In the dark in this cathedral Kristin Hersh is singing about butterfat, about plastic deer and missing bras. Pulled-back bedclothes and Sno-Cats.
Under the rafters’ spire and discrete disco ball, she looks like a doll. Rat Girl, she calls herself in her memoir of those early days when she was 13 and started Throwing Muses. She is singing out over our heads and serpentining her head in the shape of infinity as she always does. Her arms are sinewy, pounding at her guitar; bracketing round breasts in a tiny pink t-shirt.
Then she reads from this book about being hit by a car. How afterward she saw her reflection in a bystander’s mirrored sunglasses: her own blazing eyes in a bloody mass of meat. Then she puts the book away and the sound of her singing tears the air between us again.
All four of us are standing at the side, but close. All of us are fans. Because of her wiseacre patter, the intimacy of her lyrics, and her frankness in interviews, people feel they know her well. Because she is small and has suffered many hardships, they want to take care of her.
She sings about the notion of spurning, and it gets me to thinking. What am I spurning by scribbling notes during a performance? By snapping a picture? On my second drink, dulling my sense of her? What will happen after writing this stuff in the dark of The Chapel on the backs of these business cards, then jamming the cards in my pocket?
A Good Samaritan saved my life a few weeks back. One minute I was driving to meet a friend for drinks, and then I was itching all over, and then coughing dryly, and then my throat closed up. But my eyesight remained until I parked. I parked, exited, locked, then began blacking out. I remembered having seen a woman a few feet away getting into her car. So I called out, Ma’am? Can you help me? In the ambulance, my sight began to return. I texted the friend I was meeting. She showed me the text later. It said, “Cllsped.”
After the concert, we will walk with Blaze and Michael to 16th street BART. The iron Day of the Dead tree grates have all been installed on steel and glass Valencia. But Mission Street looks exactly the same to me as when I lived here twenty years ago. I will recall that the venue where we saw Kristen Hersh was once an alternative college. I will also remember making out with that filmmaker–he hair falling in his eyes, in suspenders and no shirt– in Dolores Park. But I won’t mention it. Then Michael will tell us a story about almost losing his arm. He and Blaze will laugh about it, so so will we.
What happens after you realize the members of your support group are dead?, is what Kristen Hersh is singing about now. Do you keep yearning for them, or do you dig in where you are? Her husband has left her, I know.
I want to lick her biceps, strum her neck tendons. “Get in line,” I can imagine her saying in that cactus dirt rasp.
The song is over, and it is her last one. Thank you very much, she says and while it does not sound sincere, she is a 100% sincere person and the real deal. She reads a little more from Rat Girl, this time about the bus ride when she was “a hundred years pregnant.” She laughs that she doesn’t die at the end, then adds that she hopes she isn’t spoiling the book.
Bidar means awake. Patricia Bidar is a writer and California native looking forward to life’s third act.