There was time before, and there was time after. In between, we stopped and stood and waited together, shrouded in darkness and blinded by burning light, where there was no time. We heard chords through speakers and soft guitar as the barest support for a voice that needed none.
I’m supposed to be writing about Waxahatchee. They were wonderful. They played very good power pop. I was pleasantly surprised about this. But something happened before they played and I think they knew. I think they planned it this way.
Time is perhaps the most important element in Weyes Blood’s music. Where most performers are satisified working within the constraints of popular song and having a beat that drives and defines their music, Natalie Mering prefers to create textures that exist outside of time: sustained chords and steady arpeggios, pulses without emphasis, a sound that sweeps forward like spinners on the highway, the illusion of motion disguising an entirely different type of motion.
When she arrives on stage, she comes with a disarming demeanor, bashful, as if she wishes the audience would turn around, so she could sing from behind them towards a common goal. She’ll say, perhaps, “This is a new song,” and then turn to push a button that starts a track playing and carefully pull the microphone from its perch and start pacing back and forth and then all of a sudden you’re hearing distilled dark sunshine, the contours of a melody that could not have been more fitting had it been crafted by Duke Ellington or Palestrina or Morrissey, a voice that could soothe the devil and sell him a T-shirt afterwards.
Her set was impeccable. There wasn’t a note out of place. She did a cover of “Everybody’s Talkin’” that was very slow and very gorgeous, just like this version from earlier this year.
She kept us in a collective trance. She could have commanded us to do anything and we would have done it. She commanded us to tell her what to eat in Nashville other than hot chicken. I forgot all of this when I met her.
I was a bit stupid, maybe, thinking I could approach her like I was someone important. I never know how to talk to people, especially people who are exceptionally good at something that makes my heart flutter and my mind churn, and I never feel important, so I end up with a lot of sad half-conversations where I mumble and the other person has to keep asking me to speak up and then I do and a Very Dumb Thing comes out of my mouth, or non-conversations where I pace or sit on my hands and struggle internally with the desire to connect and finally give up and leave unfulfilled. This isn’t about celebrity, or at least not only celebrity. But it was at that moment.
There was no crowd at the merchandise table, where Natalie stood sipping a drink. I approached. Approaching is fairly easy. I didn’t feel important, but I suppressed it and also the feeling that I was bothering her.
“Miss Blood?” I said, with all the charm of a doorknob.
She turned to me and smiled a very warm smile, and humored me graciously while I went on about how I’d never heard her music before and I was blown away by her performance, and did she study classical music at all, because I really heard that in all the excellent voice-leading and counterpoint and then I asked if we could talk sometime, if I could get an interview? and she said yes, and we went back and forth a bit about how she was going to get my email address, and she ended up putting hers into my phone, and wishing me a good night, and I’m a bit shocked that this all happened, because it means the world works a lot differently than I’ve expected it to for thirty-five years, and maybe I shouldn’t be worried about paying someone a compliment and asking if they’d like me to promote them some.
We hung in that sliver of a moment, while Kat tried to find someone to buy a Try the Pie record from, and then Natalie packed up her boxes and said good night, and we coasted out into the Tennessee night to our cars to our homes, while Weyes Blood struck out to find some karaoke or a good bite to eat in this godforsaken town.