Next up is Anastasija Svarevska, whose Memory of a Gig is a little more exotic than the rainy, freezing queue outside of the Hydro, but the rather notorious, celeb-studded Corner Hotel in Melbourne, Australia, in which Weyes Blood played a monumental set.
It’s March 2020: my repatriation flights from Australia back home to the good old European land are yet to reveal themselves. A girl I have met while travelling down the East Coast is visiting me in a city of daily, late-night gigs; Melbourne. I’m buzzing. I get to know a recently acquired friend better; we are about to indulge in a veggie Bahn Mi and a bowl of Pho, the size of both of our heads, at a Vietnamese pitstop and in my pocket, there is a ticket to the Weyes Blood concert starting in an hour.
I first found out about Natalie Laura Mering, a singer, songwriter, and musician from California, professionally known as Weyes Blood, from my ex-boyfriend. He advised me to listen to her newest 70s-like soft rock album, Titanic Rising, while on the train, claiming it to be the perfect staring-out-the-window accompaniment, which is precisely the kind of music that my Spotify playlist consists of. When she announced her Australian tour, I couldn’t resist the temptation to see her live. Borrowing Mering’s own words in one of her interviews, I was just “looking for nostalgia and a good time”, the former being the sentiment that the album evokes (and that I particularly enjoy indulging in) while the latter acting as an additional bonus.
So, it’s a Monday night, and Mering is performing at Corner Hotel. Having been licensed in 1871, Corner Hotel is one of the most celebrated live music venues in Melbourne, having hosted such big names as Mick Jagger, The White Stripes, Ben Harper, Crowded House and many others since the 1940s. I haven’t been to the place before, but as I walk down the streets of Richmond – a suburb that my local friend described as “rich and cultured and yet on the border of bedlam and squalor”, “having an edge”, “diverse” and “urban” – I realise I’m up for a good night. The description of the location as double-sided can also be applied to the album in question, but more on that later.
As soon as I enter the space, it immediately strikes me as the embodiment of the album’s name: it feels like I am on a sunken ship, underwater, in the darkness, with only some red lights appearing as if they are penetrating through water as I move across it. Palm Springs, a Melbourne alt-country band that joined Mering on support, have just finished a set. I stand in the corner and lean against the wall to avoid being carried away by the current, AKA the crowd (a decision I wouldn’t have made if I’d known how events would unfold).
Then, emerging on stage in a floating manner, in an elegant white suit that I wish I could pull off, Mering prophetically reminds me in her rich and pure alto that “a lot's gonna change in your lifetime,” which proves to be exactly the message that I need to hear. The breath-taking opening track, A Lot’s Gonna Change, instantly sets the scene and the double-natured tone of the record; in the face of the apocalypse, do we have some power to prevent it or are we completely powerless against forces of nature? The feeling of being underwater and holding my breath is amplified, as I catch myself relating to the lyrics, thinking that “If I could go back to a time before now/Before I ever fell down/Go back to a time when I was just a girl/When I had the whole world/Gently wrapped around me,” I, also, would do just that. The nostalgia for childhood, and the past in general, comes to the surface. However, Mering, claiming to be a very nostalgic person herself, reassures me: “You're gonna be just fine,” and “If your friends and family, sadly/Don’t stick around/You’re gonna get by.”
Casting a cosy blanket over me for a little while, she then brings me, as well as the crowd that I launched on this sentimental journey with, back to reality with Mirror Forever: “No one's ever gonna give you a trophy/For all the pain and the things you've been through”, and, later, with an intimate and heartfelt ballad to her friend who took their own life while she was making the album, Picture Me Better. This cruel modern reality – with personal issues such as losing our loved ones and mental health struggles, as well as more global issues like climate crisis – is exactly what Mering tackles throughout the record, whose title was inspired by the 1997 Cameron’s blockbuster. In an interview with New Musical Express, she admitted that she “drew the parallel between climate change and a disaster like the Titanic where, instead of crashing the iceberg, we’re melting them. And instead of sinking the ship, we’re sinking civilisation. And the people that are going to suffer the greatest are the third class of the world”. I find this statement to be particularly exemplary, and also extremely relevant, since the message that most people get from the film is that it is about eternal love rather than class division. Maybe it is time we shift our focus slightly?
As it happens, Mering’s songs are supposed to be a wake-up call that taps into the collective subconscious – represented by the recurring imagery of water and space, as to the artist herself - despite some share of optimism and her soothing voice. Indeed, we are navigating in a world where “There's no books anymore”, “The meaning of life doesn't seem to shine like that screen", “Love’s not easy”, “We all want something new/But it can't seem to follow through,” and we do have “A lot of things to clear away” and “A lot of years of bad love to make okay.” It is a tough world to navigate, and it seems like we might be losing control. Just as Mering, who I fell in love with by this point of the gig, ponders in Wild Time, a song that she chooses to finish the performance with, “I'm wondering how we ever got here/With no fear, we'd fall.” However, she advises me and all other sentimental souls: “Don't cry, it's a wild time to be alive.”
No related posts found!