Sunday, 21 August 2011

MUSIC REVIEW: Kristen Hersh * * * * *


, Cabaret Voltaire, 18-19 Aug, 8.15pm
* * * * *

Just as her introduction tonight puts it, this is not a serious show, but it is a quiet one.

Kirsten Hersh, of 80s alt rock group Throwing Muses, emerges onstage dressed simply in a white T-shirt and looking years younger than 45. The murmurous crowd halt to a complete hush as lights disappear and the mixed-bag of an audience prepare to listen up.

This is a solo show, part music and part spoken word. Hersh plucks excerpts from her recent novel Paradoxical Undressing (called Rat Girl in the US), and occasionally her guitar, with each set of stories followed by a classic Kristen song inspired by the experience previously shared.

The stories are hauntingly autobiographical, fragile and poetic, witty and wonderful. We journey through a life filled with mental illness and spilling over with music. We awake with her in the middle of the night when songs overtake her, and sit with a pregnant Kristen on the side of a bathtub while she plays guitar. We watch with heavy hearts as she illustrates an evening that ends with a slit wrist and mental health professionals, and we’re paralyzed as she recounts getting hit by a car and watching her own blood spill into a drain, her own foot unaccounted for.

Every story is remarkably entwined with humour, keeping it light-hearted also with accounts of her college years with Betty Hutton, an old Hollywood starlet who loved advising Kristen on showbiz, as well as her time spent living among some really hilarious hippies. She even derives a lot of laughs from the more stark stories, the way one must when life is otherwise simply too heavy.

I’m not sure what time all of it ended but it was far too soon, and I could have stood to have my soul stroked for at least another hour. Buying. Her book. Now.

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