By Andy O’Connor
Editor’s note: This article was originally published September 8, 2013
The Mohawk and Central Presbyterian Church are mere blocks away from each other, but they may as well be in different counties. When L.A. singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe was last in Austin back in February, she performed an acoustic set at Central Presbyterian, supporting "Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs." For her return to Austin on Friday, she plugged in at Mohawk for her recently released "Pain Is Beauty." Presumably, there had to be a reasonable amount of overlap between people who went to the two shows. Still, the instrumentation was hardly the biggest difference between the two nights.
When one goes to a church, there’s an expectation of silence and respect from the audience. That sentiment rarely, if ever, carries over into bars. Wolfe’s music isn’t delicate."Feral Love," her opening number and first track from Pain, is a whirlwind of ambient beats; it’s heavy without being overbearing, which works well for Wolfe. "We Hit A Wall" took some of the more desert-like aspects of her music, mainly the reverbed twang of her guitar, and gave them stomp and menace. Still, her songs require a patience that bars simply can’t always accommodate. Small things like people bumping into you and someone yelling "HEY!" to a friend can really take away from the music. Perhaps she should have played the harrowing piano ballad "Sunstorm" from "Unknown Rooms." Its percussive battery may have gotten everyone to shut up. After briefly leaving the stage following the mournfully psychedelic "Pale on Pale," from "Apokalypis," Wolfe attempted to perform "Lone," the acoustic number that closes out "Pain," but the feedback was simply too much for her. Even though Wolfe had her full band for this show, the church show felt more complete.
But people get into rock music to get away from church, right?
Dallas trio True Widow opened with a hypnotic, subdued take on doom metal. While the band plays a lot of slow and brooding music like a lot of Wolfe’s music, their willingness to go loud worked to their favor in a club environment. It’s music made for long trips across I-10, when the conversation’s run out and Phoenix isn’t for miles. They’ll be back for Fun Fun Fun Fest Nov 8-10.