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    [ Throwing Muses ]

    "Gut Pageant 2000", Throwing Muses Reunion Show -Middle East Downstairs, Cambridge, Mass. - 05.06.00

    I was once young and stupid, and you probably were, too. I discovered so many bands just too late, and I became old enough to get into rock clubs too late. A warped sense of priorities caused me to miss countless bands. (An exception: I actually did get to see the Pixies; my big sister brought me along with her when they opened for the Cure at Giants Stadium. But this was before I had heard any of their songs, and I simply didn't understand at the time. From our seats on the upper tier, they were specks. I remember the gigantic mosh pit, and Kim Deal squeaking "Thanks" after every song. Then I went and bought Doolittle and began to understand...)

    I never saw Jane's Addiction. I missed Karp and A Minor Forest, and both bands played at my school, mere blocks from where I was living! (Arg!) Geezer Lake, Sepultura, fIREHOSE, Heavenly, more bands I never saw... I didn't understand Shudder to Think when I saw them (on the Pony Express Record tour! Yeesh!), nor Scarce, when both bands opened for Fugazi.

    Throwing Muses were a band I just caught on their way out. I saw them on their Limbo tour, their last tour as a real band. I gave thanks to the rock gods for allowing me to have witnessed the show, but wondered what it would have been like if I'd seen them with Leslie Langston on bass, or when they opened for REM on the Green tour, when there were four members (in both bands!).

    And thanks to the benevolent rock gods...

    Gut Pageant was an all-day event held downstairs inside a rock club. For the lucky 300 who had all-day tickets, they got to stand around, eat food and talk with the band, watch David Narcizo's movies, and see Kristin Hersh play a solo acoustic set. For the other 300 of us, the show started at 6 pm.

    It must really suck to be short at most rock venues. Then there are the short girls with tall boyfriends, where the guys are like, "I am so huge and protective, I will stand in front of some short person so that my short woman can see"... Anyway, the point is, there were a lot of tall people there, and I wasn't one of them. Although I couldn't really feel so bad, since there were even shorter people around me. The house speakers played uninspired Latin-tinged jamming music. It was truly horrendous in that it was so completely mediocre. I suppose the point is to get people to drink while they stare off into space. They can't have conversations because the music is too loud, so they drink even more. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the special secret opening band came out...

    Tall bald/shaved-head guy comes out on stage. Tentative applause. The guy who seems to be running the event comes out (Mr. Kristin Hersh?), points to the man and yells "THIS IS BOB MOULD!" People clap, some scream.

    I recognize Bob Mould's place in the history of Music, but nonetheless, I couldn't get into his songs. He strummed a 12-string guitar and sang loud and strong melodies, which were great, but the texture and strumming patterns and melodies didn't vary very much from song to song, and the 12-string fills up so much space that, even if you play it hard, it comes across as a big, mono-level, dynamic-less wash of sound. I was so tired and bored that I ended up sitting on the floor. Sorry Bob. I'll try to buy some Husker Du records...

    After his set, the house speakers played interesting-textured slow-core Low-sounding music. And then...

    The incarnation of Throwing Muses that took the stage wase Kristin Hersh (guitar and singing), David Narcizo (drums), Bernard Georges (bass), and Robert Rust (keyboard). They were great! David Narcizo is an amazing drummer. At first, his beats sound fairly simple. The more you listen, the more you realize that subtle, tricky stuff is going on, but he makes it sound easy and right. Bernard Georges is one of the really good Throwing Muses bass players. Kristin Hersh is really amazing. I was especially amazed by how effortlessly she would sing and simultaneously play lead guitar lines, it's like writing two different things with each hand, or whistling one melody while humming a counter-melody. The keyboard was nice and unobtrusive; not too dominant or distracting, filling out the sound.

    Maybe it was just because I was farther away from the stage than usual, but Kristin Hersh's focused stare into a point in space 3 feet above the audience's heads wasn't as creepy and unnerving as it usually is. Or maybe she's just mellowed out.

    One serious criticism: There was an awful feedback problem with the vocals, and it was never really fixed. Those horrible high-pitched squeaks occurred throughout the entire set. It was extremely annoying, and unacceptable, really, at a club like the Middle East.

    After a bunch of songs, former Muses Tanya Donelly and Fred Abong (bass on The Real Ramona, played bass in Belly, too) walk onto the stage. People go crazy! Bernard Georges hands Fred his bass, and Kristin Hersh makes some comment about how her sister has "bigger tits" than her- though I couldn't see them (the breasts) from where I was standing (behind a fairly tall couple who kept moving their heads (into my line of sight) to smooch. Yech).

    They started with "Not Too Soon", and played a bunch of songs from The Real Ramona with Tanya Donelly singing lead vocal. It was really neat watching Kristin Hersh playing the Not Too Soon guitar solo. She looked so incredibly awesome, just standing there playing that neat little guitar line. I guess you get pretty good at being a rockstar after doing it for 19 or so years. It was quite wonderful to hear their voices together on the harmony bits. The last song they played before Tanya and Fred left the stage was "Two Step." It was so very very sweet.

    They played mostly songs from the last two records, University and Limbo. There was a very pleasant band-audience vibe; you could tell everyone in the audience really loved the band and the music. It was David Narcizo's birthday, and everyone wished him a happy birthday. Kristin Hersh informed us that "Leslie Langston sends her love, really, she does."

    Then things were winding down, and Tanya Donelly came out to play another song (I think it was Counting Backwards), and I was suddenly struck by how much she looked like my ex, especially the way her hair fell into her face. I showed my friends a picture of her (the ex-girlfriend), and they agreed, so I'm not crazy.

    For the encores, it was the line up that first took the stage. Among the songs the played was "Bea" (from Hunkpapa), so so good. Again, Kristin Hersh thanked everyone, and assured us that it would happen again sometime soon (so you shouldn't feel too bad you missed it).

    On the way out, the house speakers played neat, noisy, serious sounding punk-rock stuff.

    It's really awful when great bands break up. The Gut Pageant gave folks a chance to see the Throwing Muses again, and it was nice how the event was set up to be fun for the fans. And also how everyone on stage genuinely seemed to be having fun. Which, once after you get past hating your parents and telling the establishment to "Go Screw", is what rock and roll is all about. (Now if we could only get The Pixies to get together again for a few shows...)

    Written By: Ernie K.