For all the collars I wear, I have a deep-seated attraction towards girls of the “Goth” persuasion. Tattoos, piercings, black leather: it all calls to me in alluring fashions. The same goes for the music of the culture. Repeatedly, I find myself loving a song, only to discover with a furrowed brow it’s labeled as “Goth”. As we continue the Pitch to Fit series, I’m constantly challenged to see these artists in new ways. They go from mp3 files in my collection, to real live people we’ll be seeing and dancing with in a short time. And when I begin to realize that I’ll be seeing Zola Jesus; the subject of my very favorite video of 2010, and my second favorite song of the same year, I get excited. In some dirty ways, yes, but mostly because she’s a haunting live performer.
I’m sure some things will be lost in the light of day -the deep dark that her music resonates best in might cede some in that respect- but her ability to cast a mood is so strong, any crowd she plays to suddenly falls hush-ed, and simply sways in reverence. As a child, Nika Roza Danilova remembers bumping into the severed animal heads her father would bring home after hunts.
“My dad was a hunter so there would constantly be animal parts all over the place. He’d be out in the forest and bring back deer heads hoping that animals would eat the flesh and leave a skull. But it wouldn’t happen.”
Raised in the Wisconsin forests brought a stark worldview to Danilova. Between the extreme cold, and the lack of luxury goods like store-bought milk, it’s understandable that much of her song material revolves around a need and a want to experience more, welcoming emotions of all kinds to come and find her. I’d like to leave the “Goth” term behind and cast Zola Jesus in a way that you’ll begin to see her as simply beginning from a place of lack, with the expectation of returning to it. Compared to other aspects of life, this could easily be seen as a darkness.
When the time comes, the Russian American singer/songwriter will spread a welcome shadow over Union Park.
Pitch to Fit is a series highlighting the acts performing at 2011′s Pitchfork Music Festival. For more information visit pitchforkmusicfestival.com