Kristin Hersh: Paradoxical Undressing at The Triple Door

Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)

Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)

Kristin Hersh has performed in a variety of Seattle venues over the past twenty years and change. From the long gone OK Hotel, where fans sat on the worn-smooth wooden floors to listen intently, to The Showbox Market, co-headlining with the incredible Vic Chesnutt, swapping songs and stories onstage to the delight of the crowd, Hersh’s followers have been a steadfast group, rallying to fund albums, guitars, and tour bus repairs as needed. This is because Kristin Hersh is vital to those who get turned on to her music. Her fans have rescued her from the all-consuming jaws of the music business because they care about her music and ultimately about Kristin herself. This symbiotic relationship between Kristin, her music, and her fans is what filled The Triple Door on a Monday night, all parties all-in and benefiting.

The evening started off with Chris Brokaw, formerly the guitarist of the ’90’s Boston band Come and a friend of Kristin’s. In its heyday Come toured with the likes of Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and Nirvana, and listening to Brokaw one could understand why. His songs were murky downers, with complicated, tangled lyrics sung in a raggedy voice, and he was well-received by the crowd. It was a rare chance to see him perform acoustically.

After a short intermission Kristin walked onto the stage and performed a ninety minute set that consisted of material that ranged over her entire catalog of solo work and Throwing Muses’ songs old and new. Interspersed between the music were short readings from her autobiographical book, Rat Girl (titled Paradoxical Undressing in the UK), and also essays taken from her last solo album, Crooked, and latest Throwing Muses album, Purgatory/Paradise, both of which were also released in book format. The stories from Rat Girl especially showcased Hersh’s unique author’s style; when reading the book it is impossible to hear it in any other voice, so it is always especially entertaining to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Hersh’s perfectly timed pauses and emphases teased out laughs even as she described being hit by a car while riding a bicycle, which ‘turned her face to hamburger’ and broke her ankle. She makes it sound funny, but this accident is when she began to hear music, an event that is at the crux of why we were all in the same room on that night. Her humor is a catalyst, a transformer through which large and sometimes scary ideas can be processed.

Musically, the set was a total feast. Obscure songs (“Hysterical Bending”) and covers (“Banks of the Ohio”) mingled with favorites old and new, with “Sunray Venus,” “Krait,” and “Sno Cat” standing out in particular. Hersh’s voice was as strong as it’s ever been, whether at whisper or scream volume. The show led off with the solo “Your Dirty Answer,” a song that brings out goosebumps and prickles the skull as Kristin rants “It’s not my fault you don’t love me when I’m drunk.” For the uninitiated: a Kristin Hersh solo acoustic show is raw and powerful, and only sometimes quiet. But it is always, always arresting.

Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Kristin Hersh at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Chris Brokaw at The Triple Door (Photo by Christine Mitchell)
Christine Mitchell has been poring over album liner notes pretty much since she acquired the skill of reading, and figured out the basic structure of rock songs at an early age. Whether it’s the needle popping into the first groove of the record, the beeps that signal the beginning (or end) of a cassette tape, or digital numbers ticking off the seconds from zero, music brings Christine happiness, ponderous thought, opportunities for almost scientific study, and sometimes a few tears. When she started attending live shows two decades ago, a whole new piece of the puzzle clicked in and she has been hooked ever since.