I am pretty excited about the Pacific Northwest Invasion (take 2) that is happening this weekend, with the show I am presenting Friday night at Moe’s in Denver (win tickets below!), and then the super-rad intimate Fuel/Friends House Show on Saturday night. All the bands playing are amazing. But I am holding a special reserve of anticipation and trembling for the power that I know comes with Kelli Schaefer.
Kelli opened my very first house show I held, back in November. I have not seen anyone like her. The way she can transfix a room with her somber, strong songs is astounding and when she lets her rock howl loose, hairs stand up on end. Back in November, I recognized the vibe in that room when she played to Jeff Buckley and the Grace album – the bluesy guitar sang and wept while Kelli punctured each song through with startlingly dramatic imagery and beautifully conflicted lyrics. I think we all felt something special crackling in that voice.
She is coming back through here on her tour down to SXSW in support of her masterpiece new album The Ghost of The Beast. I had a really difficult time picking which track to feature from the album, because it is so varied that no single song is representative of Kelli. But this is the song I immediately listened to the most, a benediction of the steadfastness of love and the quiet joy found in holding up others even when our arms are shaking. Listen to that scritchy-scratch opening loop; this song also showcases the intricate ambient noises that Kelli works throughout her music, like you are digging them out from the sounds of the day.
And when she sings here that there is nothing we have done that has been wasted, I believe her.
Gone In Love – Kelli Schaefer
Similar to the organic growth of Drew Grow (who produced the record), Kelli’s full-length comes from collecting a series of singles that she has released in Portland over the last year through the Amigo/Amiga label.
It’s a scavenger approach which yields a surprisingly cohesive album here, but one that defies classification nonetheless. There are times the record feels like waking from a dense sleep (on songs like “Trinkets,” layering through ambient noise), as if Kelli is somewhere singing through dark cotton and vintage microphones. Other songs layer her vocals into an enchanting siren choir (“Home”), or let loose with riffs that would make Led Zeppelin turn an ear. Kelli sings honestly about something called “The Fury,” which one could imagine is an artistic inferno, or the struggles we have within — or something else entirely. In one of my favorite lyrics on the album, she sings:
God would you send me somebody
who understand the fury
who understands the fury well?
He’s gonna have to be a fighter
gonna have to know the story
strong enough to tell it to me when I’ve lost my head
when I’ve lost my head
The way she sings it (that last line, especially) gives me chills every time. This is a woman who seems to see inside of me in a way that not many female artists do.
My other favorite is found in the gothic sonic layers of the title track, “The Ghost of The Beast.” Listen below; it’s sharper and shows some of Kelli’s punkier chops. I’ve spent repeated listens trying to figure out what that sound that starts the song is, and I finally just learned it is Drew Grow scraping a shovel across the ground, and looping the noise. It is disconcerting and perfect.
I contributed to her successful Kickstarter campaign, and earlier this week the album arrived on vinyl. The cover art features a ribcage cut delicately out of paper – protective but delicate, able to be torn. If you come and see her this weekend in Colorado, or buy the album and listen with headphones, I guarantee you will be transfixed.
I have two pairs of tickets to give away to see Kelli Schaefer tomorrow night (Friday) at Moe’s in Denver, next door to the Gothic. She is opening for The Head and The Heart & The Moondoggies (all of whom will be playing my house show Saturday night!). It is going to be a tremendous show. Please email me if you would like to be entered for a pair. Come early – Kelli is on first Friday, around 8pm, and you do not want to miss her.
[top image credit Charity Burggraaf]