Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Kristen Hersh - Wellington October 15.2007

As I said in a previous post I was looking forward to seeing Kristen Hersh even though I'm unfamiliar with her solo material and have only heard two Throwing Muses albums (Limbo and University) The duo before she played were a folky guitar/cello vocals combo called Black Bells who kept saying they were missing a member because she was getting her nails done. They weren't really my thing but I could imagine a lot of people's parents enjoying them.

Above Black Bells pic by me.

I recorded some of the show. Here is Kristen Hersh performing the Throwing Muses song Freeloader.

A review of this show by Simon Sweetman appeared in the Dominion today and didn't even mention the support act. I'm going to copy the whole thing due to my lack of familiarity of Kristen Hersh's solo material.

Kristen Hersh has been making music since she was a pre-teen. She formed the Throwing Muses with her stepsister Tanya Donnelly. The Muses fit into - and influenced - the lineage of female alt-rockers in the mid-1990s: the likes of The Breeders, Belly, Liz Phair and Donelly's solo career all either come from or owe a debt of influence.

Since 1994, Hersh has released solo albums, reunited the Muses for a 2003 album and has released one album and one six-track EP as the leader of the heavier trio than the Muses, 50 Foot Wave. That band project had the bad luck to release its material around the time of the Boxing Day tsunami, so it was back to solo material for Hersh who released Learn to Sing Like A Star

Hersh's stark solo arrangements - simple chiming guitar patterns allowing her voice to lure the listener in with its haunted lullaby whisper, only to move into a grazed scream allow the singer/songwriter to present her work in an emotionally honest, uncluttered and adorned way.

The magic is in the confessional lyrics the supple melodies and that voice. She kicks off with Your Dirty Answer from 2001's Sunny Border Blue, pulling out a range of material that included Freeloader from the 1996 Muses album Limbo, Gazebo Tree from 1998's Strange Angels and Sno Cat from 2003's The Grotto.

To look at Hersh on stage, a tiny woman pedal-pushing her acoustic guitar into distorted overdrive, rocking out on post-modern folk songs, you can see the music actually bubbling up from within. She doesn't just sing. If that were the case it would be impossible to marry the sound of her voice to the image of her on stage.

At times the guttural grunting and bruised rasping seemed to boil up and out of the throat like the 12-year old in The Exorcist.

Here Hersh pushes her own demons in to place exorcising them through naked songs. Her solo debut album Hips and Makers was represented by Your Ghost and Me and My Charms while her 1998 selection of Appalachian folk covers Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight got the nod with I will Never Will Mary and there was also material from Sky Motel and this year's Learn to Sing Like A Star.

But all in attendance will keep fingers crossed that Hersh stays singing like herself. As this gig showed, for this type of sound and material, there's no one better.

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