Friday, February 23, 2018

The Posies’ Ken Stringfellow says it’s all about emotion on stage

July 13, 2017 by Adam Marsh, student editor

It’s been a while since Ken Stringfellow flipped his long jet-black hair rocking out playing guitar and singing with The Posies. He takes the stage solo these days and looks back on his time with the band with an appreciation, but he doesn’t miss the large audiences. For Stringfellow, music is about sharing sensations and thoughts; that transparency got lost in the larger venues he played in the late ’80s and ’90s.

“My solo work—from an emotional point of view—really only works well, typically, if the audience is fairly small,” says Stringfellow. “It works great when I can sing with no PA, for example. If people are too far away, even if they’re into it, their attention will start to wander. I have to really be able to look them in the eyes and get right up in their face. For the solo stuff it’s really great if there’s as little space between me and the listener as possible.”

Ken Stringfellow is bringing his intimate solo show to town (photo provided).

The transition between playing and collaborating with bands as big as The Posies, Big Star, and R.E.M to playing in venues with sometimes less than 75 people watching was Stringfellow’s way to cultivate human connection.

“We had a 15- or 20-year acceleration of volume where the shows just got louder and louder,” says Stringfellow. “It’s fun and all, but for the solo show, I had different things that I was trying to explore that would never survive that atmosphere; they’re just too fragile.”

Stringfellow says the search for intimacy and connection with the crowd through his art was not necessarily a conscious decision; he began to realize over time that it’s just what invigorated him the most.

“There’s an emotional kind of intensity that has to do with focus,” he says about his solo work. “If you’re plying with a loud band—as a listener I’ve experienced this—they can disappear into the noise, and noise can become like this big security blanket. In the end, yeah, it’s intense because it’s loud, but actually, emotionally, it’s not that intense. Even something as harmless as a tiny four-channel PA, it adds a thing that’s not real in a way. The fragile thing is, just, that’s how humans are, and we do a lot to get out of being fragile.”

Ken Stringfellow
7 pm, Saturday July 15
$25-$50, Upside Studios

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