"It was refreshing to watch women take other women on tour and reclaim heavy music as theirs."
by Rivka Yeker
As a kid I dreamt of being goth and looking as cool as Evanescence’s frontwoman Amy Lee. She was my idol (next to Avril) and the foundation of my music taste, specifically the part that loved metal. I wanted black nails and black outfits and corsets and in every game that I was allowed to customize a character, I’d make the goth self I’d always aspire to be.
Years later I feel more like an androgynous Emo person than a goth queen like Amy, but those goth-loving roots never escaped me. They still rest idly by deep in my taste in just about everything. Seeing someone as powerful and all-consuming as Chelsea Wolfe felt like my younger self’s dreams coming true.
The night started with Youth Code, a band I discovered by once making a Facebook status looking for new music recommendations. It was right after their recent tour with Code Orange so I spent hours of watching live footage of them going absolutely nuts on stage. They’re pretty much everything I could ask for in an industrial sounding electronic hardcore band. The band consists of Sara Taylor (vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, sampling) and Ryan George (backing vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, sampling), two very passionate and talented humans who know how to put on an exhilarating set.
The two of them didn’t stop moving. Sara Taylor stood strong with a shirt that read “eat my entire fuck” and her voice, a strong surge of deep screams, filled the room in harmony with the vibrating synths. There was a moment where she came down to the crowd during my personal favorite song of theirs, “Transitions”, off their latest record Commitment to Complications and let the person in front of me (who had clearly seen this band before) take the mic. To which me and a few others joined them in yelling “I'm nailed to this earth in the wrong fucking skin / The pain of pushing forward giving way to caving in.” I felt like I was 16 again and it was perfect.
It had been years since I was last at the Metro so seeing a band like Youth Code allowed me to dance and mosh and get just as wild as them, but the crowd was a little stiff. It was an 18+ show and I’m sure everyone was mostly just there to be blown away by Chelsea Wolfe’s set, but Youth Code makes too catchy of a sound to not lose your shit. Afterwards my friend and I started talking about what it means to get older and what becomes less okay at shows, how there is a sort of unwritten rule created to sustain coolness. I shrugged it off since I was on such a high from Youth Code’s energy.
Shortly after Youth Code left the stage, the tone had shifted into something just as heavy, but darker, slower, and with more guitars. Chelsea Wolfe has a presence that encapsulates an entire entity. She wore these huge chunky high-heeled shoes that lifted her taller than she already was at 5’9. Her eyes were masqueraded with black make-up that made her look haunting and powerful. With her long black hair and long black dress, she had successfully embodied the goth queen that I think everybody in the crowd, including me, was prepared to worship.
She had started her set with songs from her latest record Hiss Spun which was just released in September. The record itself is filled with more metal elements than folk, which makes Wolfe’s discography so interesting since each album seems to achieve a different sound while still managing to maintain the same overarching dark mystical aura. The lights that lit up the band were mostly a deep red at first and during the track “Vex” off the new record, Sara Taylor from Youth Code joined Chelsea Wolfe on stage. It was a powerful and moving collaboration of two women who reclaimed genres that have traditionally been dominated by men as they gripped the mics with a sort of ferocity that exuded confidence and control. I felt my body shake from the intensity of the two of them together, knowing my younger self would’ve been elated and inspired by two women looking like badasses fulfilling something I wish I could’ve done.
Chelsea Wolfe played for a solid hour and a half but it didn’t feel that long at all. Even as she approached her encore songs, I didn’t want her to leave the stage. She finished the night with a mind-blowing performance of “Scrape”, the last song off her newest album. She sung in a few octaves higher than any other song and did not hold a guitar. She held the mic closely and used the entire stage as a platform, allowing the lights to guide her and to consume her. Her silhouette was seen moving along with the music, guitars and drums all synchronized at once, and then the lights flickering off and then on, she stood and then fell while singing “My body fights itself inside / I feel it bow, this mortal hold.”
After feeling like I was held in a chokehold throughout the entirety of that last song, when it ended, I felt free, but all I wanted was more. She was mesmerizing, a magnetic pull into a dark embrace; one that felt grounded in femininity and fierceness.
I think that’s what made the show so important for me. It was refreshing to watch women take other women on tour and reclaim heavy music as theirs. I think we often pair heavy music with masculinity because it is a fairly male-dominated genre, but when women like Chelsea Wolfe take the stage, she presents and performs femininity while simultaneously melting the room with guitars. To me, femininity can be just as dark and just as brooding, just as intense and as deep as masculinity is perceived to be. There is so much power in a feminine essence and I feel moved by it when it takes on a form that defies feminine standards and celebrates them at the same time.