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The Posies are still rocking 30 years later

The Posies have reunited for a 30th anniversary tour that comes to Spokane and the Bartlett on Tuesday night. (Alan Lawrence / Alan Lawrence)
The Posies have reunited for a 30th anniversary tour that comes to Spokane and the Bartlett on Tuesday night. (Alan Lawrence / Alan Lawrence)

In 1993, Whitney Houston ruled the pop charts. The late diva’s iconic recording of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” was the year’s No. 1 song.

It was also the year of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box,” Pearl Jam’s “Daughter” and Belly’s “Feed the Tree,” songs that all topped Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart.

Nestled between these two genres, pop and alt rock, were the Posies. Formed in Bellingham in 1987 by Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, the Posies are a power-pop group that specializes in shimmery hooks, catchy melodies and clever songwriting. Their first album, “Failure,” came out in 1988. They gained notice with their 1990 major label debut “Dear 23,” which sported “Golden Blunders,” a song Ringo Starr would later cover.

In 1993, Auer and Stringfellow, along with drummer Mike Musburger and bassist Dave Fox, released the Posies’ most highly regarded and successful album, “Frosting on the Beater,” which spawned the hits “Dream All Day,” “Solar Sister” and “Definite Door.” A followup, “Amazing Disgrace,” was released three years later.

Three decades since that first album, the Posies are still at it, with a 30th anniversary tour that comes to the Bartlett in Spokane on Tuesday, and with re-releases of “Dear 23,” “Frosting on the Beater” and “Amazing Disgrace.”

Auer and Stringfellow kicked off the anniversary tour with a short run of acoustic shows featuring just the the two of them. But for the full tour, they’ve reunited the “Frosting on the Beater” lineup, with Musburger and Fox for the first time in 25 years. Coming back together has been an easy process, Stringfellow said.

“As soon as the first chord at sound check that was played, stuff just started coming out there,” he said in a recent telephone interview. “It’s in there, so deep.”

At the Bartlett on Tuesday, expect to hear all of “Frosting on the Beater,” if not in album order.

“That’s what people are looking to see, with this lineup, because these are the guys who actually played it,” Stringfellow said. “But we’re even doing songs these guys never played with us, more recent tunes. Of course, we’re going to focus on the old albums. Because of the anniversary nature of the tour and the reissues of those albums, it makes sense. But we want to acknowledge the work we’ve done more recently because we’re proud of it.”

The band has gone through several iterations since it started, with Auer and Stringfellow as the core members. Tragedy struck, however, three years ago, when longtime drummer Darias Minwalla unexpectedly died while they were recording their last album, 2016’s “Solid States.”

“So we changed up yet again after wondering if we would even go on, because it was so crushing,” Stringfellow said. “He was one of our dearest friends, and it just seemed so wrong in every way. But we regrouped.”

They brought in a new drummer, Frankie Siragusa. They toured a lot in 2016, playing more than 100 shows, and a few more in 2017, in support of “Solid States.”

Of course, the history of the Posies has been one of stops and starts. And side projects. Many side projects. Stringfellow and Auer famously joined Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens in reforming the ’70s band Big Star, touring with the group and appearing on the Big Star live reunion album, “Columbia: Live at Missouri University 4/25/93” and the 2005 studio release, “Space.”

Stringfellow also toured extensively with R.E.M. and appeared on the albums “Reveal,” “Around the Sun” and the “Man on the Moon” soundtrack. He also played with fellow R.E.M. members Pete Buck and Scott McCaughey in the Minus 5. He’s recorded a handful of solo albums, worked with bands such as White Flag and also is in demand as a producer.

Auer, meanwhile, has recorded the solo album “Songs From the Year of Our Demise,” launched the band Dynamo Royale and produced a host of bands, including Tad and Redd Kross.

Stringfellow, who turns 50 this year, said the tour will challenge his body for sure. “Our shows have gotten more intensely physical over the years. We were a little mild mannered when we first started out,” he said. “We’ve kind of morphed into this balls-out rock band.”

Still, he said, “I think I’m looking forward to being invigorated. And it will be invigorating.”


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