Throwing Muses plays the most truthful music that I know. Their songs just don’t lie. The honesty contained in their music is beautiful, brutal, and completely relatable, which ultimately makes it less popular music than . . . well, popular music. I suppose that hearing something that comes over you like a sucker punch to the gut isn’t for everyone, but I adore it. I discovered Throwing Muses in 1996, ten years after their first LP was released and just as their last “industry” album, Limbo, was coming out. Fast forward to today, and there I am, sitting at a fancy table at The Triple Door, close to tears as I watch Kristin, Dave, and Bernie playing together. I hadn’t seen the band in over ten years. Parenthood happens.
Financial distress also happens, and that was another reason that Throwing Muses haven’t been on the tour circuit, except for a few fan get-togethers. Following Limbo, the band didn’t really break up, but the music industry had broken them. 2003 saw another album (Throwing Muses), and then more radio silence. But with the assistance of fans, late 2013 saw the release of Purgatory/Paradise, a sprawling, 32-track album which was actually released in book form (there is an essay written by Kristin for every song).
Which brings us to The Triple Door. I had no reservations about whether I’d like the show; Purgatory/Paradise is a great album, and further evidence that the band is not painting by numbers even after having been together for nearly thirty years. In fact, it was no surprise that the main set consisted entirely of tracks off the new album, excepting “Mississippi Kite,” which was off of Kristin Hersh’s solo album Crooked. “Sleepwalking 1 and 2,” “Slippershell,” “Freesia,” and “Milan” were well-accepted by the crowd; it was obvious that not everyone had heard these songs yet, but the ear-catching grooves set by Bernard Georges, eye-tangling drumming of Dave Narcizo, and Kristin’s sometimes near-whisper switching to ragged screaming was so arresting that I’m sure that many of those folks were going home to hit up Amazon post-haste post-show.
The vibe throughout the show was very relaxed (in contrast to the often heart-wrenching songs), Kristin made fun of Bernie’s hat throughout the show, and, when Dave gave an extra-light touch to the drums during one of the few quieter songs (and then later not really doing a ‘drum solo’), Kristin poked fun at him as well. The band took questions from the crowd, Kristin answering them in the way she always has, with a quick wit and goofy humor. Her comebacks are always whip-smart.
A beautiful starry background book-ended the main set, as did the song “Glass Cats.” The first encore probably came as a relief to those who had felt at sea with all of the new music, as the band worked its way through some old favorites: “You Cage,” “Red Shoes,” “Devil’s Roof,” and the band’s biggest hit from when they were still navigating the music business, “Bright Yellow Gun.” “BYG” in particular was fun to watch, as Bernie expertly noodled up and down the bass. The closing song was the epic “Pearl” off 1992’s Red Heaven, and oh. Just oh. Dave’s drumming acrobatics were spectacular and hard-hitting (it even seemed to wear him out)!
A note about Kristin’s voice: yes, it has changed a ton over the years. It has become raspy and broken with all of the intense screaming/singing she has done. I personally love it. It is another aspect of that truth thing that I was talking about before. It’s an accumulation of years of songs that have never shied away from authenticity, and I hope that she wears it as a badge of honor. Thank you, Throwing Muses, for sharing your music with us whenever you’re able.
P.S.: I already bought tickets for when the band returns in June. I suggest you do the same.