Monday, June 9, 2008


Posted By on Mon, Jun 9, 2008 at 1:41 PM

The Detroit Institute of Arts “Friday Night Live!” series brought none other than KristIn Hersh to town this past Friday for a stellar (and FREE) performance. Hersh has influenced countess other artists through her work with her band Throwing Muses and her high caliber solo offerings. Despite being overshadowed by a few of her contemporaries, Hersh is responsible for some of the best records of the 1990’s (Throwing Muses 1991 effort, The Real Ramona and Hersh’s 1994 solo debut Hips And Makers, for starters). And her newest band, 50ft Wave, kicks ass in a way the Breeders haven’t matched since Pod.

The very intimate performance, titled “Paradoxical Undressing,” took place at the Detroit Film Theater and featured a solo Hersh reading excerpts from an upcoming memoir of the same name. Based on her teenage diaries (apparently lost in a flood), Hersh’s readings took us through the life of a young, shy and struggling musician who found a way to both fit in with and defy the cultural trappings of the artistic community that surrounded her. Vivid descriptions of squatting at a place once occupied by recently deceased elderly couple, befriending an older, quirky actress who never missed a Muses show (and frequently brought along her priest), and the delicate emotional balance of befriending junkies, offered Hersh an opportunity to let us into her past thorough her innermost thoughts – a serious privilege, given her notoriously shy nature.

The readings were enhanced by beautiful video projections of paintings by Molly Cliff Hilts – pieces, Hersh explained in the program, that were included “because most were created with my music playing. This makes me happy and sad, but it also means the world to me.” The paintings slowly morphed and rolled by on a screen -- colorful, yet muted abstractions made way to simple yet beautiful skyscapes -- adding a visual element to the mood of the show. In between her spoken word pieces, the spotlight would dim, hiding Hersh from the audience, save for a black silhouette outlined by the projected paintings. She would then launch into a Throwing Muses song. The music seemed that much more powerful and intense in this setting. Anguish and beauty collided for a few short, breathtaking moments – and then it was over. When the last note was played, Ms. Hersh turned off her amp, unplugged her guitar, gave a slight nod and smile to the crowd, and left the stage.

The term “parodoxical undressing” refers to a common, yet bizarre, act of hypothermia victims in which they irrationally remove warm clothing. To be sure, it is a psychological enigma that flies in the face of common sense – a human phenomena that will most likely never be understood, much in the same way that those of us pulled under by the current of Hersh’s stark and open offerings will never fully understand the paradox such offerings present. What drives artists like KristIn Hersh – despite their shyness, despite their personal battles with mental illness, despite their hardship and struggle – to step back and let the music take over? Will we ever come close to solving the mystery of what drives inward, introverted people to create and share with such aplomb and intensity? It really doesn’t matter. The truly phenomenal part is the act of experiencing the output of such a paradox in action. –Laura Witkowski

Ms. Hersh: Catching muses at the DIA...

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

December 1, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation