I first heard Belly’s “Feed the Tree” back in the summer of 1993. I was an extremely awkward 13 year old who had just had a fairly awful year. My mom had spent a large chunk of it in an abusive relationship. By the time I graduated from junior high, we were skirting homelessness by living in a friend of mine’s garage. My mother was pregnant and my sister had gone off a violent and angry deep end. It was extremely difficult living circumstances so when my father offered for my sister and I to come out and stay with him in Ohio with his (admittedly awful) partner, I jumped at the chance. All of which is a very long way of saying I was an extremely miserable teenage girl who felt like she had no place she belonged in the world.
“Feed the Tree” was one of those songs that got played something close to four times or more an hour along with Spin Doctors “Two Princes” and three other songs I don’t remember now. The thing was there was no point that I got tired of it. Tanya Donelly was a demented little pixie to me that was telling me the best story in the entire world about a girl, a squirrel and a tree.
I bought “Star” at first opportunity and it, along with “King” two years later, went on constant repeat for the next four years of my life. I found out everything about the band in the way only an obsessive teenager can. There was definitely a letter written about how, while my best friend was perfectly wonderful, I wanted Tanya to be my real best friend. After all, her music was one of the only things that actually brought me joy in my fucked up life. I, however, never got the chance to see them in concert.
Fast forward to present day and the fact that when I saw they were touring, I pretty much instantly reverted twenty years and squealed like a, well, teenage girl. My husband (being the amazing husband he is) bought tickets for the show and I spent four months eagerly waiting.
Let me tell you, every single moment of that wait was worth it. It was a rough week leading up, with years long friendships ending and heat induced constant irritation and stress with the kids and life in general.
First off, let’s talk about the venue. I rarely get out to go to shows these days so this was my first one at the Union Transfer. It’s, quite honestly, beautiful. The building dates back to 1889 when it opened as the Spring Garden Farmer’s Market and had gone through various iterations through the year before becoming Union Transfer in 2011.
As for the band, the second they took the stage and Donelly started singing, everything in the world was not only okay, but even beautiful.
Not all of the bands I loved as a teenager have aged well. Singers from some have died. Singers from others have apparently lost it and now appear on InfoWars and run wrestling franchises. Others have just fallen off the map completely. Belly was lightning in a bottle. They aged, but the music (to which I apparently still know every word) was just as perfect in it’s storytelling and pitch. The new songs were just as good as the old. They had a ton of fun up on stage and pulled the audience into the same spell.
I walked away, knowing that I was headed home to three kids and adult life with all the stresses it brings, but for just one second I was that teenage girl with everything still ahead of her and nothing but possibilities. And if that’s not what the live experience is all about these days, I don’t know what is.