Bummer if you missed Kristin Hersh take the makeshift stage in The Humble’s modest industrial garage/studio/loft. Sure, the film festival is a starfuckery, meet-your-Linked In-connections-in-person good time, but it was worth skipping to see Hersh get affably raw in a prolonged set that she dropped on Santa Fe in a Wednesday, Dec. 3, passin’ through town performance.
Chatty, witty and sweet as a potato between songs, Hersh told stories about crazy Appalachian neighbors, why she and her husband disagree about the importance of song titles and her adoration for dainty l’il numbers about dudes killing their girlfriends.
Once the twang of her throaty guitar jostled out of the perfectly crisp amplifier, however, Hirsh inevitably settled her gaze on that eerie middle distance point between companionable and psychotic. A second ago she was the girl next door, but all of a sudden there are ten ways she might maim you with her guitar if you were to interrupt her witchy, vocal reverie.
Strangely, she often adopted the same worried yet reflective expression that Bruce Lee used to assume in his movies every time he was forced to kill a man.
Rather than dealing death, however, the former Throwing Muse took a solid, unmoving stance on the small stage, worked her guitar with fearsome, determined skill and coaxed her voice from chorale to bourbon-soaked.
Hirsh belted out murder ballads and folksy assassin fare and gospel mayhem that would make Nick Cave cry pseudo-gothic tears like a blow-dried man baby.
When playing her own songs, rather than dark folk classics, Hersh had an easier, personalized timing that rang most true, but her treatment of time-memorialized despair—always punctuated with an impish, ain’t-that-cute grin—had the crowd on their asses against cold cement and swaying in mesmerized bliss.
Sarah-Jane Moody and Amy Bertucci of the Dolly Ranchers opened to an audience of local fans hungry after the Ranchers’ long absence. Beth Hill of The Mad Framer produced the show with The Humble.