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Show Review: Weyes Blood @ Iron Horse Music Hall, September 5th 2019

By Jose Francisco Perez

The Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton provides easy access to some great underground talent, however, this time it wasn’t so much underground talent that I found playing but instead a living masterpiece. Weyes Blood, or otherwise known as Natalie Mering, is a singer-songwriter that specializes in psychedelic folk. Think Tame Impala, but Barbra Streisand is Kevin Parker. Weyes Blood isn’t new to the music scene, having written and produced four other records. Titanic Rising is her latest and most refined piece to date, surprising and delighting the indie music scene, praised as a work of art by fans and critics alike, myself included. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a record that was so incredibly and perfectly executed. Every song feels like a different journey through space and time and this concert was no different. 

The thing about Iron Horse is that it is not only convenient and close by, but also one of the most intimate venues I’ve attended. Restaurant by day and music club by night, and even though Weyes Blood performed during what they would call “dinner time,” the tables and chairs did not interfere or distract me from what was about to happen on stage. At first, we were greeted by the opening act, Purr. Purr is the collaborative project between childhood friends from New York, Eliza Callahan and Jack Staffen. Frankly, I’ve never heard their stuff, but boy am I glad I did. Purr was a powerhouse on stage and their lively pop presence did not take away from Weyes Blood’s more melancholy and sorrowful sound. Instead, I think both acts complemented each other quite well. Purr performed a few tracks including their recently released single, “Take You Back,” which I immediately added to my playlists. 

As they performed their closing song, the crew quickly took to the stage to remove some of the instruments and add a few extra lights. I was excited. Coming out of the shadows and taking the first steps to garner audience attention is not that hard, however, making a first good impression is. She greeted the audience and established her presence before letting out that first note and as soon as she did, the tables and chairs that were once blocking my view would not interfere with what was about to happen on stage. Her performance immediately felt like it was directed towards me; there was a feeling that made you feel like the only person in the room, her voice echoing from the stage, and the sounds of synths and experimental beats filling my ears. As she serenaded me along with the audience, I wasn’t able to tell what was real or fake. Easily, what might have been an hour or two felt like an eternity I was not upset about being a part of. Ending with her most emotionally-driven song, “Movies”. The funny part was that right after she performed there were no claps, no one got up, it was just silence, it wasn’t until a few minutes after that people started clapping. All in all, fan or not, I think that this performance was one to experience and if the chance to her in concert again appears I will not be one to skip out on it.

Check out Titanic Rising and Purr’s new single “Take You Back” out now on Sub Pop and Anti- Records, respectively.

A Conversation with Kassie Carlson of Guerilla Toss

By Alex MacLean and Judge Russell
On a humid Saturday in Holyoke, Massachusetts, the 2019 Dream Picnic took place at Gateway City Arts. A day festival curated by Brooklyn indie band Rubblebucket, this year featured performances from Western MA acts such as Carinae, Raspberry Jam, and And The Kids, as well as national touring acts STRFKR, Sidney Gish, and Guerilla Toss. 

After Guerilla Toss’s performance, we caught up with the New York dance-punk band’s singer and violinist, Kassie Carlson, and asked her a few questions about movies, restaurants, and inspirations behind the band’s upcoming EP, What Would The Odd Do?, out November 15 on NNA Tapes. The band will be on a US tour starting October 19th.

WMUA: So y’all have a new EP coming out soon, yeah?
Kassie Carlson: Yep! What Would The Odd Do?

WMUA: So I was going to ask what some of the inspirations behind the new songs were, in terms of the music and lyrics?
KC: What Would The Odd Do? Is kind of, like, all of us, the counterculture people, the weirdos, the freaks. Like instead of asking, “what would Jesus do?,” anyone who has grown up in a religious environment, y’know, and weighing so much on god, this is what would the Odd do! [laughs]

WMUA: and the lyrics?

KC: Mostly just about existential dread and the presence of darkness, and lightness in the world.

WMUA: I feel that. So what was the recording process like?

KC: Well, we recorded at the Outlier Inn in Upstate New York, it’s kind of like a retreat/recording studio that our friend has where you can go and stay there and record a record, but it’s actually near where my house, so I didn’t stay there. My friend Josh has got goats on the property!

WMUA: Goats are so funny, there’s goats by my house and me and my housemates whenever we drive by we yell “GOATS” and they all look at you

KC: I don’t know how true it is, but I read something recently that goats can see facial expressions, and understand them. It’s the eyes, the square pupils.

WMUA: Woah! I’ve never really gotten that close to a goat before.

KC: You should! Y’know, there’s like the cat eye, the goat eye…I was thinking a lot about eyes and perception when I was watching this animal show the other night, about predator and prey, how the prey has eyes on either side, the predator has eyes on the front, and what that does to how you see and interpret things.

WMUA: Wow, what a thought! It’s all in the eyes.

WMUA: So some of the questions I’ve written here have to do with the music but some of them are just fun questions, like if there are any movies you’re loving as of late?

KC: Oh God.

WMUA: Or any movie you’ve seen recently that you liked?

KC: I saw Midsommar in theaters, it was cool, maybe that’s like an obvious thing,

WMUA: That’s the last one I went to see in theaters, I loved it.

KC: There’s lots of people with flower headbands out today, so I was thinking about it. It’s fucked but like, also beautiful. You know our music video for “Plants”?

WMUA: Haven’t seen it yet, no.

KC: Well the editor for Midsommar did that video.

WMUA: Woah, that’s so cool!

KC: Yeah, Max Berger and Jade Goheen. It’s got really cool editing.

WMUA: I’ll have to check that one out!

KC: New song “Plants”!

WMUA: New song “Plants,” it’s great, we’ve been playing it at the station.

KC: Sweet! [laughs]

WMUA: So y’all currently live in New York?
KC: I don’t live in NYC anymore, I live upstate in the mountains now.

WMUA: Well, so do you have a favorite place to eat in New York?

KC: I do, of course! It’s called Lupe’s East LA kitchen, it’s in SoHo. It’s amazing, it’s where we have all our band meetings, so if you go there you might see us!

WMUA: What kind of food?

KC: It’s Mexican food.

WMUA: Are there any bands that you’re looking forward to seeing tonight?
KC: Oh yeah, well I saw Homebody earlier, amazing band, amazing beats, amazing voice, also Rubblebucket obviously, STRFKR, it was cool to see Toth, all the bands are really specal and curated tonight, so it’s fun.

WMUA: For sure for sure! [laughs] oh this question is kinda goofy, but, I really like your song “Jackie’s Daughter,” yeah, I was wondering how Jackie and her daughter are doing?

KC: They’re doing awesome! Killing it, yeah. That song, people always request it, but it’s kind of hard to do it live, we haven’t really figured it out yet. 

WMUA: I’m really glad you played “Meteorological,” I love that song!

KC: Yeah, that one’s about trying to predict your own feelings and thoughts.

WMUA: Like a meteorologist!

KC: Exactly! But they’re always wrong!

WMUA: I also really like all of the artwork on your records, I was wondering how you go about picking it or designing it if someone in the band does it

KC: It’s actually a lot of different people, Keith Rankin does a lot of our art, he does Orange Milk Tapes, and he does, like, epic airbrush stuff, he’s killing it right now, doing billboards, other albums, stuff for magazines. But GT Ultra, that’s like 70s acid strip paper from Mark McCloud, his house is filled with acid sheets, they all have really interesting designs, and that was one of them. And the new one is Yu Maeda, an artist I found on Instagram who is super amazing.

WMUA: What are you guys listening to in the van?
KC: Usually a lot of the Grateful Dead, because it’s something everyone likes, I’m also really obsessed with Emeralds.

KC: Thanks for taking the time to do this, hope the tour goes well!

Guerilla Toss’s new EP What Would The Odd Do? is out now on NNA Tapes.

SHOW REVIEW: Kelsey Lu is a breath of fresh air at Fabric Arts

By Ariya Sonethavy

You might’ve heard Kelsey Lu’s haunting vocals on Blood Orange’s new mixtape, Angel’s Pulse, or you might’ve heard of her opening for Florence + The Machine. Regardless, her debut record Blood, which came out in April, shines a light on her individuality and captivating artistry. On September 28, she headlined the Fabric Arts Festival, a festival in Fall River, MA that celebrated art, music, and community, specifically engaging with both traditional and new artistic forms. From September 25-28, the city held its first installment of the festival ever, to which Kelsey Lu performed on the final night, along with Lula Pena, Mal Devisa, and Downtown Boys. Fabric Arts’ website says that the festival “proposes to engage the city through a unique and multidisciplinary experience, with an arts circuit stretching over a central area of the city with music concerts, site-specific projects and murals.” The festival will announce their second installment, coming 2020, very soon.

To put it simply, a performance by Kelsey Lu in a small, intimate theater feels like something heavenly where you’re floating in a space-time continuum, in which the only thing that resonates physically is the sonic landscape she creates with her voice, her cello, and her guitar. You feel like the only person in the entire venue. The fluidity in her music transcends genres, dabbling in classical, R&B, and indie while creating a whole new world in itself. Beginning with “Dreams”, a song off of Lu’s 2016 EP Church, the atmosphere is immediately created with the songs samples of birds and the forest, while Lu plucks her cello hauntingly. The layered sound creates a buildup of something ethereal, leading into her stellar vocals. What makes this even more beautiful is her stage presence, her silver dress shining in the light. Her performance unfurls something shapeless and overflowing, a kind of energy that blooms within the audience and all around. 

The intimacy is truly encapsulated in the fact that Lu is the only one on stage, and it’s either the cello and her guitar as her weapons of choice. Even “Due West”, one of her more pop tracks that have been remixed by Skrillex, loses its layers and is stripped down with just the cello and Lu’s evocative vocals. Every movement she makes and every word she sings is intricate and with intent. Before her final song, “Liar”, Lu speaks to the audience about how the song is about home and the continuous search for a home. She emphasizes the difficulty of navigating what home is to her as a black woman in America, and reminds us that we are lucky to be able to have such spaces as the one we were in for Fabric Arts festival, that we must think outside of our contained towns, and that she is grateful to have spent such an intimate night with us. “Liar” is a moving, eight-minute-long testament to allowing yourself to not lose hope in the face of adversity, and that the “most important is that we can’t lose focus on what is the key ingredient to everything: LOVE,” as she says in a 2016 interview in NYLON. Kelsey Lu reminds us of the spirit we need to keep inside of us and the beauty of simply persisting.

Photo by Jessica Spinola, courtesy of Fabric Arts Festival.