(NORTH ADAMS, Mass.) — Singer-songwriter Stephin Merritt, the contemporary bard of wry romance, will perform an alphabetically ordered concert of 26 songs from his vast catalog, which includes the Magnetic Fields’ masterpiece “69 Love Songs” and two dozen albums under four different band names, in the Hunter Center at MASS MoCA on Saturday, November 21, at 8pm. In this stripped-down, intimate performance, Merritt will be accompanied by Magnetic Fields bandmate and cellist Sam Davol.
Stephin Merritt, who lives in Columbia County, N.Y., is responsible for some of the wittiest and most melodic songs in the indie music canon. With the Magnetic Fields, in his other ensembles, and in his solo work, singer-songwriter Merritt is known for his dark, clever and often subtly ironic lyrics about love and loss, as well as for his impossibly deep bass vocals. If classic songwriters of the mid-20th century like Cole Porter and Jerome Kern were born fifty years later, they may well have produced work similar to Merritt’s trademark songs such as “Book of Love” and “Andrew in Drag.”
The scope of Stephin Merritt’s career is impressive. As the Magnetic Fields’ primary songwriter, vocalist, producer, and all-around driving force, under his direction the band released ten albums between 1991 and 2012, and garnered a loyal fan base that rejoices in the group’s dry wit. Merritt’s unparalleled songwriting talents produce clever lyrics simultaneously melancholy and humorous: “though his songs run the gamut from the convincingly sincere to the devilishly misanthropic, all feature the same forthright, lyrical wit and distinctive sonic palette” (90.9 WBUR, The Artery).
As an indie-rock institution, Merritt also fronts a menagerie of side projects, including bands The 6ths, The Gothic Archies, and Future Bible Heroes, and finds time to tackle personal creative endeavors, such as writing Chinese operas and composing film scores.
His latest undertaking, an homage to two-letter Scrabble words illustrated by cartoonist Roz Chast, arose from an impulse to write little poems as mnemonic devices. The published book, “101 Two-Letter Words,” demonstrates what the New Yorker calls Merritt’s “famously brilliant and very funny” gifts as a poet and lyricist.
Merritt historically shies away from live concerts (in part due to a severe case of tinnitus) and his MASS MoCA visit will be an intimate experience, featuring only Merritt and cellist Sam Davol, his longtime bandmate and co-founder of the Boston Street Lab and The Uni Project in New York City, nonprofit organizations dedicated to creating programs in public spaces, from performing arts rehearsals to a community film series in a vacant lot.
Crisp salads, freshly made sandwiches, and burritos the size of your head are available from Lickety Split before and during the show. A full bar serves Berkshire Brewing Company beers and Berkshire Mountain Distillery spirits. Tickets are $29 in advance, $35 day of, and $44 preferred. Tickets for all events are available through the MASS MoCA box office located on Marshall Street in North Adams, open 11am to 5pm every day except Tuesdays through spring 2016. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during box office hours or purchased online at MASS MoCA. All events are held rain or shine.