Kristin Hersh at Tangier

Kristin Hersh
The Good Listeners
The Fold at Tangier, Los Angeles
1/13/06

This was the second and final night of Kristin Hershs engagement at Tangier in Los Angeles. She performed two sets, the first consisting of songs from her solo career, while the second focused on songs from her 90s group Throwing Muses. Both halves of the show were a success, with her sizable contingent of fans entranced by her every word.

Though the performance was in a solo acoustic format, the music was far from laid back. Ms. Hersh is diminutive in size and feminine in dress, but she plays and particularly sings with an an almost demonic ferocity. When her songs reach their apex of intensity, she seems to channel both Patti Smith and Linda Blair. Her soft, babydoll face changes, radiating the pain of her lyrics, her eyes appearing possessed. Her voice can be beautiful, but then she reaches down into some wellspring of rage and you can literally here her scraping it out through her throat. Her guitar work also impressed, interpolating some folk and blues techniques into a modern rock idiom on songs like Snow Cat.

Opening were the Good Listeners, a two-piece NPR-friendly pop group seemingly indebted to the late music of the Beatles, the Flaming Lips, David Bowie, and Squeeze, among others. Their show in particular was reminiscent of the Lips, with its quirky audiovisual accompaniment and their unusual method of making music. The two gentlemen used a variety of electronic equipment to expand their sound, laying a track on an electronic drum or keyboard and feeding it into a loop, then playing some bass and looping that, switching to guitar and so on.

It was all very interesting to watch, though Im not really sold on their songwriting based on this first impression. It wasnt bad, but the lyrics in particular seemed a bit weak when they stood out at all. I enjoyed some of the playing, though, especially the bits of pedal steel guitar that were scattered here and there in the set. A nice cover of the Kinks Waterloo Sunset (with some video footage of that band spliced into the program) ended their part of the performance on a pleasant foot.