Coming into Dada last night, I was a fan of Ken Stringfellow's work with the Posies, Big Star, and R.E.M. Coming out of it, I became a fanatic of his solo material.
Prior to this evening, I had my rarely-played promo copy of 2001's Touched and memories of The Big Takeover's Jack Rabid heaping a lot of praise for Touched and having Stringfellow play his wedding. Given my enjoyment of the Posies' material, especially Dear 23, Frosting on the Beater, and Amazing Disgrace, and knowing how intense his showmanship is as a performer, I thought I'd simply enjoy a solo set from it.
Well, I happened to see one of the best shows I've seen this year.
A low turnout was in plain sight (only 17 paid to get in), so Ken decided to perform while standing on the floor without a vocal microphone. Playing so close that he could breathe on people, this was a kind of intimacy I've rarely seen at shows. He played a lot of solo material either on his electric guitar or electric piano and a few tunes with a local female singer/songwriter. Each song was played with complete sincerity -- punctuated by an incredible knack for hitting high notes that never screeched or felt unwelcome.
I never knew how great Ken was on the piano. I had never seen him play live with R.E.M., but I was amazed at how he could play intricate chords all over the 88 keys -- and usually just in one song. The material itself reminded me of why I love Burt Bacharach, Elton John, and Ben Folds -- there might be a lot of chords in one song, but they certainly prevent the song from becoming predictable, melody-wise.
Towards the end of his set, he took requests. Just as I was about to say "You Avoid Parties," there were louder shouts for the song and he obliged. While it is not as well known as "Dream All Day" or "Solar Sister," the song perfectly fit the mood for the show. And I couldn't help sing along under my breath. With the last few weeks being such a vulnerable and trying patch in my life, the goosebumps kicked in while he played.
Talking with Ken afterwards and talking with fellow fanatics, I came away from something I surely won't forget. And thanks to the generosity of one these fellow attendees, I have this picture to share. Now I've joined the ranks of those that go see anything Posies-related come hell or high water.