Alice Glass With Zola Jesus, Pictureplane At The Teragram Ballroom, Thursday April 26th 2018
Last night, the Teragram Ballroom became very dark, but I should say that its atmosphere was split between ice and fire for close to 3 hours, as Alice Glass launched her SnowBlood Tour, presented by Lethal Amounts. The two artists who opened for her, Pictureplane and Zola Jesus, were very much into the same mood, gloomy and violent, reflecting many shades of pain and rebellion.
However, the night certainly belonged to these two strong women and their mesmerizing performances, very dark and haunting in Zola Jesus’ case, truly cathartic in Alice Glass’ case, and if it was just a coincidence that a jury had found Bill Cosby guilty of sexually assaulting a woman (and many others) the same day, it was particularly fitting. Alice Glass has been very vocal about the reason why she quit the band Crystal Castles in 2014, she wrote a long statement explaining her abusive relationship with bandmate Ethan Kath (that you can still read on her website), and clearly, her music and songs reflect the pain she still endures. On Thursday night, she looked and acted nevertheless like a goth warrior, and the fact that she started her set with the song ‘Forgiveness’, a song pretty much about rejecting the idea of forgiveness, told a lot about her state of mind.
However, the night started with a man, Travis Egedy, a.k.a. Pictureplane, who was mixing the rave party culture with emotive and ravaged vocals. His electro-techno soundscapes, often chopped with hypnotic beats, were making everyone dance in a very trance-like ambiance, while his voice was adding a different vibe, making him unclassifiable. He was too raw, too noise-oriented for the club culture, and too experimental to be described in a few sentences, but he was freely producing strange soundscapes accompanied by his raucous voice. Known for coining the term ‘witch house’, he is also the founder of the fashion brand Alien Body, flirting with the occult and the dark side of EDM..
Zola Jesus, aka Nika Roza Danilova, immediately installed a veil of darkness, although she was wrapped in a shiny red veil. Her gorgeous and powerful vocals were soaring above an industrial soundscape whose emotional level was enhanced by a violin and a guitar on each side of the stage. She was crawling on stage or moving her arms or covering her face with red veils, making the earth shake and bounce and the dark storm she created sucked all the attention and energy of the room, it was that powerful. Danilova knows about drama, but she doesn’t really create it, drama is her natural habitat, and it enters the room with her. Her set was dark, goth, with occasional pop hooks, it was mournful with raw and tearing strings or violent and stormy, with gut-punchy parts and abstract ruminations about death.
‘Last time I played here, in October, it was the first show of my US tour, and I completely lost my voice, it was the best day of my life,… no, it was actually one of the worst days of my life’, she said at one point, ‘I am about to make you guys very depressed’, she added before singing the very sad and lonely ‘Witness’, a song from her last album ‘Okovi’, and written for her uncle who attempted suicide, but survived as she explained.
Her set was all lights and shadows, she often disappeared in the darkness, with her face partially visible through rays of light. She previewed a new song, “Bound’, acclaimed by the crowd like everything she did, and if I wasn’t familiar with her material, her emotional performance was impressive, embodying pain and a dignifying resistance to it, ending into a crushing soundscape with her powerful croon, close to an operatic dimension.
‘When forgiveness is used to create a false sense of superiority it is a toxic act’, declared Alice Glass in an interview, and as soon as she started her song, mixing violent beats with her eerie child-like vocals, the crowd was with her, following each one of her curiously gracious and violent dance moves. The music was a strange mix of vulnerability and anger, and the set did blend her own songs with several Crystal Castles covers, which I am not sure could be called covers at this point, as she co-wrote many of these tunes..
The catchy electro-pop chorus of ‘Without Love’ with the exaggerated sweetness of her vocals, followed by the mechanical K-pop oddity of ‘White Lies’, were acclaimed by the passionate crowd with everyone celebrating Glass in an enduring love fest. Live, she was restless, dancing and jumping in the darkness, following the tempo of EDM-like steady beats, whilst parts of her face and body were seldom revealed through the stroboscopic lighting,
‘I love you Alice, you are everything!’ I could hear from someone around me, as people were pushing more and more every minute to get closer to the stage. And she may have been everything at this moment, mixing experimental electronic with a feverish punk energy, as she even crowd surfed during the abrasive and strident electro-static of her last song ‘Cease & Desist’, her survivor song, during which she screamed with this surreal voice, ‘Promise me you’re never the victim/Promise me you have to fight back/You have to fight right now/You have to fight’. Despite being unfamiliar with Alice Glass’ world, contrarily to all the people around me, I could tell that her entire performance looked like a fight, and the ferocious and vulnerable duality of her art culminated during ‘Natural Selection’ when she screamed in repeat, with her high pitched cyborg voice: ‘Get the fuck off of me/Get the fuck out of me’… She couldn’t have been more direct than that, and even when she crawling on the floor, she sounded victorious at the end, but it wasn’t without agony and an ecstatic insight of her inner pain.
Alice Practice (Crystal Castles song)
Love and Caring (Crystal Castles song)
Celestica (Crystal Castles song)
Suffocation (Crystal Castles song) (HEALTH remix)
Cease & Desist