Photos by Zack Frederick
The Great American Music Hall sold out last night, right around the time Dallas trio True Widow started playing at 9:15pm. Following an opening set from Screature, the sludgy shoegaze band performed songs from its new Circumambulation LP. Nicole Estill’s heavy, droning bass lulled listeners into a subdued state, while Dan Philips frequently swapped out his electric guitars between songs. He even had to stop in the middle of the fourth song for another guitar change.
“I got the wrong guitar!” Philips informed the sold out crowd. “I knew I would fuck up. I was just waiting for it, sorry.” Philips redeemed himself, alternating vocal duties with Estill as Timothy “Slim” Starks kept time on the drums. The band performed about forty-five minutes of gloomy shoegaze, before announcing highly anticipated headliner Chelsea Wolfe.
After an ominous five minute intro of fog, recorded cellos and unintelligible spoken word, Wolfe’s band – comprised of Ben Chisholm (synth, bass), Kevin Dockter (lead guitar), and Dylan Fujioka (drums) – took the stage, before Wolfe herself joined them in front of the sold-out crowd.
Wolfe and her band opened with “Feral Love”, a foreboding track which that recently been re-recorded as the opener to her new album Pain Is Beauty (out now on Sargent House). Positioned behind two microphones rigged with varying effects, Wolfe focused on vocal duties for the first two songs. She followed with “Ancestors, the Ancients” and “We Hit a Wall”, two more cuts from Pain, picking up rhythm guitar on the latter.
She continued playing guitar through the next two songs, which were the well received fan favorites “Mer” and “Tracks (Tall Bodies)” from her sophomore album Apokalypsis. Wolfe then thanked the crowd and the openers before announcing another set of songs from her new album (“Reins”, “House of Metal”, “Sick”, “Kings”).
Wolfe put down the guitar and picked up a rattle for “House of Metal”, a song that originally surfaced in 2010 as a short-lived collaboration with Chisholm called Wild Eyes, remastered as a highlight on Pain. Wolfe’s flowing white gown echoed her subtle, angelic movements on stage as she swayed to the beat of the song (listen to “House of Metal” below).
After “Kings”, Fujioka led the pounding drum intro to “Demons”, one of Chelsea Wolfe’s heaviest songs, followed by “Moses”. Both songs are so strong, in fact, that they each appeared on both of Wolfe’s first two albums. Chisholm contributed subtle backing vocals on “Moses”, barely standing within range of Wolfe’s microphones to echo the closing line, “Burning like the sun”. Such subtleties built an emotional connection with the audience, bridging the gap between the band and its spectators.
After another early full-band favorite “Pale on Pale”, Wolfe’s backing band retreated, and Chelsea returned for a solo acoustic performance of Pain Is Beauty closer “Lone” at half-past 11. The band returned to the stage for a ghostly rendition of Rudimentary Peni’s “Echo”, before saying goodnight.
This was probably about the ninth time I’ve seen Chelsea Wolfe, and her stage presence is just as enchanting as the first time I saw her. While her early, veiled performances bordered on creepy, Wolfe now brings an undeniable sense of warmth and beauty to her music’s dark, moody atmosphere that echoed through the Great American Music Hall on Monday night.