If you go to shows for dramatic and powerful performances, last night was the perfect evening for you. Three musical acts shared a bill at the Lodge Room – it was the first time I was going back to the venue since the pandemic – and all of them made ferocious and strong impressions which culminated with King Woman’s powerful performance.
A band named Divine – a moniker totally appropriate for the night considering all this hell and after-life talk – opened the night with a frontman wearing a Joker-like mask. They started mellow with a morose tone but, at the second song, they were in punk mode, with hard-hitting drums, fast and distorted guitars, angry screams/rants, and a saxophone in the mix. They had slowed-down tempos and long introductions with cymbals and sax, but overall, there was a lot of anger, distortion, and energy, contrasting with their last song: it ended with a looping melody beautifully sung by a vocalist that mysteriously appeared on stage.
Spare Parts for Broken Hearts were as heavy as I remembered; right away, they produced an explosive sound dominated by Sarah Green’s puissant howl soaring above the loudness. Their set was a muscular demonstration, the kind of thing that doesn’t give you any other choice than to become a believer at the first riff because it pushes the ceiling five feet higher and rearranges the painting on the walls. The trio gave a 20-minute high-energy performance of heavy rock with a grungy flavor and looming darkness, fitting the tone of the night. They propelled the crowd to heaven with distorted guitar riffs, melodic hooks, forceful drumming, thunderous bass lines, and especially Green’s intense, but emotional wail. The reception was almost overwhelming for the band after such a long absence from the stage because of the pandemic, and the emotion translated the sincerity that has always come from their music.
King Woman installed her loop pedals on the floor of the venue, and the security made room for her in the middle of the crowd. To my surprise, she sang her entire set among people, running in circles in the small space made for her, but this made her performance even more powerful. She started with the songs from her new album ‘Celestial Blues,’ taking a mournful tone, while the melancholic force of her vocals often elevated to a doom wail.
King Woman is Kristina Esfandiari, who has made music under several different names (Miserable, NGHTCRWLR, Dalmatian) and King Woman is her last project but also her most deeply personal one, mixing the aesthetics of goth with profound despair and doom metal riffs.
Doom metal is not really about melodies, it’s all about atmosphere, and an icy and hopeless one was looming during the entire set that she played in almost complete darkness. Meanwhile, we could barely see the musicians, still playing on stage but hidden behind a curtain of smog. Esfandiari was moving inside the circle made by the crowd, singing with a lugubrious and hurt tone, raising hell many times with ferocious energy, sometimes aggressively bumping into the crowd, while the music was driven by the sparse pounding of the drums and a gloomy, throbbing pace. It was all about hurt and pain, ‘Walking in skin, I’ve got celestial blues/Looking for a home, oh, it just doesn’t exist/Festering wound you know I never could fix,’ she lamented in ‘Celestial Blues’… ‘I could drain my blood but it’s not enough/Sacrifice my life for everything you’ve done,’ she continued in ‘Golgotha.’ The circle of people around the improvised stage was listening as if it was a religious experience, at the exception of the occasional and unexpected bursts of energy. During ‘Boghz,’ her angry power-yells, were alternating with her mournful laments, and a guy from the crowd suddenly erupted to start a mosh pit that never really concretized, but contained violence was present all set long. ‘Golgotha’ had a mystic vibe, an ancient lament from beyond the grave, transcending times and the gravitas was accentuated when she mentioned that her manager had recently died, and she wanted to help her make the transition to the afterlife. Without a doubt, this was the theme of the entire night: heaven, hell, and everything biblical in between, involving trauma, suffering, and struggle. The entire album ‘Celestial Blues’ actually uses ‘the Biblical allegory of Lucifer as a framing device for songs about her own harrowing personal metamorphosis. Esfandiari is depicted on the album’s cover as the fallen angel, showing her dorsal wounds and holding a smoldering cigarette with a leather glove. She even declaratively sings, ‘My name is Lucifer’ on ‘Morning Star.’’ Dorsal wounds of a fallen angel on the album cover? Lucifer/Morning Star? Could she be watching the same Netflix show as I am?
In any case, her performance was fierce, almost savage at times, and bathed in a dark red light, she performed ‘Burn’ with aggression, confronting people in the crowd with an untamed attitude. The other songs alternated between mournful despair (‘Paradise Lost’), intense bloody screams coming out of her chest like repetitive heart stabbings, as if she wanted to exorcise her own demons (‘Psychic Wound’), and bangers executed with an intense fury (‘Coil). King Woman’s show was made to be a visceral experience from start to finish. With the help of the soaring sludgy music, the repetitive grooves exploding into crescendo cacophonies, Esfandiari was building a real tension while her voice remained clear, powerful, and forefront all the time. She closed her set with ‘Morning Star,’ a haunting anthem screamed by the crowd for an epic ending. ‘I was luminous/My name is Lucifer,’ she sang, while a few glimpses of strobe lights filtered through the darkness. Lucifer may be a fallen angel but he was the shining one, the light-bearer, and the brightest of all.
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