Live Review: The Black Heart Procession, Chelsea Wolfe, Rose Windows at Tractor Tavern

Robert Hanna / December 15, 2011

The Black Heart Procession live at Tractor Tavern
(all photos and video by Robert Hanna)

Pall Jenkins of The Black Heart Procession

“Have you ever wanted to get as far away from someone as possible?” asked Pall Jenkins, The Black Heart Procession‘s front man, of the crowd at Tractor Tavern.  “But you keep coming back to them no matter how hard you try to stay away?”  The audience stood silently awkward, perhaps unsure of how to respond. The group then delved into “All My Steps,” from their 2009 release Six, a moody composition that returns to a more stripped down sound illustrated in their first three, similarly numerically titled records. The Black Heart Procession has carved a dark path over a nearly fourteen-year career, weaving an intricate balance of indie, folk, and goth influences into their piano-driven signature sound. While their releases Amore del Tropico and The Spell began to branch out into almost happier, poppier territory, even involving some calypso and electronic elements with the additions of session musicians, The Black Heart Procession have consistently held to a morose aesthetic and lyrics that ooze heartbreak, loss, depression, and woeful abandonment.


Tobias Nathaniel of The Black Heart Procession

The Tractor played an interesting host for the evening; the venue more renowned for its alt country and rockabilly crowds took a slightly different shape for a remarkably dark show both in content and light. BHP emerged in a cloud of fog on a pitch black stage, illuminated only by two blue LED light boards. Half of the time the members were barely visible, and the one clearly recognizable image was the red blinking symbolic heart Pall Jenkins wore on his chest, buried beneath a wool vest. While the band’s catalog is somewhat varied, they managed to pick their best tracks from all of their albums to showcase on this tour, which they played as a three-piece with Tobias Nathaniel on piano/keys and a session drummer (usually they are accompanied by Mario Rubalcaba of Hot Snakes/OFF! fame). The lack of extra violin, accordion, and other elements lent the way to a well-composed set largely comprised of older material with some highlights from recent albums as well.


Chelsea Wolfe live at Tractor Tavern

Chelsea Wolfe live at Tractor Tavern

Alongside BHP was Chelsea Wolfe, an LA-based group eponymously named after their enigmatic lead singer and guitarist. Debuting in 2010, Chelsea Wolfe has garnered quite a bit of underground buzz for her signature “doom-folk” sound, which garners elements of indie rock and neo-folk under a haunting, reverb-laden, and sometimes even black metal aesthetic. Also requesting a very dimly lit stage, the group powered through most of the critically acclaimed (and sometimes berated) release Ἀποκάλυψις (Apokalypsis), as well as material from 2010’s The Grime and The Glow. Wolfe’s voice was sometimes masked with heavy layers of delay and effects, and there was something so harrowing about her stage presence that one couldn’t help but stand transfixed while they played.  In between some unquestionably powerful singing, Wolfe was very modest and even shy when addressing the crowd.

Chelsea Wolfe live at Tractor Tavern


Rose Windows live at Tractor Tavern

Opening the set were Rose Windows, a new face in Seattle’s recent psychedelic rock revival. A seven-piece juggernaut of organ and immensely thick guitar tone, Rose Windows do much justice to a style of music aped by many fledgling indie acts these days. An immediate and obvious comparison of their sound would be to Vancouver’s psych-champions Black Mountain, but with the aid of singer Rabia Qazi’s piercing voice, as well some very astute guitar riffage, the group is largely cutting a niche of their own in the Northwest.

Rabia Qazi of Rose Windows

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