IMPOSE MAGAZINE: A Dead Forest Index - Tour Diary

photo by Kentaro Takahashi

Tonight we meet artist Matthew Couper. A painter from New Zealand now based in Las Vegas with his wife, also an artist Joe Russ. I had been looking forward to meeting Matthew as we have some very close friends in common, as well as being an admirer of his vivid and surrealistic Spanish ‘Ex Voto’ influenced paintings, archaic and full of symbolism. I’m overwhelmed when we do meet in the garden of the venue as he hands me something in the form of a painting. I’m taken aback in this moment to be receiving a very special gift, a portrait in oils of my wife Gemma & I in deep turquoise and blues still drying. I can’t believe how incredible this composition is and stand speechless. This ex-voto was commissioned to Matthew through my Brother Adam and our friend and photographer Max Reeves as a wedding gift. Gemma and I had just been married days before the start of tour on April 21st at Sargent House, Echo Park, Los Angeles.

‘Dholak’
4/25: The Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix

I traveled with an Indian Dholak drum as hand luggage from Berlin. A new instrument for me, and one I’ve always loved from listening to Rajasthani folk music. We have a new composition that doesn’t call for any traditional ‘drum set’ and tonight will be our first time performing ‘A Minor Key Ornament’

4/28: ‘In All That Drifts From Summit Down’

Our debut album ‘In All That Drifts From Summit Down’ is released today.

‘Nirvana’
4/29: Trees, Dallas

I’m backstage pacing with watered down red wine when Ben Chisholm informs me that this is the venue where Kurt Cobain famously stage dived into the audience during ‘Love Buzz’ and hits that security guard in the head with his guitar. We grew up watching that clip over and over, so we freak out a little and send word out to our other Nirvana historian friends we grew up with to let them know, then we go on. A memorable night in Dallas.

‘Dragged Out’

‘Dragged Out’ from Chelsea Wolfe’s ‘Abyss’ is an extraordinary work. Drummer Jess Gowrie counts in and what follows is perfect noise, deep and controlled amidst huge snare hits. The subtlety of Chelsea’s vocal delivery so complete and beautiful, the audience sways slowly, transfixed as Adam & I each performance.

‘Timpani’
4/30: Cine El Ray, McAllen

We wake up to such a heat in McAllen, we hover outside the bus figuring out where to find coffee. Our sound engineer Randall Dunn has sent word that we have to check out this town, go for a wander. What unfolds is an almost delirious slow walk across town, and it’s interesting and unlike any place we’ve been. We stop in at a used furniture store and Randall spots a huge concert bass drum, its 36″ and a Ludwig. An amazing find for him being a collector of vintage percussion and bass drums. We carry the drum back to the bus in awe and have our photograph taken with it. Randall is a master sound engineer and producer, but also musician and multi-instrumentalist, and has an inspired idea to incorporate this drum into our set up on a ‘slight tilt’ right up by the floor tom. It’s a thunderous sound with mallets, and rumbles through this great Art Deco ‘Cine El Ray’. It will stay in the set up for the theatre shows.

photos by Bobby Bates

‘Jeff’
5/2: Hi-Tone, Memphis

We’ve always wanted to come to Memphis, for me it’s always with Jeff in mind. He changed my life dramatically growing up in New Zealand, I heard Grace and that was it. Jeff Buckley drowned in Wolf River Harbor May 29th, 1997. This is a pilgrimage. I have a view of this harbor from the bus as we approach downtown, but our venue is some way away so I start drawing a map of how to find our way. We pull up at the venue, Adam & I put on black suits and prepare for the walk, until we realize it’s too far, we’d be walking all day. Ben Chisholm calls us a cab. I’d done some research about the actual site and how the river looked in those days, it would have been different, more wild. You can get a sense of the spot where Jeff walked in. In the 90’s it used to be part of the river bank we’re people would hang out, smoke, drink, listen to music. At that time, the same as now its thick mud and broken glass. I imagined it to be more overgrown and secluded, it feels distant from anything although so close to the overpass bridge, with the open air amphitheater directly across. It’s un-swimmable, but yet still and silent. We venture right down to the water and sit for as long as we can. It’s unthinkable to swim. You can see the shifting and changing currents of that water, and feel the trudge of endless mud. We soak in the tragedy and mystery of this heavy river.

Broken Drum and Ghungroo Bells’
5/8, 9: Music Hall Of Williamsburg & Bowery Ballroom, New York

It’s hard to write one dedicated passage to New York. All unfolded in an inspiring way; at the Music Hall Of Williamsburg and the Bowery Ballroom.
A day off in Brooklyn discovering bookshops, bumping into Randall doing the same, being transfixed by the Anohni ‘Hopelessness’ posters everywhere, having the good fortune of meeting the great guitarist Norman Westberg, who saves me by repairing a broken drum.

Drifting through East Village and finding Indian ‘Ghungroo Bells’ we’d been looking for. Onward to Lower Manhattan, meeting Jennifer Tull Westberg maker of our wedding rings, photographers Lauren Withrow and Javier Villegas, with them heading to a bar on Mott St before bus call in the early hours.

‘In the Moment’
5/20: Thalia Hall, Chicago

Our start in Chicago is early, arriving outside Audiotree Studios in the morning for a live session at noon. We set up and shift into performance mode in the moment and the sound of the room is acoustic and beautiful. We perform five tracks from ‘In All That Drifts From Summit Down’. After this it’s straight to Thalia Hall for tonight’s show.

‘Halfsleeper’

Halfsleeper was the first Chelsea Wolfe song I heard back in 2012. It’s a masterpiece. Like a folk aria that reaches a cyclic high bellowed chorus that breathes deep. It flows. It’s incredibly unique to Chelsea, and it’s so beautiful to hear this song close the set every night.

‘Wonder’
5/28: Revolution Hall, Portland

We’ve been looking forward to Portland. We finally cross paths with Savages, who are playing the Wonder Ballroom while we play Revolution Hall. I’ll see Gemma, it’s been five weeks since we left LA in different directions.

We carve out a day off together and drift around East Burnside Street. We walk by a garage sale and buy an antique looking notebook (that I’m now writing in) by chance opposite an amazing drum shop – Revival Drums. We meet the very friendly owners and I’m lucky to buy some vintage mallets for tonight’s show. Everything is timed to perfection for the evening; we will get to see each other play.

Gemma gets seated in the hall as we open the set. I’m nervous and one of my (new) mallet’s somehow flies out of my hand on a cymbal hit during ‘Tide Walks’ to an incredibly silent audience. I gasp and redeem things split second. That never happens! No time to be upset. Post show with wine Adam, Gemma and I jump in a cab with our good friend Jeff Owens and head to the Wonder Ballroom. Savages support ‘Head Wound City’ are midway through their set and it’s immense, it’s packed. We meet Cody Votolato and Nick Zinner from the band and make our way to watch Savages from side of stage.

Every nuance and sound from start to finish is magic, every song devastating. Tonight is unspeakably good.

‘Theatre of Voices’
5/29: Imperial, Vancouver

A special night as we meet our good friend Angus Tarnawsky, a prolific musician and peerless drummer. We used to play shows together back in Melbourne when we were both starting out, and we’ve both been travelling since. We have some drinks back stage and hear about his recent move to Vancouver from New York.
Tonight’s show is beautiful, a highlight of tour, every detail colorful and distinct. When Adam’s voice fills an echo chamber like hall, it sets the show. You move differently. It opens up.

photo by Bobby Cochran

‘Mission’
6/1,2: The Chapel, San Francisco

We’re performing two nights at the Chapel, in the Mission district. It’s really interesting to be here in the final phase of the tour, I’ve loved being on the road. All is still gathering great momentum and energy towards the final dates; everything is harmonious, joyous, always hilarious. Adam and I have become known by the band and crew to take off on unrealistically long walks for good coffee, and today we head off in the direction of the famous City Lights Bookstore. Mission to Chinatown sounds easy, but we end up walking too many miles on show day. It’s all worth while when we spend an hour at City Lights. I used to work in a bookshop, and this is literally the best bookshop I’ve ever been to. It’s hard to leave; we come away with mostly Lorca.

‘Hypnos’

‘Hypnos’ by Chelsea Wolfe from Hypnos / Flame is magic. Ben Chisholm’s intricate piano, Jess Gowrie’s cyclic rhythm, Bryan Tulao’s ebow drone that raises the chorus. It’s calm and hypnotic. Chelsea’s delicate lyrical falsetto is astonishing.

‘Ballad Dust’
6/7, 8: Teragram Ballroom, Los Angeles

Andrea Calderon plays violin unlike anyone I’ve ever heard. Her lines glide and weave around every note. It’s an honour to have her join us on stage for the last shows of tour in LA; two sold out nights at the Teragram Ballroom.

‘Ballad Dust’ a Carnatic inspired song arranged for two voices, our last song of the set. Tonight we are joined by everyone on stage for the last chorus, with clapping; Chelsea, Ben, Jess, Bryan and Andrea. All singing “holy tone – ballad dust – cascade stone – intertwines, it intertwines”

Thank you to Chelsea, thank you to the audiences and for the experience. Our graces, Sam and Adam

photo by Priscilla Scott

4/24: The Bunkhouse, Las Vegas, NV
4/25: The Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix, AZ
4/26: Sister Bar, Albuquerque, NM
4/28: Mohawk, Austin, TX
4/29: Trees, Dallas, TX
4/30: Cine El Rey, McAllen, TX
5/2: The Hi-Tone, Memphis, TN
5/3: The Masquerade – Heaven, Atlanta, GA
5/4: Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC
5/8: Music Hall Of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
5/9: Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY
5/10: Royale, Boston, MA
5/13: Underground Arts, Philadelphia, PA
5/14: Mr. Small’s Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA
5/16: Theatre Fairmount, Montreal, QB
5/17: The Opera House, Toronto, ON
5/19: El Club, Detroit, MI
5/20: Thalia Hall, Chicago,IL
5/21: Ace Of Cups, Columbus, OH
5/22: Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis, MN
5/24: Slowdown, Omaha, NE
5/25: Gothic Theatre, Denver, CO
5/26: Urban Lounge, Salt Lake City, UT
5/28: Revolution Hall, Portland, OR
5/29: Imperial, Vancouver, BC
6/1: The Chapel, San Francisco, CA
6/2: The Chapel, San Francisco, CA
6/7: Teragram Ballroom, Los Angeles, CA
6/8: Teragram Ballroom, Los Angeles, CA