words by Patty Riek
photos by Jon Bauer
For the San Francisco stop of Weyes Blood’s IN HOLY FLUX TOUR: UNLEASHED, Natalie Mering strolled onto the Warfield’s warmly lit stage wearing a long, flowing white dress on Wednesday, September 27, 2023. Throughout the night, the dress was a cape, for twirling around, a veil, a canvas for Mering’s literal heart aglow, and finally a screen for the songs “Movies.”
Often, the stage was dimly lit and Mering was back lit from the floor highlighting her silhouetted body. Weyes Blood opened with “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody” from the 2022 And in the Darkness, Hearts Aglow album. After playing acoustic guitar awash in red light, for “Children of the Empire,” Mering began a series of conversations with the audience that continued the rest of the evening. Mering noted that the Warfield “is full of ghosts – special tie dyed ghosts” – a motif for the night.
She then asked if anyone had been at her previous shows: most recently, the Regency Ballroom in March 2023 and the Independent in May 2019. Many were. She proceeded to play a number of “songs from [her] past” including “Dairy” from Front Row Seat to Earth and “Andromeda” from Titanic Rising later in the set.
Song changes found the stage lights off, letting the four candelabras cast an eerie glow on the stage suggestive of seance – moving from the present to the past and back again.
On a literal travel note, Mering explained that “Grapevine” was written on the infamous drive from LA to SF. Admitting the song just “doesn’t translate for people not from California” made identified Californians feel a special part of her fan base.
Uberfans brought DVDs to the show, and Merling invited them to toss them on stage (asking folks to watch out for the band’s faces). At a few points, she shared the titles and was delighted by the “unprecedented” number offered to her. Someone brought Escape from Alcatraz which elicited the story that a young Natalie had a sweatshirt that read “Alcatraz swim team.” Mering admitted that she didn’t understand the implications at the time.
After explaining the band spend part of the afternoon in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood, Mering connected to her personal history, by noting that her parents were “tie-dye for Jesus.” One through line of the show was the connection of the past (ghosts – personal and spacial, personal history, songs) to the present.
As she sang in “Twin Flame,” we “more than our disguises” and more than merely our past. As the tour name suggests – so many things, including ourselves are in flux. Weyes Blood brought the fluidity, the inconstancy, and the evolution of all aspects of life to the foreground for examination. What is holy? What is constant? The show was a fun exploration of heady topics with a light touch: metaphysical and twirling all at once.
The Weyes Blood touring band: Jay Rudolph, Walt McClements, Allee Futterer, and Dillon Casey added the sonic roundness to Mering soothing, soaring vocals.
Opening, Lael Neale, playing with Guy Blakeslee started with organ and synth sounds juxtaposed in “Every Star Shivers in the Dark.” Neale and Blakeslee swapped out keys and guitar for her 45 minute set. In “I am the River” Neale sings, “I have my sadness and that is sacred” which offered a thematic segue for Weyes’ Blood. Neale’s 2023 release “In Verona” showcased her lyrical and vocal strengths.