Stability and contentment have never been easy for me. Staying in one place for too long would cause the air to turn stale — my senses would stagnate and I would feel as though I was drowning in a sea of apathy. The only cure for this state would be a major decision, even if that decision didn’t make any sense — especially if it didn’t make any sense. Packing up and moving away. Booking a flight to a South American country at 2am. Wandering SE Asia with no direction or purpose. Finding myself in Zanzibar and wondering how I got there. All those years and roommates and houses and apartments and jobs — they all coalesce into a story of perpetual personal gratification. I was hungry and my appetite was insatiable. Planning for a uncertain future equated to planning my own funeral. From the time I left everything and everyone I ever knew in a town called Auburn, CA, I have been on a mission to experience all the world has to offer, with no fear of the consequences of my actions. That shy kid who left that small town wanted nothing more than to rip the mask off and expose his face to all the beauty, pain, and destruction the world had to offer. I just wanted to be a part of everything.
Chelsea Wolfe and I are very different people, but I did recognize that same hunger in her when we met in San Francisco a few years ago. I also recognized the paralyzing fear that comes along with it. There was a haunted innocence to her. She wanted to be dark and captivating, but she also wanted to be left alone. She went as far as to wear a veil to cover her face, but she was still a fascinating figure despite herself. Tall and brooding with spellbinding eyes, she couldn’t help but turns heads and demand attention — even as she tried to deflect it. Chelsea Wolfe the person and Chelsea Wolfe the artist were waging an internal war. The person wanted to be isolated from the world she had thrown herself into, but the artist knew she needed as much exposure as possible if she were to continue down this path.
In the years that have passed since that awkward girl performed for a handful of people at Cafe du Nord, Chelsea Wolfe quelled her internal struggle — at least when she’s in the public eye. The veil went by the wayside years ago, and the performances I have seen in San Francisco, Denver, and SXSW have shown a personal side of Ms. Wolfe I never thought I’d see — especially on her acoustic tour when she was unable to hide behind the thundering waves of her band. Last night was no exception. Following Dallas-based stonegazers, True Widow, Chelsea came out for a quick soundcheck before disappearing backstage. Her suggestion that they light the back of the room made Larimer Lounge look much larger than it had ever appeared before. In fact, when she came back out, the tiny stage looked almost cavernous.
Appearing out the red shadows, Chelsea strangled her two microphones as she poured her voice into them, creating a loop effect that made “Feral Love” sound like a duet between the vocalist and an animal hiding somewhere in the darkness. Before I really knew Chelsea’s style, I compared her to Zola Jesus and Grouper, but then I saw her perform at Bat Bar in Austin, right after seeing Zola perform, and realized how far off I was. But the new, synth-heavy material really does lend itself well to that comparison. There is something more sinister (and less sexy) about what Chelsea does, but tracks like “Ancestors, The Ancients” and “We Hit a Wall” would not be out of place on Stridulum III.
This shift in sound, something Chelsea is becoming known for, does not come as that much of a surprise to those who are familiar with Ben Chisholm. Ben is the bassist and synthmaster for the band and has been with Chelsea the longest. He also records as Whitehorse, an enigmatic electronic project that Chelsea has been involved with as well. It seems some of that Whitehorse sound has found its way into their primary project and we’re all the better for it.
Speaking of the band, I am afraid to admit that last night was the first time I really noticed them. Chelsea is such an imposing talent that I rarely see what else is happening on the stage. But last night Kevin Dockter and Dylan Fujioka refused to be ignored. Dockter was an absolutely rock star on guitar and Fujioka’s psychotic breakdown on the drums at the end of “Pale on Pale” was a highlight of the night.
The set lasted for a little under an hour and a half. It covered a good portion of the new album and five songs from Apokalypsis. The acoustic material was not represented, but she did perform “Lone” by herself before the band came back out for the encore.
Chelsea thanked us for supporting Pain is Beauty and wished us all a beautiful night, but that was it for stage banter. The girl and the artist seem to have found a happy medium — she no longer wears a mask, but she’s not going to put too much of herself out there. The girl is still unsure she can trust you.
i don’t know what i ever wanted
you got a front, well you better flaunt it…
who’s that girl
who’s that girl
In the three years since I met Chelsea Wolfe for the first time, she has grown so much as an artist and a person. She left Sacramento, moved to L.A., and then went out and saw the world — touring, performing, and photo shoots in countries across the globe. In those same three years, I have found contentment in stability. I live in the same house I was living when I met her. I am doing the same things with the same people and I am happy. Last night’s performance made me proud of how far Chelsea has come, as well as excited for where her journey will take her. Coming home last night made me proud of where I’ve ended up, as well as excited for where my journey got me.
Ancestors, The Ancients
We Hit a Wall
Tracks (Tall Bodies)
House of Metal
Pale on Pale
Echo (Rudimentary Peni cover)