The line outside Nashville’s famous Exit/In foreshadowed the show would be a sell-out, or near enough. The walls backstage were plastered with the names of genre-spanning musicians from every corner of the planet; tonight, California’s Youth Code and Chelsea Wolfe would make their mark on the establishment. At all of the Texas shows, I had admired the various faces in the audience. In Nashville, though, it was blatant that Youth Code and Chelsea Wolfe do not have a narrow demographic. There were parents with children wearing protective headphones. There were fans who were nowhere near middle aged and fans who had long forgotten those years. There were people dressed in all black and people wearing baseball caps. There were just as many men supporting the strong female-fronted groups as there were women standing on the other side of the stage in awe. Nashville’s people reflected its deep and diverse relationship with music.
It cannot be reiterated enough how alive Youth Code can make a room. Close your ears and you might be watching a punk band. Close your eyes and you’d expect to see black hair and black leather. With each passing night, it became more and more clear just how important the delivery of their music is. Youth Code could not play a noise set standing behind a table full of electronics and pedals. They could never relay their message without using their bodies to punctuate beats and lyrics. A small group at the front of the stage was headbanging. Sara grabbed one of them and joined in unison. Later, someone was resting on a speaker at the front of the stage as she tried to put her foot up while singing and it became a comical battle of his returning his arms to rest and her feet pushing him back. Tonight was the first night that I finally noticed that when she spit in the air, as she had done before, she then caught it and wiped her face. The uninhibited and completely free feeling that comes with being in their presence is nothing short of incredible.
While the mood backstage was one of exhaustion, Nashville was, to my ears, the most moving set thus far. Again, as with Youth Code before, the visuals stood out. The lighting, changing from red to blue, echoed the mood of the songs as they progressed. Chelsea’s face looking at the crowd or downward. Fred and Ben swinging their guitars and pacing their corners or standing relatively still. The live experience adds another layer to any song in the Chelsea Wolfe catalog. The lyrics that bring personal memories forward and the notes in her voice that cause tears to pool in the corners of the eyes. The rhythms that make people tap their fingers on their plastic cups. The track intros that made people grab the arm of their companion with excitement. Details in the performance of the songs, whether planned or spontaneous, alluded to the poignant parts of each track. On record, the songs that appear on the setlist night after night are moving; in person, as Chelsea stands clad in black at the helm of the stage, the songs take on the overall feeling of the night. They absorb the energy of the room and the emotions and experiences of everyone watching and listening. Standing on the balcony and looking down at the crowd, it was amazing to see the songs that visibly shifted people. The amped up “Carrion Flowers.” The choruses of “After The Fall,” “Twin Fawn” and “The Warden.” Contrasts were everywhere. In the faces watching the show. In the clothes wrapping the bodies packed closely to listen to Chelsea’s music. In the music itself. In her voice. The blinding lights and shadowy darkness are what makes every song and every show so breathtaking.