Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Kristin Hersh kicks off a June full of enthralling writers and song-singers at the Iron Horse this Thursday night at 7PM. Oweihops open.

Sometimes we look at our calendar and see a block of jazz or blues shows and work on publicizing them as a group. Looking at June, I noticed that we’re hosting a nice string of shows by singers and songwriters who can be mentioned in the same breath because they actually defy easy categorization; artists whose voices are unmistakably their own. Kristin Hersh (6/3), Matt Pond PA (6/6), Robyn Hitchcock (6/9), Beth Nielsen Chapman (6/11), Josiah Wolf (6/17), Tift Merritt and Richard Buckner (6/18), Samantha Crain (6/20), Sam Amidon (6/21), and Greg Laswell (6/24).

Today let’s have a look at Kristin Hersh who plays the Iron Horse this Thursday at 7PM with openers Oweihops.

Kristin Hersh stares. With a look of concentrated terror, clutching her guitar to her body and swaying to her own haunting and melodic music, one wonders if she is trying to look outward or inward, trying to protect or expose herself. For Kristin Hersh, it's probably both.” Pop Matters

Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donnelly founded Throwing Muses back in 1984 or so in Boston at the same time as the Pixies got it together. I was in college at UMass at the time (as were Charles and Joey of the Pixies, living in the dorm Sylvan.) At the UMass student radio station WMUA we had a little 3-song Throwing Muses cassette demo that we played until it broke (physically that is; the tape snapped.) It was the three frenetic and unusual songs from that cassette that let to Throwing Muses being signed to the UK label 4AD along with the Pixies; the first two American bands ever signed to the stylized English label. 4AD’s album covers, regardless of the band, were all designed by the artist Vaughan Oliver and had a certain dreamy/nightmarish quality that echoed the labels taste in bands. The Muses and Pixies fit in to the 4AD aesthetic, if at an odd angle, and were big in Europe for a year or two before the US woke up to them. They did play some memorable US gigs before 4AD and Sire Records signed a US distribution deal, including a legendary co-bill at The Rat in Boston’s Kenmore Square. Dozens of us skipped classes and drove to Boston for that one. We all had our own post-punk version of Jon Landau’s “future of rock and roll” Springsteen moment at that amazing show.

Tanya Donnelly and Kristin Hersh as Throwing Muses made some great albums that in their time were every bit as popular, maybe even more so, than the Pixies whose breakthrough came later and (oddly) retroactively. The women eventually disbanded the Muses and aside from occasional reunions have been making music individually ever since that is never less than interesting and frequently stunning. Kristin is a delightfully odd bird with her impressionistic, sometimes hallucinatory lyrics. She has said that she writes from a point of view outside of her personality. “Songwriting is about shutting up instead of talking, saying things that I don't know yet and telling stories I may not have lived yet.” Her singing ranges from whispers to screams. The New York Times pointed to Hersh's explorations of "rage, aggression and mental chaos" as evidence that there were at least a few female rock music artists by the early 1990s pushing against gender role boundaries to express "more than simply vulnerability or defiance" in their work. Kristin was not part of the Lilith Fair crowd. In all probability, if it wasn't for the influence of Throwing Muses — and Kristin Hersh herself — the women of the Lilith Fair (original and this summer’s reconstituted version) would still be singing in the shower.

Local ensemble Oweihops conjure bands like Low, Songs: Ohia, Scud Mountain Boys (Joe Pernice), and John Fahey and as such are a great fit for this spellbinding evening of music.

Tickets for Kristen Hersh plus Oweihops at the Iron Horse this Thursday at 7PM are available at the Northampton Box Office, 413-586-8686 and online at IHEG.com.

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