Tuesday night’s show came with an elevated level of anticipation as a relatively new convert to The Posies. I first discovered them at a pop up gig nearly 3 years ago when founding members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow appeared with local favorites The Melismatics. Since then, there have been two other small pop up affairs which were thoroughly enjoyable.
Stringfellow provided TCM with an in depth interview in the run up to the show. You can find it HERE. He spoke glowingly about the reunion of this seminal line up and its rock and roll horsepower. So I was really curious how different the “original” Posies would sound compared to the stripped down duo I’d experienced.
Stringfellow promised serious rock vibes and boy did the night deliver. Early patrons were greeted by my favorite DJ, Jake Rudh. His catalog of vintage band video and unerring sense of the type of music to spin before a particular show is pure professional. He understands the influences each band had coming up. So that soundtrack provides context and connections. Usually, he gets a shout out from the bands who feel obliged to opine about how much they enjoyed what was being played before they walked on the stage. As the Posies tuned up later in the evening I noticed Jon Auer fully engaged, singing along with the record as he tuned his guitar.
Canadian rocker Terra Lightfoot took over from Rudh at 8pm on the dot. The power trio built around her road worn SG, solid vocals, unlaced Doc Martins and rock and roll integrity was a powerful start to the night. Ken had promised me she was special. The man told the truth. Her set was short and high energy. It was far from the last we saw of her during the evening; whether it was joining the Posies or delivering shots of tequila. The fondness between headliner and opener was genuine.
The wild card addition for this particular night was Porcupine. Locals are familiar with this LaCrosse based post punk trio because of former Husker Du bassist Greg Norton. Maybe it was the big Turf Club crowd. Maybe it was the relationship to The Posies. Whatever the case, the Front man Casey Virock, drummer Ian Prince and the aforementioned Norton were animated and dialed in to a degree I’d not previously witnessed. Porcupine was the perfect support slot last night. They formally kicked off the love fest which was about to take over the venue.
The Posies immediately brought the firepower in the form of Auer’s and Stringfellow’s superb guitar work. If rock and roll is meant to be brash, loud, melodic and transcendent they are the ultimate alchemists. Both guys can really sing. After 30 years those voices fold together like silk sheets. Their set moves from one voice to the next, trading off leads. They join together in nearly every song. Those harmonies are nothing less than the signature sound of the 90’s. Consistently intelligent, slightly off center lyrics on top of those crunchy guitars remain the formula that catapulted them to the top of the charts.
Sweat flowed. Spit flew. F bombs dropped. Leavened with Stringfellow’s irrepressible humor and openness, the band connected with the 300 hard core fans that jammed the venue. Energy, effort, passion and gorgeous vocals flowed from the stage. What else could we possibly want from a rock and roll show?
Because of the Greg Norton/Porcupine connection it seemed the band had decided to have as much fun as possible on this stop. In the TCM interview, Stringfellow talked at length about the impact the Husker album Zen Arcade had on him during their high school years. He repeated during the show that Husker Du defied categorization and showed two kids from a small, dead end, pre-internet town that rock and roll could go where it wanted to go. Fitting inside a 9 dot formula or catering to a radio station format was not a requirement. So The Posies forged their own path and Husker showed them how. Ken and Jon had never met Greg until that evening. It seemed as though they worked extra hard to make him proud.
Without going into song by song detail, suffice to say they never missed once throughout the 2 hours they spent with us. Firepower in spades. It was one of those nights where you kept thinking how cool it is when a band is too big for the venue. Shoehorned in, the energy becomes reciprocal. For a couple guys on the cusp of 50, Auer and Stringfellow still get a lot of air time. Thank you Pete Townshend. And thanks Turf crowd for egging them on.
A major highlight was the first encore. Norton stepped on with the band and a 5 song medley of Husker Du classics thundered from the stage. Obviously, Norton never missed a lick. The two Posies’ front men pounded out tunes they had carried with them from the time they were first contemplating the concept of a driver’s license. It was an authentic thrill for them to jam with an idol. It was also a gas for Norton who dialed back the clock and beamed ear to ear. I considered telling them afterward that if these Posies or Porcupine things didn’t work out they had a lucrative future as a Husker tribute band. They brought the past into the present and the crowd loved it.
I often peruse the crowd at shows to see who is in attendance. Is it the band’s fans, like me? Or does the act bring out the other professionals in town? In other words, are we talking about a musician’s musician? From the Melismatics, to Babes in Toyland Lori Barbero to Current DJ Brian Oake, the music people were out and engaged. The ’90’s Posies were Husker Du type influences on a lot of bands that followed in their footsteps.
This 85 stop world tour is built around the re-release of Dear 23, Frosting On The Beater and Amazing Disgrace. Each of the albums, the first of which drops on PledgeMusic.com tomorrow, will feature an additional 90 minutes of unreleased material. So it wasn’t a surprise that upon returning to the stage for a second encore the band decided to roll out a track which was first recorded to cassette in the mid 80’s. It was described as the ultimate synth jam. It would never have been repeated had not Jon Auer heard something in it, reined it in and provided some structure. Tequila Terra Lightfoot again joined the band and together they proceeded to blow the walls out of the place. Face to face, on their knees, Auer and Lightfoot sawed off guitar strings one after the other as they attacked their instruments. When no strings remained they grabbed other guitars racked around the stage to continue the assault.
Is rock and roll extreme? Yes. Yes it is. Tuesday night was a mid-week Easter Egg for anybody who traveled to The Midway.