By Chris M. Junior
Maybe Posies co-founders Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow never reached the commercial success they desired or deserved as younger men. But just like one of their primary influences, Big Star (for which Auer and Stringfellow eventually became junior members), they’re fortunate in that plenty of loyal fans have been on board for long stretches of the ride.
Auer and Stringfellow are celebrating 30 years of their musical journey as The Posies in 2018, and this year also marks the 25th anniversary of “Frosting on the Beater,” the Seattle-rooted group’s third album. Appropriately enough, the “Beater” rhythm section of bassist Dave Fox and drummer Mike Musburger is part of The Posies’ current tour, which made a stop at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom on June 17.
Smiles, jokes and classic-rock tangents
Even as they close in on their 50th birthdays, singer-guitarists Auer and Stringfellow showed they literally still have a lot of hop to their respective games, executing several jumps and spins during instrumental breaks. There were plenty of smiles, jokes and classic-rock tangents, too: Auer goofing on Fox’s checkerboard shirt (“Cheap Trick called: They want their pattern back”); Stringfellow firing off a series of deliberately bad puns involving second opener Terra Lightfoot’s first name; vocal and/or guitar snippets of Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny,” Men Without Hats’ “The Safety Dance” and Rush’s “The Spirit of Radio,” among others.
The silliness carried over at times into their own music, such as when Lightfoot’s bassist and drummer burst onstage to dance along to the “Amazing Disgrace” track “Ontario” (coincidentally, where Lightfoot was raised). The vibe and the guitar tones were more intense and serious on the signature “Beater” songs “Dream All Day,” “Flavor of the Month,” “Love Letter Boxes” and “Solar Sister.” And when The Posies shifted gears to lighter, dreamier fare such as “Golden Blunders” and “Suddenly Mary,” both from 1990’s “Dear 23,” the fans inside the Bowery Ballroom shifted right along with them — all the while staying out late on a Sunday night, appreciating a crafty band’s catalog that others missed years ago in part due to other Seattle-area bands dominating the rock landscape at the time.
The U.S. leg of The Posies’ 30th-anniversary tour continues June 19 in Pittsburgh and will make its way west, wrapping up with a July 7 show in Seattle.