Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow beckon the audience closer. The intimate 225 seat arts and culture venue at Fairfield Theater Company’s Stage One has several unoccupied seats in the front row and the Posies want them filled. Excited concert goers dash down the stadium seating aisles to fill in the gaps. The band immediately launched into their opening song, “Dream All Day”, complete with energetic jumping that continued throughout the night.
The Shellye Valauskas Experience opened the evening, promoting their new album History of Panic, which Posie Jon Auer also appears on. Just like Auer and Stringfellow got to play with their idols from Big Star, Valausakas has been playing with Jon Auer, sharing a bill with him for her CD release shows. It’s easy to see what he sees in her music, as it’s the same sort of winning mix of great songs with hooks and harmonies. Valauskas has a way with lyrics, too, like “I got what I expected, but it’s not what I deserve” from “Leftover Mistake.” The band have a very agreeable stage presence, with banter that’s actually witty and a genuine sense of fun, as when bassist and ex-Cave Dog Brian Stevens asked “Should I banter more?” Filling out the lineup are guitarist Dean Falcone and drummer Jim Balga, who have been playing together even longer than The Posies. Jon Auer fit right in when he brought his vocals, and affable charm, to sing two of the songs from the new album and close out their too short 30 minute set.
Canadian Terra Lightfoot is the opener on most of the Posies tour and played between the sets. She’s usually refereed to as a folksinger or roots rock artist, but those are both inaccurate and really don’t do her justice. While there is definitely a folk element to her songs, what I heard reminded me of nothing less than Crazy Horse on a really good night, only with more focused songs. For a three piece, they can sure make a racket, and I mean that in the best way possible. It was definite change of pace between the other two bands, but a quite welcome one.
Only in Seattle could the Posies be seen as a pop band. Comparing them to the heavier sounds of the grunge era was always a poor yardstick, as the Posies rock, but with gorgeous harmonies and Beatles worthy melodies. Those were my first thoughts when they took the stage, opening up with a raucous version of “Dream All Day”, from the 1993 album “Frosting on the Beater”. This tour marks the return of the line up that recorded that album, with bassist Dave Fox and drummer Mike Musberger reuniting with frontmen and mainstays Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow for what’s billed as a “30th Anniversary Tour”, which is also promoting the deluxe reissues of their classic 1990s albums. A lot of artists from that era have been doing reunion/anniversary shows of late and the result is frequently about as vibrant as an arena cash grab tour, with the bands going through the motions, singing people’s memories back at them. Nothing of the sort here. While the 18 song set, plus four encores, had plenty of favorites, they never came across as anything approaching nostalgia, just a great band playing the songs they wrote, which also happen to be great.