As soon as I got into my car after seeing The Posies at the City Winery, several questions about my evening with Seattle power-pop band started running through my head.
The show featured only the core Posies duo of Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow singing and playing electric guitars. While the twin axes made for a lovely and jangly backdrop for their tightly harmonizing vocals, question numéro uno was “Why did they have to tune after just about every song, and why did it take them so long?”
Although the guys joked about it quite often throughout the night, they never explained why they kept needing to tune. Were they playing so hard that they were knocking their guitars out of tune, or were they using special tunings for different songs? Although I’m not a player, my guess is that it was the latter. And, if you think I’m petty for bringing this up, it’s not that it so much bothered me, but the amount of time it took and attention Jon and Ken gave it was unusual.
Question numéro dos was “Why did I pretty much ignore this band throughout their prime in the 90s?” While pondering this thought, I remembered the red and blue matching plaid flannel shirts they were wearing; a reminder of the Seattle grunge scene that I never embraced. I guess that back then I mistakenly lumped then in with a bunch of other bands I just didn’t care about.
Things changed when I learned that the Posies were power poppers of the highest order. My first real exposure to them was the in 2001, when I saw Jon and Ken join Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens in the reformed Big Star. (A 1991 show opening for The Replacements in Austin surprisingly left nothing notable in my memory.) Later, in 2010, I saw them support and play in Brenden Benson’s band, and now fully realizing our shared tastes in music, I eagerly dug deep into The Posies’ catalog.
All this leads to the big question numéro tres, “Do I like The Posies?” and the answer to that is a resounding “Yes!” Tonight’s rhythm-less power duo performance was a joyous showcase of a career full of great pop songs that were well played and sung. If I had anything negative to say about the night, it would be that Stringfellow’s move to the piano for two songs brought the pace down, and that perhaps they played a bit too long.
The last point is a hard one to explain, but sometimes a show hits a peak and anything after that can feel laborious and unnecessary. However, they did re-peak and sent me home with a big smile when they closed with a cover of Big Star’s “September Gurls.” Just before Auer hit that familiar opening riff, Stringfellow asked him “T or S?” It’s a good guess that “T” stood for an alternative choice of Big Star’s “Thirteen.”
Near the end of the set, Stringfellow started to announce a special guest who I put my money on to be Nashville’s pop-purveyor, Pat Sansone of Wilco and the Big Star’s Third Live collective who was sitting nearby. Instead however, the treat was some backing vocals from hometown girl, Tristen. While the night’s crowd was woefully small, the star table not only included Sansone and Tristen, buy also locals Robyn Hitchcock and Emma Swift.
My final question of the night, numéro cuatro, was “Why did I like the opening act, Solar Twin so much?” Playing alone on electric guitar to some backing tracks, Nashville’s Shane Tutmarc (a/k/a Solar Twin) gave one of the best opening sets I’ve seen in quite some time. Hand-picked by The Posies, this Seattle native played some pure pop originals laden with a heavy beat and a modern touch. Music aside, the Twin’s onstage behavior also scored high points on my Tips for an Unknown Opening Act.
Well, I guess that I answered my questions!
- Flavor of the Month
- Love Letter Boxes
- Any Other Way
- Dream All Day
- Song #1
- Under Easy
- You Avoid Parties
- 20 Questions
- Please Return It
- So Caroline
- That Don’t Fly
- Coming Right Along
- Licenses to Hide
- The Glitter Prize
- Solar Sister
- Definite Door
- Suddenly Mary
- You’re the Beautiful One
- September Gurls (Big Star cover)
Jon Auer—vocals and electric guitar
Ken Stringfellow—vocals, electric guitar and piano
Tristen—backing vocals on #16 & #17