Chelsea Wolfe and Youth Code began their Southeastern tour dates in Austin, TX at the 92-year-old Paramount Theatre. Upon entry to the foyer, it was immediately questionable whether the venue had ever seen so many black clad patrons; however, Diamanda Galas had performed on the same stage in April. The classical architecture and opera boxes were a departure from the rooms where I had seen either artist perform in the past and with seats covering the floor and balcony, it seemed strange to think of people sitting while Sara Taylor of Youth Code thrashed across the stage to “Shift of Dismay.” It was the seventh show of the Hiss Spun tour and Austin’s drag Mistress of the Dark, Louisianna Purchase, was to open the show…
In her hometown, where she was voted “Best Drag Performer” in 2016, Louisianna Purchase began the night with eerie, beautiful lip-synch renditions of “Song to the Siren” by This Mortal Coil and “Domino” from Cocteau Twins. Known for her haunting glamour and a penchant for horror and all things witchy and “strange,” Louisianna walked onstage as a teary, black veiled bride-in-mourning with an armful of roses before morphing into a sultry, sequined Maleficent-like character. Having performed as an opening act for Miserable and Drab Majesty in the past, Louisianna Purchase is as well-known in the musical sphere as she in the world of drag.
Youth Code followed immediately and asked that everyone stand, as they are an active band in need of a mutual exchange of energy. Sara Taylor and Ryan George came out at 100% and only paused when their set was over. A group of women at the front right corner of the stage danced throughout the entirety of Youth Code’s set – something which Taylor noted and appreciated. The pair drew from their entire catalog, from “Carried Mask” to “Anagnorisis,” an had the gilded room under the spell of their harsh-yet-captivating sound. Whether an entire theatre stage or a tiny platform, Taylor and George always takes advantage of movement and physically expressing Youth Code’s hardcore industrial point of view.
Following Youth Code’s sonic demolition of the theatre, Chelsea Wolfe, Ben Chisholm (who moved from bass to guitar for the current tour), Jess Gowrie (drums) and Fred Sablan (bass) readied themselves for the first of the three Texas shows. It was mostly quiet backstage as Chelsea fidgeted with her clothes and warmed up, Jess paced and Ben prepared the guitars onstage. Minutes before exiting the green room to begin their show, everyone ceremoniously touched a photo of Peter Steele (who was present on tour laminates and various signs in the area) and downed vodka shots while The Distillers and Dolly Parton played throughout the building’s speakers.
The quartet walked toward their respective instruments while “Welt” played. As it ended, the introductory guitar screeches of “Spun” sounded and people began edging to the front of the room. The stage bathed in red light, there was an immediate power and intimidating feeling emanating from the group. Cheers erupted when they launched into “16 Psyche.” The first single from Hiss Spun was already on the lips of the crowd; they murmured the lyrics in unison while gazing at Chelsea towering above them in her Micol Ragni platform boots.
With Aaron Turner not present, Sara Taylor appeared again to lend vocals to “Vex;” she more than met the challenge presented by the SUMAC vocalist’s cameo. Throughout the night, the majority of the show was made up of new songs. “Tracks (Tall Bodies)” and “The Warden” were among the throwbacks, but as Chelsea would state in Atlanta a few days later, she wanted to play the new songs that had not yet jaded her. Everyone left the stage when “Twin Fawn” was complete and only Chelsea returned for the beginning of “Halfsleeper.” She was later joined by Chisholm, Gowrie and Sablan who electrified the song and it become an even more powerful, beautifully tormented and fantastic moment. The teary-eyed were jolted into a completely opposite state as the simple, heartbreaking song became Hiss Spun closer “Scrape.” Deep red light again sheathed the band and Chelsea shifted into a feral persona that was in total juxtaposition to the sadness that the previous moments had conveyed. By the closing cry of “Scrape it out of me,” every emotion had been experienced. The new songs were massive experiences that were at one second reserved and at the next explosive. It was refreshing to hear a greater number of new pieces; the journey of listening to the record was a novel one after seeing how each song was performed.
The bands said their goodbyes to Lousianna, loaded their gear and the tour moved on to Houston…