Words by Ed King
On Tuesday 15th November, ‘An Evening with Kristin Hersh’ comes to The Glee Club in Birmingham, where the singer/songwriter and author will present ‘songs and readings from works spanning her entire career.’
Doors open at 7pm with last entry at 7:45pm – tickets are priced at £17.50 + booking fee. For direct gig info & online ticket sales, click here.
So, this is the kind of gig to invite a preamble; let’s start at the beginning… (cue wavy dream sequence…)
Kristen Hersh and her bestie/step-sister, Tanya Donelly, pick up teenage guitars and form a duo. About a year later they recruit some schoolmates. A band grows. The name of the band grows. The name of the band shortens, and after meeting a couple of limey label execs Throwing Muses release their eponymous debut album. This is still the mid 80’s and Throwing Muses’ indie rock paves the way for further US signing to 4AD, including Pixies – a good few years before SubPop would sign Mudhoney and a couple of nihilists from Aberdeen.
Throwing Muses were heralded as a break to the norm; traditions and song structures be damned. Throwing Muses became a success, both critically and commercially, with Kristin Hersh writing the majority of the songs – lyrics that fused a still-water anger, folk storytelling, visceral self-dissection and a good old rock war cry.
Three albums later and Sister Donelly leaves to form and front Belly. Three albums later still, after ‘a band who’d leave me one by one’, and Sister Hersh goes solo – piping the final Muses’ LP to the post with her own debut album, Hips and Makers. Cue the single ‘Your Ghost’, cue Strings EP, two novels, a children’s book, eight further solo albums, and we’re queuing up for tickets to spend ‘An Evening with Kristin Hersh.’ And if I was to give you some more Google/Spotify fodder, Sunny Border Blue.
I should, also, not skip quite so quickly past the literature that Kristin Hersh has penned and produced: Toby Snax (2007), Rat Girl/Paradoxical Undressing (2010), Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt (2015). Truthfully, I’ve not read them, so it’s a little presumptuous to comment. But I can tell you the first is an illustrated children’s book, the second is about Hersh’s early touring days with Throwing Muses, and the third is a posthumous celebration about her friendship with singer/songwriter Vic Chestnut. And added to the ferocious honesty and habitual nature of Kristin Hersh’s musical accomplishments… well, fuck me.
Kristin Hersh has also released a triptych of book/CD combos, starting with Throwing Muses’ first studio album (including Sister Donelly) in a decade, Purgatory/Paradise (2013) – apparently named after a intersection on Rhode Island and not Dante’s infernal struggle. This collection was followed up with Hersh’s solo release, Crooked, in 2015.
The lasted installment is titled Wyatt at the Coyote Palace, an anthology of ‘essays and lyrics with two CD’s included’ – released as a hardback on 15th November (the day of this gig) and named after the exploration of an abandoned building behind the studio the LP was recorded in. Wyatt is Kristin Hersh’s son.
So, that’s us all caught up then… kinda, sorta. 50FOOTWAVE. There you go.
The last time I saw Kristin Hersh was shortly after her solo debut, Hips and Makers, had been released; Hersh was playing in the New Bands tent at Glastonbury Festival. I think it was 1994, but it could have been a year later. Or even two. There were a lot of drugs in my system during the mid 90’s. But the girl-guitar on stage stuck in my mind, with a flicker of precocious excitement that I’d be able to see her perform again. Only took me about 20 years.
Plus this is ‘An Evening with…’ so I may get to extend my knowledge, with readings from her prose also being performed.
But in the interim, I ‘m going to leave you with an album track from the LP that started this solo machine. One of my favourites. So look down. Click. Listen. And I’ll see you next Tuesday..?
‘Me and My Charms’ – Kristin Hersh
An Evening with Kristin Hersh comes to The Glee Club (B’ham) on Tuesday 15th November – alongside the release of Wyatt at the Coyote Palace. For direct gig info & online ticket sales, visit www.glee.co.uk/performer/kristin-hersh
For more on Kristin Hersh, visit www.kristinhersh.com
For more from The Glee Club, visit www.glee.co.uk