A little over a year ago was the first time I was to see Zola Jesus. Performing at Free Press Fest, she sounded great, but her placement at 2:00 in the afternoon, in broad daylight, with no ability to use her stage show, lights, etc., caused the set to be one great missed chance, at least in terms of visual appeal. Last night at Gasa Gasa, however, was very very different.
By the time minimalist electronic producer John Wiese has exited the stage, the beautifully eclectic bar and crowd at Gasa had filled to a more considerable amount of people. We weren’t left wanting more. Opening with “Veka” off her spectacular new album Okovi, with the stage darkened, Zola hunched in a very small ball in the center of the stage, full of mystic potential and otherworldly darkness. From the very beginning, Zola and her minimal set-up of a violinist and synth/guitar player made the most of what they had. Adding soundscapes is what this band does best, and the weapon is a powerful one. A few songs in, Zola mentioned that she was getting over a cold, so she couldn’t perform her full set as planned. But had she not mentioned being sick, you would never have noticed. Her voice seemed as pure in this setting as it does on every album she’s crafted over the years.
As the show methodically unraveled, the atmosphere only got more dark, sinister, and industrially driven. Also, the stage projections used weren’t over-the-top, but added another layer to be mesmerized by. It was one of the better shows I’ve seen in a while, and I highly suggest going if you get the chance. Her ending the show with “Exhumed,” which comes near the start of the recent album, was an unexpected surprise and only added to the overall intensity of the evening. By this point, she had rocked out harder than most aggressive musical acts, had come into the crowd to be surrounded by fans, and had shown her levity and her love for our Crescent City. All in all, the show was exceptional, and it made me become an even bigger fan than I already was. Simply a great, awe-inspiring moment for everyone who made it out on a dreary Wednesday night.
Photos by Steve Hatley