The Posies

The Posies
The Cactus Café
Austin, TX

The Posies performed their alternative music hits Sunday night in the Cactus Café, at the University of Texas at Austin. Over nearly two hours, Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer played nineteen songs to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band they founded.

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Before the two men took the stage, Colorado musician David Taylor Fox opened the show with eight songs, joined by local fiddle-player Andrew Noble for four of them. This opening act was pure, soulful folk, as Fox sang, strummed his acoustic guitar, and stomped along with Noble. His songs began gently, but quickly climbed to impassioned crooning which Auer later called “scorched-earth falsetto.” Fox consistently powered through his highest notes with fearless emotion, and showcased his bluesy craft spectacularly. Then, the two Posies members took the stage to hearty applause from the packed café audience.

Stringfellow and Auer led the audience easily through their set, keeping moments between songs light with joking banter and casual guitar tuning. They improvised impersonations, plucked famous guitar riffs (the Peter Gunn Theme, for one), and took a pair of large tequila shots to raucous audience approval. However, there were also a few surprise deviations from their usual guitar-playing: Stringfellow switched to playing keyboard for a few songs, and singer Kari Blaine lent her husky vocals to a pair of tunes later in the night. Much of the concert’s music, however, was exactly what the diehards’ audience had come to see. The Posies performed their signature power pop effortlessly, their voices harmonizing apart quietly, then built together to a crescendo. They managed to create a wavering aura across all of their songs, both popular (“Soul Sister,” “Flavor of the Month,” “Dream All Day”) and lesser-known. This was masterful alternative music, teasingly approaching rock, but always sinking down into the more accessible vibes of indie wonderings.

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Such contemplative music nicely reflected the mood of the two men, as the Posies seemed to both wonder at their own extended history and appreciate it. They sang of how they “used to be young with a strong constitution,” and gave a toast, saying, “Thanks for thirty years.” Before these came the joke that excessive tequila drinking was “one of the warning signs” of growing old, and a winking request for dimmer, “age-appropriate lighting.” Despite these, Stringfellow and Auer didn’t spare an ounce of energy, which earned increasing audience response as the night went on. While playing, they showcased a singular intensity, though they remained jovial in between the numbers. Those serious instances didn’t pervade all through the night, but, on the final stop of their 30th anniversary tour, both men were likely thinking of the time gone by. Perhaps the audience noticed: Having played their last scheduled song, the Posies walked off the stage, only to be cheered back into a few more encore songs by the crowd’s standing ovation. The occasion had elevated these two musicians near legendary status.

But then, the two men stepped down off the stage to the café floor, turned on a few more of the lights, and performed the last song at the feet of their fans in the front row. Smiling, but also sweaty and concentrating, Stringfellow and Auer closed the gap between artist and fan. This way, the final music was sung with simple grace at the listeners’ level, just where the two performers had ultimately spent the entire night anyway.

by Kevin LaTorrie