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The Posies With Simone White At The Bootleg, Saturday January 20th 2019

The Posies

 

Power pop group the Posies have been around since the late ‘80s, and even though they are a quartet, they were only a duo last night. Founding members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow have embarked for a series of west coast shows and I had the pleasure to catch their performance at the Bootleg Theater on Saturday night. Last year, the full band toured to celebrate their 30th anniversary and the expanded reissues of their classics on Omnivore (‘Dear 23’, ‘Frosting On The Beater’, and ‘Amazing Disgrace’), but this year the tour seemed to exist just for the fun of it I guess, although it always seems to be for the fun of it with these two men, who constantly joked around during a 2-hour set.

Singer-songwriter Simone White opened the show with her intricate finger-picking, delicate melodies, and her fragile voice, as light as a feather floating in the wind. It was a melancholic exercise of storytelling and you could have heard a needle drop on the floor, as the middle age crowd was extremely respectful of her melodious poetry, whispered and sang with her soft-voiced pitch. It was just her and her guitar, for an intimate and impressive journey of childhood memories and eerie feelings, a hypnotic and minimalist folk which could even go completely a cappella for a song. She is signed to Honest Jon’s Records, a partnership between London record shop and Blur’s Damon Albarn, vintage originality which seems to reflect her old-soul approach to music.

It’s always intimidating when you are surrounded by fans who know all the lyrics of the songs, it’s even more the case when the crowd and the band have this inside-joke conversation about basically anything and random stuff that the crowd was shouting at the duo. There was even a recurrent and strange item {‘Game Casino’?) shouted by a guy in the crowd, which made Ken Stringfellow wonder if some old chemical (the Bootleg is an old factory) could be responsible for Tourette syndrome!

If their harmonies sounded very familiar, I had never really listened to the Posies. It’s no excuse, but I have to say that besides some popularity in the mid-‘90s, just before the grunge phenomenon, the Posies haven’t been very visible and have kept some quiet underground popularity far away from the spotlights. They have released many albums, and there was plenty of material to choose from, and as they got ready for a semi-marathon of acoustic music ( they played 22 songs if I am not mistaken) they brushed their large catalog but they kept mentioning ‘deep-cuts’. Only armed with their two guitars, an occasional walk to an old-fashioned piano and their impressive range of vocal harmonies, their chemistry was fascinating and undeniable, whether they were blending voices or joking around between the songs. This is what 30 years together do to you.

If the familiarity and the charming appeal of the music was instantaneous, it’s probably because their songs mixed Beatles-que earworms with guitar solo evasions, surprising effects and of course, timeless harmonies, which, performed acoustically, could almost remind Fleetwood Mac (‘Dream All Day’) or Crosby Still & Nash (‘The Glitter Prize’) or even R.E.M. (‘Will You ever Ease Your Mind?’). Of course, you can’t ignore the Big Star songwriting flavor all over their craft, which is not a coincidence as Stringfellow and Auer hooked up with Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens to revive the legendary power-pop group Big Star in 1993.

The delivery was as passionate as it was effortless, growing into an occasional strain in the vocals during these powerful choruses, but there was a genuine easy-going-ness all set long, continuing between the song with their casual and funny conversation with the crowd about creative movie remakes, such as Wes Anderson is remaking Pulp Fiction? and other curious wide-screen fantasies. This immediately broke all the barriers which actually never existed.

‘Everybody Is a Fucking Liar’ executed with a Hey Jude piano, a loud scream and Simone White’s beautiful vocals, turned to be a bit more intense than the rest but could have been found between something from the Beatles and Elliott Smith, I could say the same thing about ‘Suddenly Mary’, in a much more aching kind of way. The hooks were multiple, always carried by the power chord of their choruses and Beatles-worthy melodies, but nothing in the melodies was predictable. The songs often had these bipolar moody changes, enhanced by Auer’s shimmering guitar work decorating some of the songs and Stringfellow’s bright vocals, although they were both alternating while singing the lead.

The tone of the night oscillated between enthusiastic, dynamic, melancholic and heartfelt, while all the songs were performed with a pop fervor rarely encounter in today’s pop world… ‘there’s no passion in today’s music’, told me a 11-year-old a few weeks ago. And if a smart kid, mostly exposed to mainstream music, can see that, anyone could have realized there was no shortage of passion and emotions during the duo’s performance. Despite the absence of a full band, they always seemed to find the right balance between aggression and sweet pop, which can explain why their alt-pop anthems have aged in 30 years.

 

Setlist

Dream All Day
Believe in Something Other Than Yourself
So Caroline
Love Letter Boxes (video)
Suddenly Mary
Fall Apart With Me
World
Everybody Is a Fucking Liar
Definite Door
Who To Blame
Somehow Everything
Licenses to Hide
The Glitter Prize
Precious Moments
Apology
Any Other Way
Will You Ever Ease Your Mind?
Solar Sister

Encore
Conversations
Love Comes
Titanic
You’re the Beautiful One

The Posies

The Posies

The Posies

The Posies

Simone White

The Posies

Simone White

The Posies

Simone White

The Posies

Simone White

The Posies

Simone White

The Posies

Simone White

The Posies

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