Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER
Kristin Hersh rocked Boot & Saddle so hard on Monday night that you could almost guess the shampoo brand of the short middle-aged woman at the front of the crowd enthusiastically thrashing her stylized white coiffure. Hersh pounded her clenched fist against the body of her green Fender while drummer Rob Ahlers and bassist Fred Abong negotiated an intro, her eyes narrowed in a thousand-yard stare into the abyss at the back of the room as she delivered a verse’s gritty vocals, and then broke for a middle-eight with a chillingly disaffected gaze over her scorching Stratocaster solo.
Early on, a thin feedback pitch scored the quiet between songs, which Hersh mused to be the voice of an angel. Explained Ahlers, “most people use tuners, but we use angels,” as Hersh added with an eye-roll, “they’re expensive but so worth it.” Ironically, the three launched into the singer’s celebrated 1994 hit “Your Ghost” with one instrument mistuned, leading to several false starts received with good humor.
The trio are on tour now supporting Hersh’s latest solo effort Possible Dust Clouds, but this was to be no strict showcase of the new-and-unfamiliar as Hersh and co. salvoed her solo and Muses standards like “Limbo,” “Mississippi Kite,” “Sand” and “The Thin Man.” The three granted one encore too, following gracefully entertained request shout-outs flatteringly far-out enough to make the singer note, “these are some deep cuts, guys!,” while Abong and Ahlers traded instruments for “Broke,” from Hersh’s and Ahlers’ days as noise-rockers 50FOOTWAVE — a suitable deep-cut of their own choosing. — JOSH PELTA-HELLER