Wistful and witchy, Weyes Blood hypnotizes audiences at 9:30 Club

Published March 25, 2023

Courtesy of Weyes Blood/Sub Pop

Weyes Blood’s “In Holy Flux Tour” came to D.C. on one particularly dreary and stormy February evening. The line to enter the 9:30 Club, full of Doc Marten-clad alt varieties shivering in the cold rain, snaked across the venue’s corner that night. 

Who exactly is the artist behind this funky moniker? Weyes Blood (pronounced “Wize Blood,” and not “Wheys Blood,” as I discovered embarrassingly recently—I swear I’m not a fake fan) is American singer-songwriter Natalie Mering’s stage name. She released her latest album, And In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow, in November 2022. Mering’s style can best be described as some sort of amalgamation of chamber pop, folk music, and soft rock. Her work—though not overtly religious—has a significant church music influence due to her Pentecostal upbringing. The content of Mering’s work is secular, touching upon topics of romantic disappointment, loneliness, and yearning. She conveys her message through a grand, sonically sweeping, soulful aesthetic that transports the listener into a cavernous cathedral. 

Inside the venue, the dimly lit atmosphere is laced with thick vapor from the smoke machines. The opener, Molly Lewis, is delightfully eccentric and unique, complementing Mering’s style well. Lewis doesn’t sing in the traditional sense. Instead, she whistles her melodies, delivering impressively high and clear tunes with what one can only imagine to require incredibly formidable lung capacity. Soft bongo and guitar rhythms as well as background vocalizations weave in between Lewis’ light and airy warbling to form a relaxing soundscape. The songs have gently rocking and groovy rhythms that transport the listener to a tropical island or a carefree summer afternoon. Highlights include: the romantic “Balcony for Two,” with its vaguely salsa-esque rhythms and call and response between whistling and instrumentation; “Dolphinese,” which invites the audience to imagine a conversation conducted in dolphin echolocation; and “Miracle Fruit,” a soothing interplay between percussion rhythms, maracas, and wavering whistles. Lewis’ presence adds an exciting and unconventional sense of novelty to the evening. Judging by the audience’s enthralled reaction, many concertgoers may have found themselves fans after her performance. 

As the stage crew prepares for Weyes Blood’s entrance, the atmosphere takes on a more occult mood. Flickering chandeliers (electric, for fire safety reasons, of course) dot the stage and the rolling mist reflects soft blue and red light. Mering sweeps onto the stage, clad in an airy white dress with fluttering sleeves. 

The setlist features a healthy mixture of new and old songs. Mering starts off with “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody,” the lead single from her new album. “Sitting at this party / Wondering if anyone knows me,” she sings, touching upon a relatable sense of isolation, especially in a post-pandemic world. With this, she sets a theme for the night: exploring the peaks and valleys of the human experience. 

Mering is a mesmerizing performer. Watching her is like observing a nymph lightheartedly frolicking in her natural habitat. Mering appears to float or glide, not walk, across the stage in her flowing white gown, occasionally breaking out in a carefree twirl or spontaneous dance. At one point, she flings a bouquet of white roses into the audience, prompting hysterical shrieks from the mass of adoring fans waving their eager arms in the air. Her long lucious brown locks tumble down her shoulders and back in a sweeping motion—perhaps in another life Mering would have been a shampoo advertisement model. (“Pantene, I think?” was her response when someone in the crowd asked her what brand of hair products she uses.)

Mering also performs “Andromeda,” one of her most popular songs off of her album Titanic Rising (2019). The audience is pregnant with emotion, singing along to the soulful melody with waving arms. Hearing “Andromeda” live is absolutely breathtaking (I may be slightly biased because this is my number one most played song on Spotify, but I digress). Mering wraps up the experience of indescribable yearning and incredible vulnerability in a beautiful, reverb-y package. With lyrics like “Andromeda’s a big, wide open galaxy / Nothing in it for me except a heart that’s lazy,” and “Treat me right / I’m still a good man’s daughter,” Mering captures the experience of looking into the vast night sky and pondering existential questions such as if love is real and if we truly are alone in the universe. 

Perhaps the most evocative number is “Movies,” also from Titanic Rising. Rapidly arpeggiated synth rhythms underlay Mering’s vocals, which are as viscous as honey on this track, creating a dramatic buildup that explodes into a grand climax with sweeping strings and vocalizations. In this song, Mering sings about wanting to be the star of her own movie, seeking glory and meaning in life. It’s a recognizable sentiment—wanting to be known and seen by someone, anyone, in what feels like a terribly large and apathetic world. Mering somehow extracts this highly specific cocktail of neurotransmitters straight from the listener’s brain and spins it into auditory gold, raw emotion spilling out of her vocals and percolating in the atmosphere. 

Hearing the music live accentuates certain aspects of some songs that listeners might not pick up from a digital recording; “Twin Flame” is one example. As someone who has listened to Mering’s discography extensively, I had never considered this song a standout prior to hearing it in concert. In the resonant space of the 9:30 Club, though, I find myself savoring the groovy percussion and waltzy rhythms of the song, letting the lyrics take more of a backseat. The fast tempo and strong pulse, along with the funky drum beats, are especially highlighted live—I’m struck by the urge to dance and twirl in circles. Judging by the bobbing and swaying of other audience members, I’m not alone. 

An unexpected word that comes to mind when experiencing Mering’s performance in all of its manifest glory is “rococo”—Mering marries soul-wrenching lyricism and melodies with upbeat percussion and dancing in an ornamental fashion reminiscent of the eighteenth-century art movement. She effuses whimsy and drama as she saunters across the stage. The cover art for And In the Darkness, Hearts Aglow definitely fits the rococo bill, featuring a softly lit portrait of Mering in blue and red undertones. Her cascading hair and ruffled dress suggest motion inspired by a billowing breeze. Her work is decidedly melancholy, but not in a way that is too heavy and depressing. Mering somehow presents weighty subject material in a light and airy, almost nonchalant fashion. This artful merging of light and dark, sorrow and joy, is exactly what gives Weyes Blood’s discography its intoxicating allure. 

A Weyes Blood performance is an orgasmic, soul-tearing, religious audiovisual treat. I would wait several lifetimes in the miserable DC winter rain to relive that night’s happenings. 

Christine Ji
Christine is a senior in the MSB majoring in Finance and minoring in History. She harbors unhinged opinions on goldfish, Garfield, and The Strokes.

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