Weyes Blood played a sold-out show at the Turf Club last night with special guest Jackie Cohen. Throughout the 90-minute set, the stage was awash in warm light with flickering electronic candles; and draped over the keyboard, a gauzy white fabric was lit from beneath in psychedelic blues and greens. The atmosphere remained cozy while wind whipped sheets of rain around outside the venue; and Weyes Blood entered the stage to a chorus of synths like the audience had been transported to some kind of underwater church. Crickets chirped continuously. “Can anyone hear the crickets?” Natalie Mering asked the crowd. “We keep them in a box under the keyboard.”
Singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Natalie Mering released her first full-length album The Innocents in 2014, followed by Front Row Seat to Earth in 2016 and Titanic Rising just last April to critical acclaim. For all three of her major releases, she’s woven the syrupy melodies of ’60s California folk rock, with the darker undertones of her psychedelic experimental roots. Weyes Blood (pronounced like Wise Blood, as in the novel by Flannery O’Connor) initially debuted as Weyes Bluhd, releasing music in the form of limited-edition cassette tapes. She spent time early in her music career traveling around the U.S., studying herbalism and living in rural areas, before settling in New York City and making music full-time.
With the addition of a drum kit and electric guitar, her band performed all the songs they brought to The Current’s studio on Monday. In fact, Weyes Blood played nearly all of the songs on Titanic Rising, opening with its opening track “A Lot’s Gonna Change,” then carrying the audience on the album’s hymn-like highs, and through to its foreboding straight-forward confessionals.
“We’re gonna take it down even lower now,” Mering warned the crowd jokingly before launching into “Picture Me Better.” “Past mid-tempo; to low tempo,” she laughed.
There was an element of nostalgia hovering over all the tracks Mering played last night—nostalgia for a person, which bled into nostalgia for a way of being in the world. The song “Movies” starts slow in the voice of a film starlet. “Some people feel what some people don’t. Some people watch until they explode. The meaning of life doesn’t seem to shine like that screen,” Mering sings. At the song’s transcendent end, Mering turned on her heel and whipped off her suit jacket to sing the line: “I wanna be star of my own movie.”
Before that, “Andromeda” conjured a Wild West sort of longing with space-age vibes. Poignant guitar licks floated over Mering reasoning with a lover. “Treat me right,” she sings. “I’m still a good man’s daughter.” The following cover of “God Only Knows” served to underscore a yearning for a simpler time, but the downtempo nature of the rendition combined with Mering’s voice created an unsettling dissonance. “I’m a Futurist, but I’m also a nostalgic Futurist,” she told the Creative Independent in 2017. “I’m interested in extremely modern things and extremely old things, and seeing the relationship between them.”
At one point during the night, a man in the front row held up the face of his sister on FaceTime, and Mering laughed waving at the phone. “We’re already living in Blade Runner,” she said.
The two-song encore included “Generation Why” off Front Row Seat to Earth, and a solo performance of 2014’s “Bad Magic.” In the “Generation Why” video, Mering and others throw computer monitors down into a pit of concrete, and from their carcasses extract bloody hearts. “Going to see end of days. I’ve been hanging on my phone all day. And the fear goes away,” she sings. Later during “Bad Magic,” I quickly glanced around at the faces of the crowd. Everyone stood washed in a bluish light, staring up at Mering and her acoustic guitar. I saw no more phones. “Things just don’t stay the same,” she sang. “And I must find a new way.”
Jackie Cohen’s opening set was a series of guitar and sweetly harmonizing vocal duos. Cohen sings personal, Americana-style numbers tinged with a bit of irony.
Lydia Moran is a music and arts writer in Minneapolis.