I think I've probably attended nearly every Kristin Hersh and Throwing Muses live performance in Chicago for the past twenty-plus years. I can still remember the first live show (Double Door, Chicago, July 1994) and how much I was impressed and taken by her very personal stories, lyrics, songs and relaxed-to-charged performances. Her songs come from her experiences, both external and within, and it doesn't get more real than this. And sometimes, "real" is sweet and pretty, and other times it's hurting and angry. You'll experience all of this realness with Kristin's music.
Kristin's new album is "Wyatt at the Coyote Palace" - Wyatt is one of Kristin's children, and The Coyote Palace refers to an abandoned building behind a former recording studio. This is not just an album, but is both album and book. The 24 songs are spread across two CD's, and the book (just under 60 pages) is a collection of essays about Kristin's own near-death experiences (yes, there have been many) as told by Kristin. The essays are weaved around the songs, but sort of work as a continued story around the song lyrics. If you haven't read any of Kristin's stories or attended a live performance, these are fascinating, clever and personal. And it's not all "near death" ... there are a few incidental and amusing stories that veer from the topic - including one that gives a recipe for "Hooker Gazpacho". You'll have to read the book for more insight on that!
The songs on "Wyatt at the Coyote Palace" are as deep and intricate as you would expect from Kristin. My favorites include "Soma Gone Slapstick" (with accompanying video below) and its bass-driven verses, catchy tempo and brief interjections of acoustic guitar in place of the driving electric guitar and drums. "Elysian Fields" is another favorite and is reminiscent of the songwriting/guitar playing style that I associate with Throwing Muses' 1988 album "House Tornado". "Hemingway's Tell" is probably my favorite out of the collection - a great rocker with some intricate, crisp and melodic acoustic guitar solos - simply stunning to listen to, with Pixies-sounding chord progressions/transitions.
SOMA GONE SLAPSTICK (Official Video)
As for the album+book format, this is not the first one for Kristin. Kristin's 2010 album "Crooked" and 2013's "Purgatory/Paradise" from her band Throwing Muses were both released in album+book format.
Kristin is currently on the road promoting "Wyatt at the Coyote Palace", and I had the pleasure of attending her recent performance at SPACE (Evanston, IL). The set consisted of both new and older songs - she told us that her friends warned her about playing "new" songs that might make people angry, and that it might be best to stick with what people already knew and liked. I'm glad she played a bit of both, and am happy to report that I experienced no noticeable signs of anger during the show.
It's not very often that you go to a show and the artist invites you to experience the motivation behind the lyrics and the songs, but this is what Kristin does so naturally. Reading various excerpts from her books, she invites you the listener into the stories, grit and reality behind the music that follows, transforming the show into something brutally honest and sincere, with a healthy dose of humor and sarcasm. For one evening, you're transported away from your usual existence and fully immersed into Kristin's life experiences. It's unique and thought-provoking.
Highlights of the evening included performances of "Your Dirty Answer", "Mississippi Kite", "Sunray Venus", "Wonderland" and "Between Piety and Desire". There were even a few unexpected treats for the longtime fans - some older songs like "Your Ghost" (from Kristin's 1994 debut solo album "Hips and Makers"), "Cottonmouth" (B-side from Throwing Muses 1991 single "Counting Backwards"), and "You Cage" (from Throwing Muses' 1987 EP "The Fat Skier").
KRISTIN HERSH live performance at SPACE (Evanston, IL), December 10, 2016
For more about Kristin Hersh and her bands Throwing Muses and 50 Foot Wave, check out her official website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter. You can listen to "Wyatt at the Coyote Palace" on Spotify and Bandcamp, and find the physical album+book on Amazon.