Thursday, February 21st, 2013
You're The Gold
Ken Stringfellow at The Drake Underground in Toronto
Frank YangIt seems ages ago, but early 2002 was still an era where the magazine was still a vital medium for music reviews and general discovery; I still clearly recall a live writeup in issue 49 of The Big Takeover wherein editor Jack Rabid gave Ken Stringfellow a glowing review for a show at New York’s Mercury Lounge on September 20, 2001, and how it served as a powerful musical anodyne for those in need of some healing just a week after the World Trade Center attacks. It was just a few paragraphs long but still stuck with me a good long time, and also led me to pick up Stringfellow’s second solo record Touched – an album that, had I been in the habit of publishing year-end lists at the time, almost certainly would have secured a spot.
Since then, I’d been waiting for a chance to experience the live show that had been described so vividly, but while Stringfellow has been through town a number of times over the past decade – either with R.E.M., The Posies, or The Disciplines – he never toured here behind either Touched or 2004’s Soft Commands. It was only with last year’s Danzig In The Moonlight did he plot out a comprehensive enough North American tour to make it to Toronto for his first ever solo show in the city, stopping in at The Drake Underground this past Tuesday evening.
The long wait didn’t translate into a lot of pent-up demand, unfortunately, with only a few dozen people making it out on a cold and snowy night to see a man with arguably one the most impressive indie-rock resumes of the past quarter-century. The small turnout turned out to be something of a benefit, however, as Stringfellow took advantage of the intimacy to create a genuine rapport with the audience and craft a truly memorable show. Had it been a fuller show, he might not have opened with anecdotes instead of songs, starting off by entertainingly describing his morning in Montreal and his weather-delayed trip down the 401, but turning more personal in mentioning that his son had just that morning been released from prison; indeed, as friendly and genial as Stringfellow was, he was clearly having a rare and intense day and was going to be working through some stuff with song.
He opened the musical portion of the show by stepping off the stage and playing un-miked in the round, his loud and clear tenor filling the room unaided, before eventually setting down the guitar and getting back on stage behind the keyboard, though still eschewing vocal amplification. He wasn’t above asking for a little company, though, moving some benches from the floor up onto the stage and inviting audience members to flank him whilst he performed. And oh yes, the performance.
While I’m sure many would have liked to have had a Posies song or two in the mix, the set was surprisingly satisfying for sticking to his solo material and Danzig in particular – as richly-produced and arranged as that album is, it was still somehow done justice by just Stringfellow alone (although he did locally-source a duet partner for “Doesn’t It Remind You Of Something”. “Superwise” was riveting, “Shittalkers!” searing, and an audience request for “History Buffs” fulfilled in jaw-droppingly gorgeous fashion. While the word usually connotes violence and/or screaming, Stringfellow was instead experiencing a catharsis through melody – culminating with Touched‘s “Lover’s Hymn”, and it was truly something to behold. A show I’d waited nigh on ten years for, and still worth it.
Photos: Ken Stringfellow @ The Drake Underground – February 19, 2013
MP3: Ken Stringfellow – “Doesn’t It Remind You Of Something”
Video: Ken Stringfellow – “Doesn’t It Remind You Of Something”
Video: Ken Stringfellow – “Superwise”
Stream: Ken Stringfellow / Danzig In The Moonlight
MP3: Chelsea Light Moving – “Burroughs”
MP3: Chelsea Light Moving – “Frank O’Hara Hit”
MP3: Chelsea Light Moving – “Empire Of Time”
MP3: Chelsea Light Moving – “Groovy & Linda”
Stream: Chelsea Light Moving / Chelsea Light Moving
Nashville’s Caitlin Rose is streaming her new record The Stand-In at The Independent ahead of its March 5 release date. The Telegraph also has an interview with the country singer-songwriter, who plays The Garrison on April 5.
Stream: Caitlin Rose / The Stand-In
Stream: The Men – “I Saw Her Face”
Stream: Rilo Kiley – “Let Me Back In”
How To Destroy Angels – aka Trent Reznor’s new post-Nine Inch Nails project – will release their debut Welcome Oblivion on March 5, but are streaming it right now at Pitchfork and have announced their Spring tour itinerary; the venue is still TBA but they’ll be in Toronto on April 25. Update: Spin says Sound Academy.
Exclaim has details on what’s next from John Vanderslice – a Kickstarter-ed new album called Dagger Beach which should be out this Summer, and a complete album cover of Bowie’s Diamond Dogs for those who help fund it.
Backstage Rider finds out what Dean & Britta have been up to, and that’s solo records. Dean has two coming out, one produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket and the other by Jason Quever of Papercuts, and Britta has one of her own in the works. So there’s no Dean & Britta on the horizon, but lots of Dean and Britta.