Pardon me for taking far too long to get to this, but a back injury has made it difficult for me to sit and craft it all.
A friend of mine bought me a ticket to see Chelsea Wolfe in Chicago. I had heard a couple of songs of hers before, but I couldn’t say I was all that familiar with her work as a whole.
We went to the restaurant side of Schuba’s Tavern and had dinner before the show and to my friend’s surprise, Chelsea had come in to do the same. It’s always nice when you can see performers do the regular things we all do…like eat and well, be HUMAN. Fans tend to put musicians upon pedestals but in the end, we’re all really the same only they can do something many of us only dream of.
Chelsea Wolfe is fast gaining respect and attention for her melancholy vocals and haunting lyrics, with only a keyboardist and a violinist accompanying her, the mood she set was very somber and at times you could have heard a pin drop in the audience. Chelsea had mentioned on stage that her “voice was all over the place” due to being a bit under the weather but she pulled it off gracefully and hit her proper notes even though her set primarily showcasing Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs was a bit short having had waited through three opening bands. Her vibe has an electronic, almost black metal feel with elements of Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins and Julee Cruise always giving you that deep, dark sensibility whether it be in long drawn out bass notes or the simplicity of a single chord with vocals trailing out all the while being poetic, tragic and painfully personal.
I missed most of the first opening band and any real photo opportunities for Sabers, but with their pared down indie rock compared to the rest of the performers, they seemed a bit out of place and not really my vibe. Although they played well and had some catchy hooks, I didn’t feel there was really anything to grab on to there.
From the fresh, indie vibe of the first band, enter the second opener, King Dude. A Luciferian, dark, poetic band in the vein of Leonard Cohen and Death In June. Throw in a little Johnny Cash, some Tom Waits and you have a winner. Here’s a quote from their own bio that sums it up best. “Dark pagan-fueled folk wrapped tight with outsider Americana, steeped in themes of love, death and redemption.” I’ve heard some low vocals in my time but vocalist TJ Cowgill would give any Scandinavian doom metal band a run for their money. I bought their CD, Burning Daylight and have been enjoying it ever since. HIGHLY recommended!
For some reason, I thought there were only two openers and was surprised when the Swedish outfit, The Amazing took the stage. A bunch of unassuming looking guys with a quirky vocalist, three guitarists who switched instruments often except the lead guitarist and a seriously tight drummer. With a name like The Amazing, you better have some killer musical talent to back it up and I wasn’t disappointed. If you dig psychedelic, stoner guitar rock ala Blue Oyster Cult and the like from the 70’s, you need to experience The Amazing.
A packed Saturday show with good friends on a biting cold winter’s night in Chicago can be just the thing to lift one’s spirits and I’m always in the mood for finding new music to experience. Check out the above mentioned bands and find some new tunes for yourself.
For ALL photos of this show, click HERE.
Review and Photos by Alex Savage. All rights reserved.
Over New Year’s Eve 2012, I was given a rare opportunity with the support of the Official HIM Street Team to go to Helsinki, Finland with photo passes to cover my all time favorite band, HIM along with support acts for a four day festival in the land of ice and snow.
After what seemed to be a long, excruciating two year break, HIM returned to the stage where they started their career nearly 20 years ago in their hometown of Helsinki, Finland. The Helldone Festival has become somewhat of a tradition in the world of HIM with fans coming from as far as New Zealand to revel in all things HIM for four nights over New Year’s Eve at Helsinki’s legendary venue, Tavastia Klubbi.
Before the festivities kicked off, HIM played a smaller, more local venue in the city of Turku as an eleventh hour added show intended to be a warm up for the band’s upcoming tour de force in Helsinki. By some accounts, the Turku gig was the best of the lot.
It is no secret by now that the 2012 installment of Helldone started out a bit rough, with a self admitted nervous Ville Valo struggling on stage during the first and second nights of the festival. Set lists that started with twenty songs in Turku dwindled down as the nights wore on with everyone comparing notes as to which songs were cut and what tracks remained. After such a long break and mounting expectations from fans and critics alike, it’s no wonder Valo got a little rattled and handled it the way most rock stars do.
By the third night, the tech crew erected plexiglass around Gas’ drum kit, affectionately known as The Gas Chamber. It was clear from the first two shows that the drums were bleeding into Valo’s microphone making it very hard to hear himself sing. Missing timing and straining to sing louder over what he could barely hear was difficult to watch and many fans were vocal in their disappointment. The problem seemed corrected when the chamber went up with the third and fourth shows being what fans expected. Even though there was much talk of these gigs deciding the future of the band, in the end HIM did not disappoint and it became obvious to acknowledge that the band and the man are only human.
The New Year’s Eve show was what everyone had been waiting for. Valo, HIM and the goodwill of patient, dedicated fans prevailed and this fan and reviewer had a bit of a sentimental moment herself during their epic ten minute track, Sleepwalking Past Hope.
With the new album Tears On Tape tentatively dropping in the Spring, fans will have something fresh to feast on while they come down off of their Helldone high. But in the meantime, there are plenty of bands that played at Helldone 2012 that are worthy of further exploration such as Face Of God and Jericho Fuzz. Both bands I thoroughly enjoyed as great live bands. Each with a totally different vibe, but engaging and interesting. Long time Helldone support, The Skreppers who played all four nights were so much fun to watch, I felt like I was at a New York punk show. You can’t really go wrong with guys wearing high heels and a rubenesque burlesque show with flair and attitude. It was great to get my old school hardcore metal on with Final Assault while everyone was looking around at each other like HIM had lost their minds booking them, I found myself happily headbanging along. Their stage presence reminded me of home and the metal showcases I’ve come to frequent. Sleep Of Monsters was the last support band on New Year’s Eve and had so many members of the band that there was very little room on stage to move with a keyboardist, a drummer (former HIM drummer Patka Rantala), three guitarists, a lead vocalist and three backing vocalists. They had an interesting sound and concept and somehow I couldn’t help think that it felt very Finnish and maybe I just wasn’t getting it….but they were definitely intriguing. Their music was tight and the overall vibe of the band was very epic on some deep level I’ll have to investigate in the future.
Not to be forgotten amidst all the bands and their glory was the Helsinki Vampire Club that went on downstairs at Semifinal for three of the four nights with DJ Jyrki 69 of the Helsinki rock band The 69 Eyes spinning some of the best rock and roll and dance music I’ve ever heard for three consecutive nights. Fist pumping concert goers got their party on in between sets and finished out each night sweating out their adrenaline on the dance floor. A good time was had by all and international friendships were formed.
In the eyes of the most dedicated HIM fans, Helldone was a great success of bands getting together to make music during a celebratory time of the year. Pure rock and roll with plenty of the by-product of that scene firmly intact. It’s a tradition that never intended to be one and only HIM knows the future of Helldone. I would definitely attend Helldone again and I look forward to seeing how it evolves or if its creators continue the festival at all after this past year’s mixed reception. The fans, as fickle as they can be, will undoubtedly be there cheering them on with new fans being made every day the moment they get infected with the inexplicable and beautiful mystery that is HIM.
ALL photos taken from Helldone including HIM and support acts are housed in the PHOTO GALLERY of HeartagramTeams.com. JOIN to promote and support HIM!
Review and Photos by Alex Savage
All Rights Reserved