November 24th, 2005


Kristin Hersh at Scala, London, November 21st and 22nd

Some of you know that 4AD is doing a series of shows (ten, I think) in London called "1980 Forward." If you've been paying attention, I said recently that I was the luckiest person in the world, and that was confirmed when Don and I got ourselves to London for two nights of Kristin Hersh. (Yes, Kristin Hersh!!) The first night she did Throwing Muses songs, and the second night she did songs from her solo career. I'd waited over ten years for this, and man, was it worth the long journey. Here's a summary.

Songs I somehow knew she would play:
Teeth, Me and My Charms

Songs I hoped she would play, and she did:
Listerine, The Letter

Songs I was over-the-moon thrilled she played:
Hope, Mania, Hook in her Head

Songs she was obviously gonna play, and thank God she did:
Your Ghost, Hate My Way

I knew everybody loved Kristin's banter, but I didn't know that she just makes up stories while she's tuning her guitar. For example, before playing "Pearl," she talked about her childhood friend Marie who was blind and "weighed no pounds." She wore thick glasses (even though she was blind) and had a sense of humor that most people didn't witness, so Kristin got the good stuff. They used to hang from a bar (during the Reagan years, when ketchup was a vegetable, although Kristin clarified, "Ketchup is actually a fruit,") and Marie used to hang there forever, until they had to come pull her off - and that was her favorite part.

She led into "Hate My Way" by remembering walking home in Providence, a university town, and people would put fliers in her hand, so that by the time she got home she had lots of fliers. About rising above the church, and stuff about hate, like how if you were in the holocaust you would hate Hitler... She laughed so hard because it was so funny! But instead of writing a funny song, she wrote a sad song.

Oooh, she played "Two Step" as a rock song, at the top of her lungs, instead of the dreamy version from The Real Ramona. And before she played "Bea," somebody called out, "Sing some songs about sex!" and Kristin answered, "Write some? Write some, did you say? I thought they were all about sex. And death..."

The setlist for the first night (in no particular order, from memory):
Hook in her head
Delicate cutters
Run letter
Rabbit's Dying
Him Dancing
Two step
Bright Yellow Gun
You Cage
White Bikini Sand
Hate My Way

Scala was a cinema before it was a place to rock.

"A painful trip down memory lane."

Kristin later clarified on her blog that she doesn't hate her old songs.

The McCarricks - "well-rehearsed and adorable to boot."

On the second night, we got there so early that we were in the very first row. (We actually sat on the stage for the entire show, so we wouldn't block anybody's view.)

She played even better the second night, and her narration between songs was more hilarious. Before playing "Gazebo Tree," she told us how a woman on the bus told her she never went out because she was afraid to leave her house. She never went out (even though she was on the bus when she said this) because, "Look what they did to Jesus."

(During that song, she lost a guitar string and had to stop the song before it was finished. She said, "The old lady just died. She's haunting us - she's mad about the song being so stupid.")

She introduced "The Letter" by saying, "This is a terrible song," and told us that her friend from Ethiopia loved that terrible song, and he gave her a gift with a card that said, "Thank you for The Letter," and inside the box - well, at first she didn't know what it was! (Because she was making up the story as she went along?) But it just looked like a bunch of twine... she ended up calling him to ask him what it was, and he told her, "Elephant shit shoes. Don't wear them in the rain."

This time I wrote down the setlist:
Sno Cat
Snake Oil
Costa Rica
White Suckers
Your Dirty Answer
Gazebo Tree
A Loon
37 Hours
Uncle June and Aunt Kiyoti
Me and My Charms
The Letter
Your Ghost
Delicate Cutters
White Bikini Sand
Hate My Way

"It might seem like I don't write any of my songs - but it's probably true."

"I'd like to make a shameless plug for 50 Foot Wave." Pause. "That was it."

Kristin's eyes are so pale and clear, but I couldn't capture their look.

Kristin wears Mary Janes without socks, in the London winter.

"Here's a song I do know the words to."

Don says he still wants to hear the end of "Gazebo Tree."

Reverse order from the set she actually played. Aww, she was going to play "Close Your Eyes?" That song rocks. I want more!

Oh, some complete strangers (a guy named Louis and a cute redhead) bought us the new 50 Foot Wave album, Golden Ocean. It's so kickass, but it makes me drive too fast. I'll share it with you soon, okay?