Live at Neumos in Seattle, WA | September 29, 2015
Written & Photographed by Tracy T.
Serenity is a place and state of mind that music takes us to when it affects us so profoundly – it washes away all tension and uneasiness which has previously stained our consciousness. It is a state which we retreat to in solitude but can also be achieved in a live performance atmosphere, surrounded by those who are in the same medium both physically and mentally. Chelsea Wolfe is an artist who has moved me in such ways which are nearly immeasurable for many musical artists or groups to achieve, regardless of genre. Her voice is grasping and hauntingly preeminent – Wolfe has captured my attention for the last 4 years upon her 2011 release, Apokalypsis, and has only been improving with new material – each release is emblematic in its own nature. With this said, it should come as no surprise that I have taken every opportunity of seeing her perform in town – this evening had been my 3rd time catching her in Seattle. Unsurprisingly, it was a sold out show and one of the last dates on her tour to promote her latest album, Abyss.
The show was booked at the first venue she had performed at here 3 years ago, a venue called Neumos which is a popular spot for gigs and holds a fairly decent capacity of people. As the event was sold out, it was only expected to see a mass of people making their way through and between one another. Indoors, it was dimly lit and filled with two lines reaching down to the staircase from the upstairs bar, and down below was a sea of black from front to back where the main stage was located. Although this type of setting is nothing out of the ordinary, surprisingly enough, the show managed to start at its scheduled time, as many in town are notorious for running a half hour late or more.
Wovenhand was the only opening act of the night, a name which friends and peers alike have expressed great admiration and interest in – I thought surely enough they must have held something special for being the opening act for all of Wolfe’s North American tour dates. Frontman David Eugene Edwards took the stage in his notable country-themed attire while the rest of his bandmates sported jeans and dress shirts. Their appearance was similar to their sound, as Edwards’ stage presence was quite animated and lively – holding a country drawl sound infused with progressive rock/folk elements. They had a fair share of fans in the crowd who were cheering them on, although it was not difficult to latch on to their hook lines, their sound is fairly catchy, albeit it was a bit too catchy for my taste. Country music has always been a hit or miss as a personal preference, unfortunately in a live setting, Wovenhand did not sit as well for me as I had hoped. Although there were a handful of others who felt otherwise, as there was a large draw of people standing front and center who were mesmerized, some even dancing along ecstatically as the lights were flickering in various warm tones which draped across the stage. Respectfully, I can see the appeal which Wovenhand holds, although it just did not latch on to me. Of course, my primary reason for being here was up next soon.
I made my way upstairs to the bar for a quick drink then headed back down just in time to grab a spot near the stage. The stage was cast with a blanket of deep, violet lighting. The background music began to fade as one by one, each of Chelsea Wolfe‘s band mates began to take the stage – each passing right by me, I stood close to their entrance, bordering the backstage door and very end of the stage. Wolfe was the last to walk out, her presence lit up the whole room as a large cheer immediately erupted. The intro started playing as they began to set up and plug in their instruments. Wolfe had pulled the mic stand towards her after checking her guitar pedal, the lights dimmed for a brief moment, and the opening bass lines for “Carrion Flowers” began to rumble throughout the speakers. Nearly everyone (myself included) began chanting the lyrics – the white strobe lights flickered to the notes of every bass line played by Ben Chisholm, the room was filled with a powerful aura which also ranked as being one of the most impacting opening entrances I had ever seen. Wolfe’s melodious vocal range fueled the crowd with both adrenaline and enticement – her howls were loud yet eloquent, a distinct feature which she executes perfectly live. The lights shifted into a rich maroon tone and faded in and out as “Iron Moon” began to play, Wolfe begins strumming the opening notes on her guitar while accompanied by live guitarist, Aurielle Zeitler, who assists in creating a much more full sound. The song itself is dreary and abysmal and yet we are all succumbed into its allure – I was completely enraptured by its melancholy in full volume.
The cool tones of the stage lighting throughout the whole night appropriately suited and radiated Wolfe’s stage presence, her illuminated figure, sporting an elegant black evening dress swayed back and forth along with her guitar while singing the more soft-spoken lyrics to Pain is Beauty era tracks such as “We Hit a Wall” and “House of Metal”. One of my personal favorite tracks was performed near the end of her set – as the opening of “Grey Days” began, her voice continued to serenade us in all its harmonious, powerful glory without rest:
“How many years have I been sleeping?
Nobody ever said I was alive
Why does everything feel so unnamed?
The poison inside helps me along”
Although most of the songs performed this evening were off of Abyss, it was refreshing to hear a few older classics as well. Seeing as the previous time Chelsea Wolfe had played in Seattle, she was merely an opening act and only had 30 minutes to perform. Being able to experience a full set this time around was refreshing and undoubtedly one of the most memorable shows I have been to this year. Watching her performance from beginning to end is both a beautiful and cathartic experience – her ability to execute all visual and technical aspects so effortlessly is truly a gift, one which I hope to experience time and time again.
02) Carrion Flowers
03) Dragged Out
04) Iron Moon
06) We Hit a Wall
07) After the Fall
10) House of Metal
11) Simple Death
12) Grey Days
14) Color of Blood
15) Pale on Pale