Day Eight of the Chelsea Wolfe and Youth Code Fall Tour took everyone to Houston. Looking at the crowd, it was obvious already that this was going to be a more relaxed show than the formal theatre had hosted the night before. I made my way to the green room by following Peter Steele…
Chelsea apologized that they were so boring; the two bands were relaxing before their imminent shows. Boring for them, however, is exciting for anyone else. Bassist Fred Sablan and sound engineer/producer extraordinaire Randall Dunn were discussing their favorite bassists (among them the obvious John Paul Jones). Chelsea was choosing her stage outfit. Jess was drumming on her practice pad. Ben was, as always, running back and forth busy with something.
Before their set, I snapped a few portraits of the current live lineup. While Ben is a familiar face for Chelsea Wolfe followers, Jess and Fred might not be. Jess played drums on the second half of the Abyss tour, was in bands with Chelsea in their younger years and is a member of the sludge/stoner rock band Horseneck. Fred has played bass for Marilyn Manson and Goon Moon, among others, and co-hosts the Hour of Goon podcast with Jeordie White (Twiggy Ramirez).
Youth Code was even more explosive than the night before until power to the electronics table was briefly cut. Picking up on the next song, though, they shattered teeth as always. If possible, Sara and Ryan both turned up their energy a notch. Visually a hardcore band, Sara was atop the front speakers, jumping up and down and sending her blonde hair in every direction as she banged her head to the beats. There is nothing lazy or unfulfilled about the duo.
Backstage after Youth Code, Chelsea Wolfe & Co. were adjusting clothes, stretching and taking last minute vodka shots before heading to the stage. Ben and Fred tuned their guitars and Chelsea did vocal warmups and paced the room.
The setlist may have been the same as the night before, but the delivery of the songs was not. Sara brought her voice to “Vex” with more aggression and precision than in Austin. “Carrion Flowers” had a groove that made it heavier and even more primal than the original. “Twin Fawn” drew tears as soon as the first chorus kicked in; its lyrics and its calm-to-turbulent transitions made it one of the most intense points of her set. Specifically, though, Chelsea’s performance of “Scrape” was feral, terrifying and enthralling. She approached the edge of the stage like she had in Austin, but this time with more ferocity. She sang her highest notes from the floor where she knelt, fell and writhed before the final piercing note.
After the show, Jess, Ben and Fred decided that giving Fred the middle finger was the best signal for when to drop back into one of the songs. Almost immediately, the packing began again. Chelsea made her way down to the stage to say hello and take photos with those few people lingering after the set. The look on their faces as she took their phones for selfies was priceless; that second of sheer joy was beautiful. After the audience had filtered out and instruments, lights and merch were stowed away, it was on to Dallas.