June 8, 2016 | Los Angeles, CA | Teragram Ballroom
Written by Ben Manzella | Photography by Tracy T.
On a rather breezy night for June in Southern California, Chelsea Wolfe and A Dead Forest Index closed out a tour that had started around the end of April. This would be the second of two nights at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles; the venue is about 600 capacity and has been opened for just a week over their one year mark at the time of the show. With two bar rooms in the front as well as a cafe, it’s a very appealing venue for almost any act to play at, and a treat for the audience in which offers intimacy and amenities not commonly available at smaller venues throughout Los Angeles.
Around 9:00pm, A Dead Forest Index started the night to an already half-full room which was nice to see for an opener. While the project originally started as a solo avocation of Adam Sherry in 2008, his brother Sam Sherry had in 2010 to provide additional instrumentation such as percussion and piano. After touring and releasing two EPs, Antique and Cast of Lines respectively, they recently debut their first full-length record, In All That Drifts From Summit Down through Sargent House Records. I always think it’s special when there are familial connections within a project, and A Dead Forest Index’s performance certainly showcased a unique connection between Adam and Sam.
The set was primarily comprised of newer songs from In All That Drifts From Summit Down, which has a very mature sound for a project that has been around for about 8 years since it’s initial beginnings. As mentioned in the biography on their website, the duo been compared to artists such as The Velvet Underground & Swans; with both ethereal and entrancing elements to their sound, one would say these comparisons are expected. Nonetheless, roughly over 30 minutes into their set revealed that A Dead Forest Index has a sound that recognizes the past but very much has a place in the future. A violinist by the name of Andrea Calderon joined the band for a few songs for the two nights they were in Los Angeles, and the presence of her string playing was very complementary, to say the least. While the Sherry brothers are based in the UK, originally they are natives of New Zealand – in some ways, their performance held a reflection of their birth place; as they performed under a rather deep blue hue of light, the oceanic texture of Adam’s guitar playing as well as the ritualistic sounding drum patterns from Sam. Personally (especially for those in California), I recommend this music to be a soundtrack for a summer drive along the coast, exploring the natural beauty of long beloved places such as Big Sur. I’m reminded of walking and observing the Redwood trees, some of which can be 300 feet tall and thousands of years old; these songs have a vastness and sense of awe and wonder about them, something that is very much lost in social media-obsessed cities that are filled to the brim with skyscrapers. As an additional closing note; I thought it was special that Chelsea Wolfe and her band all seemed to be waiting on the side of the stage to hug and thank Adam and Sam for performing alongside them for the previous month and a half; it is great to see artists that have bonded together on the road.
A quick note of admiration for Sargent House; while I am not aware of everyone who came or who are involved directly, it’s admirable to see a record label that unites the artists they work with as more than just “labelmates”. Whether for the purpose of collaboration or support and celebration, it is rather normal to see artists on Sargent House together; this is actually how I discovered Chelsea Wolfe, thanks to her contributing to the Russian Circles record, “Memorial”. This night was no different as a few musicians involved with Sargent House came to enjoy a wonderful night together.
A short but tense wait ensued prior to Chelsea Wolfe‘s set starting. The room quickly became wall-to-wall with people; a mixture of fans and friends were all excited and ready. As the anticipation in the room reached it’s height, the lights on stage changed colour as Chelsea and her band took the stage. There is an air of mystery which typically revolves around artists that find home in the “niche” or genre of Gothic, and this incontestably rings true with Chelsea Wolfe. The night was startlingly taken aback as “Demons” from the 2011 album, Apokalypsis enraptured all who were in the venue to hear; it is clear that the musicians who play alongside Chelsea Wolfe, as well as Chelsea herself have become a tight knit unit and their stage chemistry is undeniable. As the set continued on with “Carrion Flowers” from the highly-acclaimed 2015 album, Abyss, Chelsea treated the sold-out audience to a continuously hypnotizing performance. Unfortunately there were also some technical difficulties, but thankfully they were able to be sorted and the band managed to fill the time by playing instrumentally.
Looking around the room, you could tell this wasn’t a show people came to by accident. I’ll even admit my own shortcoming in that I had a bit of skepticism when I initially arrived at the venue. I did not fully know what to expect and with the rather enthusiastic fanfare I’ve seen on the internet and in publications, some unfortunate bits of prejudgment had formed. I want to say there are thankfully only a few times this has occurred, but it didn’t even take a full song for Chelsea Wolfe to make me realize I had been a fool. The intensity I’d heard on record was not only matched but surpassed live, and the haunting textures made a ballroom in Downtown Los Angeles atmospherically feel comparable to that of a cave or a mausoleum. I find that there is peace to be found in dark music of this type, where introspection sometimes recalls unconscious experiences such as dreams/night terrors, and the music provides a way of channeling these feelings or experiences that seemed at one time difficult to grasp or at least feel complete. It was that night at Teragram Ballroom that I felt a sense of closure or understanding a bit deeper than I had previously about my own night terrors and experiences of a darker nature. It has actually been mentioned that sleep paralysis had been part of what inspired the material on Abyss, and I related to this as someone who has had nightmares for years, even the night before I attended this show.
The pairing of Chelsea Wolfe and A Dead Forest Index was extremely well carried out. Both bands have an arresting presence in their music and somehow inviting as well, as made obvious by two sold-out shows in the middle of the week. I look forward to the next opportunity I have to see these artists as they respectively continue to entrance us all.