Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley and Shawn Biggs
We could make life so much easier if there was less time to think about the amount we had to fill or the amount we've already filled - forgotten and remembered. It gets staggering and threatening, like the biggest, blackest and well-oiled gun you've ever seen pointed at your temple. This isn't to say that it would be easier if life were shorter because that is counterproductive and more of a wimpy, weak-willed concession than anything. It's not saying that the time spent doing and loving and smiling and shivering and testing isn't worth anything because that's morbid and sad.
Every so often we hear the staggering statistic that every one person spends four or five years of their life (this could be rounded - low or high) on the toilet and yet that number of minutes, hours and days gets dwarfed by all of the time that gets drained exhaustingly from our veins due to the snaky affliction of having to "get" what we did, what everyone else around us is doing/thinking and what all of us are going to do next. The anticipatory gene and the analytical gene are serpents most of the time, hissing and biting and then flowering and fathering a whole new den of baby slithering things - more worries and uncertainties soon to be accomplished, full-grown burdens. Kristin Hersh has nurtured many of these beastly things, the forked-tongued needles that feel like water torture. She's done it since her teenage years, co-founded Throwing Muses with her stepsister Tanya Donelly, and has continued doing so with her solo work. She's walked that "silkworm tightrope" between tears and hysterical laughter and tearing her hair completely out of her head with no options sensed and a long way down. Her creative works follow the mental struggles she's had to wrestle with most of her life, laying them out as the harsh, frozen tundras about to be smothered in gasoline and set aflame just to be rid of the ugliness forever. She ties the demons up warm and kicking, ties the sins and problems of her head and her unmistakable characters, throws them down onto a sandy beach spelling "HELP" or "ENOUGH!" or "LEAVE ME ALONE!" depending on how many of them she's got circling around on any given day. She then throws the matchstick and stands back to protect her eyebrows and arm hairs. It produces a heat that then goes away after only so long roasting and popping. Her anger and her fears are never felt as impetuous or unfounded, though they are extraordinary as they don't occur to everyone the same way or in such unresponsive, unreasonable collusiveness.
Hersh performed the night before this session was recorded alongside a pool that belonged to a San Franciscan hotel in the notorious Tenderloin district that was known to get its shit trashed by visiting bands, like the riot house that it was. The pool's filters and drains were working as silently as they could, the natural light was a fading reminder of day time, the open bar was buzzing and the hors d'oeuvres were being carefully forked and stuck, meanwhile, Hersh was filleting herself, revealing so much of her insides and her shy quarters that she was ready and suited for skinny dipping. And this is coming from a mother and wife, not the typical tortured. It's a mesmerizing snapshot of art's ability to let evils have a place out here, a safety deposit box cracked open only every so often. One of the most haunting and evident lines that Hersh sings in this brief session is when she says, "I thank God you're comatose as I pull back the bedclothes." It's chilling and it's her, so very her when she finds a microphone in front of her mouth.
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