Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
September 30, 2013
I haven't really been interested in following a "singer / songwriter" artist like Chelsea Wolfe in a long while. I will admit that my interest in her was raised after hearing about her via friends and press coverage that were all underground Metal types. The fact she appeals to that demographic intrigued me. Her haunting, dense, and hypnotizing music is interesting and tonight would be the first time I would be seeing the icon who is Chelsea Wolfe live and in person.
As I approached the Great American I was rather shocked at the number of crazed crackheads wandering the surrounding streets. Yes, it is The Tenderloin but it was unusually awkward tonight. This was highlighted by one wacked out guy in particular who swerved up and down the Will Call line randomly talking about how many transvestites he'd been with since coming to San Francisco ... and how many transvestites he has punched since coming to San Francisco. Ooookay get me inside already..
I saw about half of True Widow's set and it was good in that shoegaze way that sounds both dated and inspired at the same time here in the 21st Century. Tonight was the final show of this U.S. Tour and was also basically a homecoming show for Chelsea since she has Sacramento roots... which is kind of charming. However, her mystique was slightly blown for me as she set up her own gear and did her own mic check. Check one...
I'll be completely honest and say I was not blown away by Chelsea Wolfe live. After her band individually walked onto the dark and smoke machine filled stage, Chelsea breezed onstage behind them and began singing into her dual microphone stands. Obviously, each stand ran her vocals through different effects to recreate her surreal recorded voice for the live setting. Obviously. Anyway, it was effective and Chelsea sort of has her onstage charisma down... but it didn't really engage me. To be honest, my brain kept comparing seeing Chelsea Wolfe for the first time to seeing these female artists on their debut tours:
Seeing Chelsea Wolfe's performance didn't change my head space like seeing the debut San Francisco performances of Sinead O'Connor (whose backing band included 1/2 of The Smiths on bass and drums!) and especially PJ Harvey (when she still played guitar and performed as a trio with a bassist and drummer) did. The latter's performance started me down a path of musical obsession that exists to this day. Anyway, tonight was good... but not great... it wasn't you.. it was me. I'm still a fan, Chelsea. Honest.
Anyway, I was also distracted by the drama going on directly behind me as a couple started having a fight during the first song. It was obvious the jock-type boyfriend did not want to be there and was being a dick about it. This can be summed up by 3 things the girlfriend said loud enough to hear:
"Don't fuck this up.."
"Are you fucking kidding me..."
"I've waited over a year for this.."
Hopefully Romeo and Juliet were able to appreciate the appropriate irony of Chelsea and her band playing 'We Hit A Wall' shortly after this exchange. I got out of their way and went back to the bar.
Number of Angel Witch back patches = 1. If you bought one of every Chelsea Wolfe merch item you would have paid around $220. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called me a fag. The next day I listened to The Cure all day for some reason. Boys don't cry. Not Metal.