Kristin Hersh @ Hare and Hounds, 23 March 2019

Early 90s alt-indie queen playing Kings Heath was always going to be a popular choice and certainly Kristin Hersh of Throwing Muses fame has sold out the main room, leaving some disappointed fans left downstairs consoling themselves with a pint whilst their friends enjoy the music.

‘LAX’ is the opener of her latest solo album, Possible Dust Clouds, and the first track of the evening which is a strong start with its immediate vocal line bypassing any introduction, quirky instrumental mid-track and interesting use of guitar sounds between verses. Recorded, this is an awesome eclectic exploration into tonality, typical of Hersh, however, live it is hampered by the mix that ramps up the bass and drums leaving the vocals and guitar severely lacking. More unfortunately, this misjudgement of sound plagues the whole set which impacts the enjoyment of the performance as Kristin Hersh’s music depends on hearing her lyrical delivery and the contrasts the guitar brings.

‘No Shade In Shadow’ encapsulates the college rock essence whilst unleashing glimpses of the vocal raucousness Hersh is capable of, but this gets a full airing during ‘Halfway Home,’ with the repetitive vocal line that allows her gruffness to take complete hold, leaving you wanting the song to continue just so you can hear more of the edgy vocals. Swapping albums, Kristin Hersh goes back to her 2010 album Crooked, with the catchy riff of ‘Mississippi Kite’ that embraces extremes of dynamics and tempo, illustrating the competency of the three piece band.

Hersh only plays two Throwing Muses tracks, ‘Sunray Venus’ and ‘Limbo,’ both of which fit seamlessly into the set and are truly appreciated by the audience. Kristin Hersh engages very little with the crowd other than aptly placed thank yous and a brief comment about how she intends to play the 50 foot wave track, ‘Broke,’ correctly but that is the encore. You could question the minimal interaction but you get a sense that this is a woman who likes to get down to business which, for her, is playing music not banter.

‘Your Ghost’ is the offering from her first album and instead of being a piece of acoustic, tragic beauty the instrumentation destroys the fragility creating almost a new song with an electrifying guitar solo whilst Michael Stipe’s backing vocals are provided by drummer Bernard Georges. ‘Husk’ stripped down nature with its recurrent drum pattern and stark chords allows Kristin to wail and as there is less bass during the track anyway the vocals cut through the venue with an air of uncomfortableness.

‘Breathe In’ is a welcomed choice with the onlookers and makes it apparent how popular her latest album is. With its lazy groove permeating through the track, it has heads bobbing and its sparse lyrical content allows the listener to lose themselves within the vibe. As with the minimal conversation, Hersh barely moves whilst performing, choosing to play with an aloof air and staid posture about her which is most obvious during ‘Limbo’ as the bass leads the way followed by guitar arpeggios. Kristin Hersh and her band are encouraged back on stage to play ‘Broke’ which sees the bass player and drummer swap places, considering Georges was the bassist for 50 Foot Wave this makes perfect sense, and emphasises what a selection of talented musicians are in front of us and well worthy of the adoration being demonstrated.

From seeing Kristin Hersh live, I have found a renewed interest in her solo work which had gone below my radar of late and I can’t urge you enough to check out her latest album, Possible Cloud Dust as it is a superb piece of work.

 

Reviewer: Toni Woodward

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