from Alex Heisey, host of AshevilleFM’s “There are no stars, only a Skyline” (Tuesday 12 midnight to 2 am)
There’s a special kind of intimacy at smaller shows. The shows where you look around, and there’s only a handful of people, but everyone’s lips are moving in synchronistic fashion. You’re part of an exclusive club, and as Nick Cave said years ago, to a small crowd of us at a festival set, “you’re the cream of the crop.”
Marching Church at the Mothlight this past week was one of those shows.
I began the evening speaking with Elias Rønnenfelt in the green room. The conversation grew especially compelling when he brought up seeing vast fields of refugees guarded by barb wire, during their European tour. He talked about the shift in perspective that occurs after seeing those sights in person. That before, it was ignorable, and now, he had to incorporate those feelings and ideas into his writing and music. If you listen to lyrics on this latest album, they are not all politically charged, but they are definitely present.
The next part of my evening was spent watching Bernardino Femminielli, an artist from Montreal. His latest album, Plaisirs Américains came out last year. As he took the stage, deep italo-disco engulfed the air, and the spirit of Patrick Cowley was alive and well. When he began to theatrically remove his clothing, two types of audience members developed. There were those that jumped headfirst into cabaret debauchery and those that avoided eye-contact at all costs – both were equally amusing. I was expecting someone different to open, but in hindsight it made perfect sense. Bernardino represents many qualities that Elias expresses through his lyrics: indulgence, sexual allure, and a sense of tragedy.
When Marching Church took the stage there was only a handful of people in the entire venue. I was surprised. I thought because of the Iceage’s notoriety there would have been an increased turnout. However, I soon stopped paying attention to anyone else and solely focused on the band.
It is obvious why people compare Elias to Nick Cave. They both posses an animalistic intensity on stage, and while I listened to him howl on the mic, I couldn’t help but be reminded. His entire body writhes and lurches as he sings as if he’s physically experiencing the weight of each lyric. His performance was of stark contrast to the rest of his bandmates. While he moved with the theatrical intensity of Shakespeare, they were quite stoic. They didn’t lack energy in their playing, but simply did not exude it in the same external manner. It was a dichotomy that further cemented his status as a frontman.
As each song came to a close, I thought about how there is a beauty in the applause of a small number of people. Everyone in the Mothlight, especially the people in the front, singing along, hanging on to each individual phrase, felt the necessity of matching the energy that the band provided. Every clap resonates louder, because everyone is trying to show support in the only way they know how to. It reminded me what I love about live music – the shared connection of people who are unknown to each other. I’m glad I was part of it.
For more information about upcoming shows at The Mothlight – www.themothlight.com
For more information about “There are no stars, only a Skyline” – http://www.ashevillefm.org/there-are-no-stars-only-a-skyline