The Posies’ Ken Stringfellow Brings Tears of Silver to a Cozy Church In North Seattle, by Holly Homan

On a warm evening on Sept 28 I had the utmost privilege of seeing Ken Stringfellow (originally from the Posies) with friends, (Jesse Chandler of Midlake on keys/vox, Jonathan Donahue of Mercury Rev on guitar/vox, Grasshopper of Mercury Rev on guitar/harmonica/vox) perform in a church in Seattle’s Phinney neighborhood across the street from the zoo.

Everyone sat in the pews to enjoy the show. I scanned the audience and most everyone seemed to be in their 40s or 50s. I first discovered the Posies when I saw their very first live performance in Seattle in May of 1988. I gave the Posies their first interview that same year so I’ve known Ken for many years and the Posies are still an all-time favorite of mine.

However, this was not a Posies show. Gone were the Beatlesque pop sounds the Posies were famous for and in their place more folky flavors.

The show started while many were still sitting in the back of the church drinking wine, so Ken joked that those in the back drinking could come up and find a seat, he’d wait. Jonathan added that it was okay to drink in church. It was the blood of Christ.

The first several songs were Ken on lead vocals with the others contributing to beautiful four-part harmony. I was impressed with Ken’s vocal range. He could sing soft and sweet one minute, then turn around and bellow Roger Daltrey style the next.

About four songs in, Jonathan took over on lead vocals with a haunting cover of Neil Young’s Don’t Let It Bring You Down, in which he sounded eerily like Neil Young. The harmonies provided by the others were mesmerizing. Grasshopper played a perfect harmonica.

Jonathan gave a shout out to the church’s pastor (Pastor Anna) for “sheltering four lost souls tonight”. Then a special guest (Jules Jones from the band Ephrata) joined those four “lost souls” and filled in on harmonies as well as performing a couple songs with Ken in a duet. Their voices blended as harmoniously as Johnny Cash and June Carter and their tremendous charisma fed off each other. When Jules sang solo her voice was as rich as fine chocolate and a hearty red wine. After the duet Ken took over on piano and lead vocals while Jesse took up the flute and Jules provided succulent harmonies.

After about four songs Jules left the stage and the show was back to the “four lost souls” again. For the most part the lead vocals were traded off between Ken and Jonathan. Grasshopper traded off between guitar, harmonica and even clarinet for a couple songs. He was clad entirely in black and wore dark sunglasses making him look like one of the Blues Brothers.

This concert was truly provocative with soul wrenching songs and music and I was humbled to be in the presence of such fine musicianship and equally stunning vocals and harmonies. Great harmony is something that isn’t done enough these days. The sound and acoustics were impeccable. I could hear every instrument individual and apart and it all blended in perfectly with the vocals.

The show ended with some fast and fancy finger work from Jesse on piano followed by an encore of one song, which Ken dedicated to his wife.

This was a magnificent concert.

– All photos property of Holly Homan, all rights reserved.

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