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The Posies: Catch ’em In Philly While You Can – 2001

by Ed Condran, Courier Times, 19 July 2001

The beginning of the apparent end for The Posies occurred in 1996 at a Sunset Strip hotel. The band’s fourth and best album, “Amazing Disgrace” recently hit the bins. Honchos at the band’s label, DGC Records, weren’t certain about what single to release or how to showcase the band. The Posies was served up along with wine and cheese at a music journalist’s confab. Despite the circumstances, performing in a sterile conference room, the group rendered a brief but stirring set.

“Talk about being thrown to the wolves,” vocalist-guitarist Ken Stringfellow said. “We experienced every musician’s nightmare which is performing in a small space in front of a bunch of rock music eggheads. That was a great idea.”

Shortly after the fete, the Posies didn’t have to worry about being invited to play such shows. It didn’t take long before the label released questionable singles and lost interest in the underheralded power-pop band. The Seattle group, led by Stringfellow and vocalist-guitarist Jon Auer, had a remarkably consistent run. The Posies released its first album, the melodic and evocative “Failure,” in 1987.

The one-two harmonious punch supplied by Stringfellow and Auer was enough to hold fans’ attention. However, it was evident that the Big Star influenced tandem possessed a great deal of songwriting talent. The band took considerable strides with its major label debut, 1990’s “Dear 23,” which included a number of gorgeous songs such as the stunning “You Avoid Parties.” “Frosting on the Beater” (1993) included the group’s minor hit, the repetitive but catchy “Dream All Day.”

“Amazing Disgrace” included the infectious “Please Return It” that was originally slated to be the album’s initial single. However, the pedestrian “Ontario” was sent to influential arbiters of taste such as radio program directors. The album stiffed. Stringfellow and Auer were already bitter. Such angry tunes as “Hate Song” and “Everybody is a Bleeping Liar” grace “Disgrace.” The band played its last show in ’98 and announced that it was history. “Aside from all the record company nonsense it just felt like we hit a dead end,” Stringfellow said during a telephone interview from his Seattle home. “There was nothing left for us to achieve.”

The following year Stringfellow and Auer performed at a benefit for a sick friend. In early 2000 they were at the same soiree and the former duo were egged on by friends to play a few songs. “We had a great time performing with each other,” Stringfellow said. “There’s no doubt that Jon and I always had this great connection. I’m proud of what we accomplished.”

Stringfellow and Auer decided to go on an acoustic tour just as a number of posthumous Posies releases, such as the compilation “Dream All Day” and the rarities boxed set “At Least, At Last” were scheduled to hit the bins last year. “We had a great time on that tour,” Stringfellow said. “There was nothing hanging over our head. No labels. No bandmates. One of the mistakes we made during the ’90s was to cater to the whims of our rhythm sections. It was our band. We should have made them cater to us. So much energy was wasted placating people. Instead, we should have been focusing on our music.”

The duo returned to the studio late last year to bang out “Nice Cheekbones and a Ph.D,” which is a collection of pretty, poignant songs. Stringfellow and Auer, is touring once again. This time the Posies, which play tomorrow at the Khyber, will plug in. Bassist Matt Harris and drummer Darius Minwala will join the founding members of the band.

This might be the last chance to catch the band for awhile. However, the Posies usually claim that each tour will be its last, if not forever, at least for some time. “That’s true but I don’t think we’ll be doing this for a healthy period,” Stringfellow said.

“I have an album coming out in September. There’s word that R.E.M. [Stringfellow tours with R.E.M. as a guitarist-keyboardist] is going to do more promo dates this fall. If that’s so, I won’t be touring behind my album until next year, so now is the time to check us out. Jon and I obviously love to play with each other but I really think we’re going put this thing to rest for a period after this tour is over.”