Zola Jesus, LA Vampires, Xanopticon
October 31, 2011
Better than... Seeing MC 900 Ft. Jesus on Columbus Day.
Gotta admit, perhaps the greatest evidence of Nika Danilova's lording over goth-indie minions is that all jokes about a Halloween performance feel just too easy. Full of grand gestures, costumery, cathedral-filling reverb and nonsensical but portentous album titles, the music she performs as Zola Jesus often feels laser-guided to the highest percentile of folks likely to rock a cape in the middle of April, let alone as part of some meticulously planned outfit to get laid on the one night where that shit might fly.Nonetheless, the Echoplex slowly swelled to near capacity with young Eastsiders looking for something a little freakier and sexier, but still somewhat safe from their Halloween, and they couldn't find themselves in a more fitting setting than what amounted to a homecoming show -- Danilova joked, "some of you might be my neighbors," a nod to her recently decamping the more forbidding environs of Madison, Wisconsin.
She was preceded by Xanopticon and LA Vampires, neighbors in both the geographic and musical sense, the latter of which split a harsh but intriguing EP with Zola Jesus in 2010. Featuring Amanda Brown, former bandmate of Bethany Cosentino in Pocahaunted, LA Vampires deserve some sort of commendation for overcoming a heavy "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" vibe and an almost too trendy set-up -- lots of loops, lo-fi dance keyboards, a singer rendered completely unintelligible vis a vis a heavily reverbed vocalist -- to generate a kinetic and very hypnotic take on house music that fits rights into the Not Not Fun aesthetic.
The best track happened to feature Danilova. Soon thereafter, Danilova emerged after the swirling intro of "Swords" in angelic white contrasting with the pro forma leather jackets of her rock dude backing band.
During the band's 50-minute performance, they leaned heavily on her latest record Conatus, which I describe in the most loving way possible as what might've happened had Tori Amos mostly forgotten how to speak English sometime around the making of To Venus And Back. But as compelling of a figure as Danilova strikes, Zola Jesus' live performance is something of an extension of Conatus in that they're still sorting out how to translate to a bigger stage both literally and figuratively.