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Chelsea Wolfe at the Media Club

Chelsea Wolfe at the Media Club Vancouver

Chelsea Wolfe at the Media Club, Vancouver, Jan 15 2012. Kirk Chantraine photo.

Review and photos – Chelsea Wolfe at the Media Club, Vancouver, Jan 15 2012

– review by Ria Nevada/photos by Kirk Chantraine

On Tuesday night, Vancouver’s Media Club hosted a selection of daring artists from the U.S., including Chelsea Wolfe and friends King Dude and Case Studies.

Each artist put on a striking performance under trying and startling circumstances. With the exception of Case Studies, aka Jesse Lortz, the rest of the line-up showed signs of fatigue from the dreaded cold and flu that’s been making the rounds. Wolfe in particular stifled coughs and sniffs in between songs from her latest release, Unknown Rooms.

Despite Wolfe being under the weather, the singer’s velvety tone sounded immaculate on the eerie, emotive tracks of the collection of these “once-orphaned songs”. If anything, her run-down condition stressed the pain and heartbreak on songs like the album’s second single “Appalachia” and its foreboding complement, “Boyfriend”.

The night took a more frightening turn when a female audience member had a seizure and collapsed by the front of the stage.

Thankfully, she quickly recovered and was assisted out of the venue. As the crowd parted and called for an ambulance, Wolfe and her bandmates remained composed, compassionate and respectful of the situation. Even the tastelessly loud and inebriated group causing a scene amidst the emergency did not seem to faze the young, dark virtuoso.

All eyes and ears were brought back to the stage as Wolfe invited King Dude to accompany her on a couple of tracks from their recent split 7-inch. Her controlled, silky voice absolutely burnished against the grainy throat-growls from the Seattle band’s frontman, T.J. Cowgill, on the gothic-folk numbers. Earlier in the night, King Dude had put on a grungier opening set with interesting visuals, which included Cowgill’s slicked-back hair and monochrome attire blending into the black-stained American flag backdrop, as well as recurring inverted patriot and Christ imagery.

While his performance did not lack in the theatrics department, it paled in comparison to Wolfe and Case Studies’ tighter and more controlled sets.

It would have been interesting to hear a collaboration between Wolfe and the literary savant who calls himself Case Studies. A far more reserved artist than Cowgill, the bearded poet shrank behind his acoustic guitar on soul-bearing numbers from The World is Just a Shape to Fill the Night. Feeding the audience with romantic and gut-wrenching lyrics like “I had a dream last night of you on the floor on your hands and knees and my fingers were strumming inside of you”, his compositions would make the harshest critic weak at the knees.

Wolfe’s bandmates rejoined her on their violin and keyboard for the mesmerizing “Flatlands”, on which the singer and her bandmates channeled the intricate arrangements of artists like Joanna Newsom and the experimental, ethereal qualities of the late, great Trish Keenan of Broadcast. Closing the night with a cover of ‘The End”, not the Doors song but a number by the ’70s German folk songstress Sibylle Baier, it was a beautiful and appropriate end to a series of provocative and stirring artists in the rising neo-folk movement.

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