Archive for seattle

A Blaze in the Northwestern Sky: Chelsea Wolfe and King Dude

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , on January 17, 2013 by Magadh

Case Studies/King Dude/Chelsea Wolfe
The Triple Door, Seattle WA
1.14.13


Since the arrival of our son, The Wolf, we have been left with diminished opportunities to attend musical rituals. Thankfully, the stars aligned allowing Mrs. Games and me a night out to see this exceptional line up in a rather tony venue.

The Triple Door is a full seated venue in the heart of Seattle. Booths and table are arranged in a tiered horseshoe with the red trimmed stage as the centerpiece. Black clad wait staff offer dinner and drinks service throughout the performance. The venue reads equal parts David Lynch and a late Wiemar Republic cafe, perfect for King Dude and Chelsea Wolfe.

The evening began with Case Studies, the moniker of Jesse Lortz’s (the duke of The Duchess and the Duke fame) solo project. Lortz has been acclaimed for both his painting as well as his musicianship and I was interested to hear him play. I wasn’t really blown away by his performance which may owe to my lack of familiarity with his recent work. The lyrical content and some of the musicianship attempts to evoke Leonard Cohen. My impression, at least on this night, was that it owed a bit more to some of John Lennon’s middling solo work. Lortz performance was certainly heartfelt and his offerings were well received by sections of the audience. For my part, I remained more engaged with the vegetarian fare Mrs. Games and I selected for dinner.

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King Dude’s performance was something I had eagerly anticipated. I have seen TJ Cowgill’s previous band, Book of Black Earth, on many occasions and was intrigued when I learned of his new project. The records were a pleasant surprise and I was interested in how, both musically and visually, it would translate live.

Cowgill’s deep knowledge of the occult, esoteric magic, and Gnosticism was a fixture in the lyrics of Book of Black Earth and lends much to King Dude. The band, Cowgill accompanied by Nicholas Friesen intermittently on floor tom and guitar, was framed by a massive and blackened American flag. The flag was bordered by two candles guttering on stands. King Dude’s music is often compared to Death in June or Sol Invictus and I hear much of that in their work. Live, I was struck by how much they channel the darker aspects of American folk in the same vein as Nike Cave. I also heard a bit of Swans and Leonard Cohen. The evening’s performance drew primarily upon Love and Burning Daylight. The execution of the material was exquisite with Cowgill’s smoky rasps enhanced by the ominous tempo of the Friesen’s drumming.  The standout of the performance was the macabre sing a long of “Lucifer is the Light of the World.” Recorded the track is ominous; live it evokes a dark bit of whimsy. By the end of their performance it was clear why King Dude are so acclaimed.

Down came the flag and Chelsea Wolfe took the stage flanked by a violinist and keyboardist, all framed by the guttering candles. Wolfe’s black dress was set off a bit by the bouquet of white roses on her mic stand. The set was comprised mostly of her most recent release, the acoustic Unknown Rooms. Her impressive vocal range was clearly evident, one moment harmonizing with the violinist and the next soaring above the music. While her style is clearly different I was, at times, reminded of Kate Bush’s finer moments during Wolfe’s performance. Towards the end of the set Cowgill joined Wolfe on stage for an excellent rendition of King Dude’s “My Mother was the Moon”.

On balance the performance was excellent and the venue seemed to enhance the atmosphere. Mrs. Games and I contently left the theater into the night’s enveloping darkness. It seemed an apt extension of the evening’s vibe.

– Captain of Games

Neurosis Redux

Posted in Articles with tags , , , , , on January 7, 2013 by Magadh

Owing to technical difficulties,  as well as Washington’s cannabis laws, the footage and review of Neurosis/Tragedy/Blackbreath/Stoneburner from January 5th at Seattle’s Showbox is irretrievable. Suffice to say the line up was mind blowing and nobody feels worse about the loss than me. That said, I did want to address some of the nonsense directed a Neurosis from sections of the local chattering class.

Let me preface the rest of this piece by saying that nobody will accuse me of being  a shameless Neurosis fan boy. Prior to receiving a copy of Honor Found in Decay (an excellent record by the way) from a friend the last Neurosis album I purchased was Enemy of the Sun. I’ve found their more recent material to be most compelling live, so I haven’t made the effort to augment my collection. Still, they’ve always been a band I have tremendous respect for.

My respect for the band is why the misguided ramblings of a few local types can’t be allowed to go unanswered. Specifically, the notion that the band is “out of ideas”, “cashing in with this tour” and “not challenging audiences, just playing what people want”. Where to begin addressing this idiocy?

Firstly, Scott Kelly, Jason Roeder, Dave Edwardson and Noah Landis all spent time living in the New Method Warehouse located in Emeryville. New Method was dirty, bleak, tough, DIY and empowering. Neurosis has embodied those traits throughout its existence. The bands added to the bill for the Seattle Show, Black Breath, Tragedy and Stoneburner, certainly confirm the band remembers its roots. Kelly was quoted as saying that Neurosis is fundamentally based in Black Sabbath and Black Flag. The bands chosen to share the stage with them confirm they are not alone. Further, the evening’s lineup, and indeed the lineups throughout the tour, reflects a strong commitment to supporting the DIY community. In addition, if cashing in is reflected in an 8 show US tour, they seem to be doing things wrong.

Addressing the idea that the band is just, in essence, playing the hits I present the set list from January 5th.

  1. Eye
  2. My Heart for Deliverance
  3. At the End of the Road
  4. Times of Grace
  5. Distill
  6. At the Well
  7. Left to Wander
  8. We All Rage in Gold
  9. Bleeding the Pigs
  10. Given to the Rising
  11. Locust Star

A plurality of tracks were culled from Honor Found in Decay, with the rest drawn from The Eye of Every Storm, Through Silver in Blood, Given to the Rising and Times of Grace. This certainly doesn’t speak to a band pandering to its audience. Rather, the set list is well curated with each track flowing into the other as the band builds to the amazing “Locust Star”. 

Finally, the band’s willingness to part ways with Josh Graham and the visual experience is laudable. I’ve seen the band on the Word as Law, without visuals, as well as during the evolution of the projections from film to digital elements. The visual elements were extremely well selected, enhanced the live performance and became as exulated as the band’s music. This is why I find their decision to strip them away commendable. A band content with the status qua does not make that sort of decision

I’d like to leave you with footage from the show. The band is performing “At the Well” and the power of the performance does more to rebut the nattering of the perpetually discontent  than all of the preceding text.

– Captain of Games