The Splitters, Kristin HershPlush, Thursday, May 25
Kristin Hersh's eyes get scary when she sings. They widen and seem to take over her whole face. It's like her songs are possessing her body as she sits there on a stool, playing an acoustic guitar with furor. Hersh is a commanding presence--as the lead singer for Throwing Muses, her intense guitar playing and singing placed her on par with female rock innovators like Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde--and getting to see her wide eyes on stage at Plush only enhanced that presence.
Amy Rude's new musical project, The Splitters, consisting of herself and violinist Vicki Brown, were the perfect opening act for Kristin Hersh--they immediately set a certain intimate mood that continued throughout the night with their beautiful, droning songs. Without drums and other guitars covering up her voice, and with Brown's excellent violin playing front and center, Rude's songs shine.
Hersh herself was even more stripped down. With just an acoustic guitar, Hersh's songs are not quite as powerful as their electrified cousins, but equally, if not more, intense. Hersh's voice seemed somewhat grainy and strained--at one point during the set, someone requested "Me and My Charms," and Hersh admitted she wouldn't be able to hit some of the notes, because she had lost her voice recently. But she powered on through her set, smoky voice and all, playing songs and telling stories, and doing a three-song encore with an electric guitar.
Before one song, she explained how she had written it after trying to eat a blueberry bagel in Philadelphia that her husband had told her looked like necrotic tissue, and before another, she explained that she got one of the lines from a crazy lady on a bus. Before the set, her manager and husband, Billy O'Connell, told the crowd that they hadn't received their big box of merchandise, so they had spent the day putting together little grab bags consisting of a stick of gum, a Kristin Hersh sticker and a Hello My Name Is sticker with the name "Kristin" written on it that they were selling for gas money. A couple of people immediately ran toward the stage to buy some.
It's these kinds of moments that make for intimate shows: It's not necessarily the size of the venue; it's the immediate interaction between the performer and the audience, and Kristin Hersh's show was definitely intimate, right down to her wide eyes.