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  • Andrey Psyche

Three local acts play a haunting show on Halloween weekend

Dravus House performs at The Sunset Tavern. // Photo by Doug Indrick

The weekend before Halloween was filled with amazing shows, but there was one that particularly stood out. On Sunday the 28th, The Sunset Tavern hosted an incredible set: Alex Horning opened the night, Anna Gordon built up suspense, and Dravus House headlined.

The stage at The Sunset is located behind the bar area, almost like a secret passage into a member’s only club. “What’s the password?” I heard in my mind as I walked up to the man checking tickets in the back. As I entered, in an otherwise black room, the stage was illuminated with a few different colors: red, green, yellow, and in the center was a red chair screaming for attention. Other than that, only a couple acoustic guitars, an amp, and an electric guitar graced the stage. There was none of the usual visual clutter you find on stage, just a canvas onto which the painter would create a protruding focal point.

Alex Horning took the stage.

Horning picked up a dark brown acoustic guitar, plugged it in, and began to hop around the fretboard. He  established a melody with just three or four chords and brought in a second guitar section that added bouncy hammer-ons and intricate notes. The little bounce and the intermittent steps drew a portrait of a character always elbow deep in some sort of adventure — whether in the dry mountains of the Midwest underneath the night sky, gazing up into billions of saturated stars, or in an old western town, surrounded by dilapidated buildings and tumbleweeds.

With crispy vocals and a slow vibrato at the tail end of his vowels, Horning let his words spring forth. He accomplished a similar effect with the guitar, extracting every bit of its sound through slight note changes, making each tone stand tall and proud, even if just for one small moment.

Horning thanked the crowd, walked off stage and, after a short intermission, Anna Gordon took that center red chair and jumped right into her latest song, “Cancerian.”

The track starts out with a four-step picking pattern with slight variations which gives a very dreamy, folky feel to the song. The first lyrics came through a narrow opening between Gordon’s lips: “I am a fighter /  I’m in the ring / and I have always been / since the beginning.”

The song continues in a pattern that dives deeper and deeper into the “I am” statement. It starts out on a more personal level of what we can identify with — like being a fighter, a warrior, a wanderer — things that we must do in this world in order to remain sane but that also bring a sense of separation and disconnection. Then “Cancerian” goes to a perspective of “I am” that reaches divinity: a “creator,” a “sorceress,” the ocean, all things that give clues to the possibility of our presence in this world.

In between songs, Gordon discussed her constant battle with Lyme disease and how many of her songs reflect that. She gave us the ability to be able to feel just a sliver of her pain.

Her set only got better and better with each song. It was beautifully haunting. Every word and every concept that she shared had a hue of darkness that surrounded it, yet a message of hope laid buried underneath. You could feel her bleeding heart slash open bit by bit as each song progressed with its own narrative created through picking patterns, refined and emotive vocals, and alluring stories of pain, heartache, battles, and love. It is said that your branches will never reach the heights of heaven if your roots don’t ground themselves in hell, and Anna Gordon holds your hand while she takes you down the dark crevices of your heart that you are unwilling to visit on your own.

Next up, local duo Dravus House is comprised of Elena Loper — acoustic guitarist, writer, singer, and composer — and Cooper Stoulil, who plays the electric guitar in accompaniment.  Before any music was played, there was already a radiant energy hovering. Loper and Stoulil had smiles that lit up this dark room in seconds.

Loper approached the microphone in a yellow, floral, long sundress and began to praise the previous acts while Stoulil gently tuned his electric guitar.  And so it began. Two very skilled guitarists stood side by side with their guitars making a space in the middle (Loper is left-handed). It felt like the audience was in the middle of the whole performance.

Loper led the rhythm on her acoustic while Stoulil built on top with his bright tones. A gentle combination of instruments, their parts complemented one another and created a seamless sound that felt familiar and warm. As Loper sang, reaching tones that would melt butter in an instant, Stoulil would rock back and forth, moved by the music, with nothing but a smile of elation on his face.

The balance that Dravus House plays with feels like standing underneath the warm Spring sun and seeing a dark cloud come in to deprive you of the gentle warmth you have been waiting for all winter. The duo’s lyrics aren’t afraid to venture to past heartbreaks, unearthing traumas and your own darkness. Loper sings into the microphone as if trying to sooth it out of any troubles it may have seen. The dark cloud is both in front of the sun and nonexistent at the same time.

In between songs, Loper shared how music helps her say things that she doesn’t want to talk about. She also voiced her hopes for the betterment of ourselves, for the world, and for people to discover a more empathic way of life so that we can feel more connected to each other.

Each song fed into the next, littering the room in images of shooting stars, spoonfuls of galaxies, forest floors, dancing trees, and changing leaves, while maintaining underlying narratives of growth through pain, transformations, and loss.

I can hear Loper’s words rattle around in between my ears even now: “I can’t fix your broken.”

-written for Dans Tunes Seattle


© 2018 Andrey Psyche

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