Attending Church with Chelsea Wolfe

Posted by Unknown | Posted in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Snow fell across Philadelphia in a silent hush. I was standing in the vestibule of the First Unitarian Church, avoiding the cold as best as I could, watching vehicles creep along Chestnut street. It was, relatively, quiet. It was the perfect setting for what I was about to witness. 

I had arrived in Philly around 10 A.M. after grabbing a few hours of sleep and catching the 7 o'clock bus south. Most of my day had been spent wandering the streets and browsing various shops and used bookstores. This was all secondary. What drew me to Philly was the chance to see Chelsea Wolfe perform. 

When I had learned of her tour and the stop in Philly, I was already too late to purchase tickets for the first show. I was, to say the least, disappointed. Chelsea Wolfe's albums have been spinning constantly this past year and filling the confines of my apartment with her hauntingly angelic vocals and the dark, but beautiful, shadows of her sounds. 

In October, Chelsea released her third, full-length studio album, Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs, which she was now touring to support and which I, seemingly, was going to miss. Maybe it was simply by popular demand (I'd like to think it was my disappointed Tweet to Sargent House about the show already being sold out) that another show was added. 

Whatever the reason may be (probably popular demand), I hoped online and purchased a ticket as soon as they went on sale. The earlier, additional show sold out just as quickly as the first. But, here I was. An hour early, freezing my ass off, watching the snow fall like a funeral shroud over the city. 

Chelsea was scheduled to play in the side chapel of the First Unitarian. I had been to shows at the Church before, but they had always been in the basement. I'd never witnessed a show in the actual chapel, so I was, on top of everything else, excited by the prospect

When the door finally opened and I walked through the doors of the tiny side chapel, I knew that I was in for an extremely special and intimate show. Two rows of church pews lined the walls split by an aisle that led directly toward a makeshift altar where white candles with flickering flames surrounded a bouquet of white flowers in front of a smoke-charred American flag. I took my seat in the very first pew and awaited my baptism.

After a few tracks of Hawkwind over the PA system, the lights dimmed, leaving only a crimson stage light glowing across the altar and flag. The opening act, King Dude (don't let the name throw you), took their place in front of the congregation. Dressed in button-down black shirts and black slacks, slicked-back hair, and holding a glass of whiskey each, the two piece toasted the audience and began their set. 

I had never heard King Dude prior to this evening, but I was assured by friends that I would enjoy them. Their sound falls somewhere between Johnny Cash and Death in June with a healthy dose of pagan rituals and Satanic incantations. Somewhat of a contrast to the hosting venue, to say the least. At times, the Lucifer references seemed a bit hokey (see their "Lucifer's the Light of the World" track), but, overall, I enjoyed their set and will definitely look into them further.

The lights came back up, and the music returned to the PA system. This time it was a mix between 60's psych rock and doom. Chelsea appeared from the side entrance of the chapel, a handful of pages in her hand which she placed under the skull of an Ibex on a humble, worn table close to the main mic. Chelsea appeared in a long, white dress that made her look even more ethereal than her pale flesh and ice blue eyes did already.

She opened with "Apalachia", a track off her new album, and I was instantly drawn in. As Chelsea strummed her guitar, the violin slowly came in leading to the vocals. It's not often that a musician's voice sounds as clean and perfect live as it does on a recording. Chelsea takes that rarity a step further, producing even more passion and beauty live than you can achieve on a recording. Her voice is, simply, angelic and hauntingly beautiful.

Song after song, I was continually blown away by Chelsea's ability. The acoustic version of "Moses" was a great addition to the set and I hope it shows up somewhere in the future on a recording. Other highlights included a new song, which she didn't mention a title for, and closing the set with a live performance of "The Way We Used To" alone, building the song completely from her voice using a looper. She humbly thanked us and disappeared through the side door.

As I walked down the aisle toward the exit, I felt I had just received some sort of holy communion. That I had witnessed something extremely special. Over the past year, Chelsea has grown in popularity and I feel that performances set in such intimate settings will become rare or non-existent for her. Though, if it's completely up to her, that may not be the case. 

The hours spent in the frigid temperatures of Philadelphia were, ultimately, more than worth it. The snow was still falling as I climbed into the back of a cab. By the time I reached my friends house, the second show would be starting and another group of fortunate spectators would witness one of the most satisfying and incredible performances I've ever had the chance to see.


Watch the new video for Chelsea Wolfe's song "Flatlands"

Additional photos from the January 25th show in Philadelphia

Books Devoured in 2012...Onward to 2013

Posted by Unknown | Posted in , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Posted on Tuesday, January 01, 2013


A new year means more writing and much more reading. Last year, I squeezed in 32 books. I even had time to review some of them on Goodreads. That site has been extraordinarily helpful with finding new reading material. Books I never would have found have been suggested to me or I've found them by chance. My "to read" list grows by the day. Below is what I devoured in 2012 with links to reviews, if I happened to write one, and where you can pick it up.

It was the year of Nabokov for me. His writing has completely captivated me and I can only imagine I'll be reading more of him in 2013. Total, I flipped 8,437 pages with The Satanic Verses being the longest book I read at 560 pages.

I've set a goal to read forty books this year, but I'm hoping to break through to fifty. What did you read in the past year that I should look into? What are you planning to read in 2013?


 The Smell of Good Mud 
by Lauren Zuniga

We Are Taking Only What We Need
by Stephanie Powell Watts

Live for a Living
by Buddy Wakefield

Death by Black Hole 
And other cosmic quandaries
by Neil deGrasse Tyson

The Moon is Down
by John Steinbeck

Capital Punishment
An indictment by a death-row survivor
by Billy Wayne Sinclair
and Jodie Sinclair

The Age of Reason
by Jean-Paul Sartre

Selected Poems
by Carl Sandburg

Satanic Verses
by Salman Rushdie

The Bell Jar
by Sylvia Plath

Laughter in the Dark
by Vladimir Nabokov

by Vladimir Nabokov

by Vladimir Nabokov

by Vladimir Nabokov

Moby Dick or The White Whale
by Herman Melville
Yes, I did read this
old, beaten, 

A Wonderment of Seasons
by John E. McGuigan

Don Juan in Hankey, PA
by Gale Martin

Julia and the Bazooka
by Anna Kavan

The God of our Dreams
by Le Hinton

The Garden of Eden
by Ernest Hemingway

The Short Stories
by Ernest Hemingway

by Terrance Hayes

Manufacturing Hysteria
A history of scapegoating, surveillance,
and secrecy in modern America
by Jay Feldman

by William Faulkner

The Big Hunger
by John Fante

Attack of the Theocrats!
by Sean Faircloth

The White Album: Essays
by Joan Didion

The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins

Unfortunately, It Was Paradise
by Mahmoud Darwish

The Fifty Year Sword
by Mark Z. Danielewski
Get it

South of no North
by Charles Bukowski

Sailing Alone Around the Room
and other selected Poems
by Billy Collins