp of that time. Not that there haven’t been other weirdly unexpected hits since then, but they’ve been more of the quirky exception-that-proves-the-rule variety than game-changers.
Two decades on, that leaves “Last Splash” as a nostalgia artifact overdue for memorialization. Like being played in its entirety onstage, which was the Saturday-night main-stage highlight of this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival. Frontwoman Kim Deal has reassembled the “Last Splash”-era Breeders for that lineup's first tour since (yes) 1994, and they all hit their marks well. “Divine Hammer” and “I Just Wanna Get Along” were both almost as fetching as “Cannonball,” in a preserved-in-amber kind of way. Give anything enough time and it becomes a timepiece, but that’s not all bad.
British psych-rockers Spiritualized followed with a series of crescendos that dazzled but never quite seemed to achieve resolution. It was plenty impressive while it lasted but still did not leave much of an impression afterward, although that probably had as much to do with my own weariness as what was onstage. Festivals like Hopscotch turn into an endurance contest by the last night, and I was winding down. And so I resolved to stick with shows where I could sit, and spending the rest of the evening bouncing back and forth between Memorial Auditorium and the Fletcher Opera Theater next door was more than satisfying.
Local boy Ryan Gustafson offered up a fine roots-rock set of what Loudon Wainwright III might have called “Talking New Bob Dylan Blues.” Brooklyn’s San Fermin was enjoyable in a key of perky collegiate theatricality. And Minnesota's Low just flat killed it despite playing for an audience with an irritatingly high pinhead quotient – why anybody thought the trio's moody slowcore called for lots of drunk-sounding WHOOOOO’s was beyond me. If you could tune out the crowd, Low’s hushed murmurs were mesmerizing, and guitarist Alan Sparhawk’s mid-solo footwork (which landed somewhere between soft-shoe and moonwalk) was fun to watch.
So another Hopscotch is in the books. Based on crowds (or lack thereof), I would be surprised if organizers broke even this year, although a final accounting will probably have to wait until after the Sept. 21 makeup concert by Big Boi (who was to have headlined Friday’s main-stage show but postponed over scheduling conflicts). But however the bottom line turns out, the fourth edition of Hopscotch had another terrific lineup and I hope they can do it again next year.