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Cynics All, The Posies Still Play Rings Around Straight Grunge – 1993

 

By Tim Pratt, The Grand Rapids Press, 15 September 1993

Infectious, quirky, witty. OK, funny. And, surprisingly, fairly intense.

Those are a few of the words that come to mind after witnessing The Posies’ first appearance in Grand Rapids, which was Tuesday night at Club Eastbrook.

Playing in front of a relatively small (400-plus) but raucous crowd – except for the “leisurely reclining folks in the back” guitarist/vocalist Ken Stringfellow pointed out – the quartet hailing from that grunge-mecca Seattle whipped the audience into a wild roller-coaster ride of a show.

Performing an extended set (80 minutes), Stringfellow said after the show the band truly enjoyed the Club Eastbrook crowd, hence the two-song encore, not always a concert staple for The Posies.

“Encores are like a requirement in concerts – everyone does them,” Stringfellow said. “We’re not going to do an encore out of necessity.”

Yet, the self-proclaimed pop band played two songs, both extended versions, in its encore to a very Posies-thirsty audience. By the show’s conclusion, even most of the “leisurely crowd” in the back had abandoned its seats for a closer look.

Stringfellow and founding member Jon Auer (lead vocals/guitars) agreed audiences in the Midwest are the most enthusiastic in the United States.

“On the East Coast, crowds are jaded – no one wants to show too much emotion – and in the West, people are mellow,” Stringfellow said. “Here, they’re genuine.”

And that genuine attitude rubbed off on the band members, who were playing only their second show in a three-week tour, especially after a lackluster opening night in East Lansing Monday night, according to Stringfellow.

Kicking off the set with “Definite Door” from its latest album, “Frosting On The Beater,” The Posies tore through a number of songs from all three of its albums, surprising since the 1988 album “Failure” was recorded by just Auer and Stringfellow and was released on an independent label.

As the minutes ticked by, it was obvious the stars of the show were Auer and Stringfellow, while bassist Dave Fox and drummer Mike Musburger provided a tight and rock-solid rhythm section. Auer and Stringfellow are equally talented as guitarists and vocalists, which is not all that common.

The pair were very animated on their respective guitars, especially Auer, swinging the instrument back and forth while playing. At one point, Auer broke one of his strings during a solo and, without missing a lick, threw the dangling string behind his back to move it out of the way – and then proceeded to play the-now five-string guitar through a couple more songs before trading it in.

Additionally, though both are hard-core cynics, they were very personable with the audience. The pair enjoyed imitating MTV’s “Beavis and Butthead” numerous times, as well as poking fun at arena rock – “You guys want to hear a bass solo, like Van Halen?” – the supposedly disappointing show Sept. 4 by Urge Overkill at Club Eastbrook. “We promise to never wear leather suits . . . and never be Urge Overkill.” Stringfellow even offered those in the back a dog to fetch their newspaper – for a small fee.

Still, it was the group’s music which spoke to the audience the most Tuesday evening. While quite melodic, The Posies’ live performance packed a bit more of a punch than its recorded material, with searing power chords and raw vocals.

Highlights included “Solar Sister,” with a great lead vocal by Stringfellow, “Flavor Of The Month,” “Golden Blunders,” “Dream All Day” and “How She Lied By Living,” a tribute to an unnamed “grungette” from Seattle who died last year.

Two outstanding moments came during “Lights Out” and “Coming Right Along.” Both songs start slowly, then gain strength until building to a peak of intensity and power, only to slow it down once again. Each was played with enormous emotion and conviction.

While not subscribing to the grunge genre, The Posies definitely are more than just a pop band. The group combines a variety of styles in creating its somewhat grungy, somewhat poppy sound. Difficult to explain, but a pleasure to listen to and witness.