Ministry and Chelsea Wolfe play the Wilma Tue., Apr. 3, at 7:30 PM. $40.50/$37.50 advance. All ages.
Permit me some nostalgia for a moment. I came of age during the 1980s — the Reagan era — in a blur of acid, Aqua Net and androgyny. I was what was known as a “fag hag,” since I hung out primarily with queer boys. My 1986 Michigan State University dorm room was filled with collages from The Face magazine, posters of Siouxsie and the Cure, and vinyl. The routine was to stay up till 4 a.m., sleep till 5 p.m. and listen to records while prepping my layers of white makeup, white powder and black clothing. I had friends who dyed their hair so often gel was the only thing keeping it from snapping off. I was goth. Not carry-a-pet-rat, draw-a-web-on-my-face goth, but definitely into darksiders who smoked cloves on the dance floor while dramatically gliding around to Ministry.
The cover of Ministry’s 1983 album With Sympathy shows a woman’s manicured hand casting red roses onto a marble slab. The best part of listening to albums versus shuffling Spotify (or whatever you kids do) is in knowing a band’s non-hits. And trust me: I know all the songs on that album. A favorite was “Effigy,” the dark synthy-ness of it swirling like matmos under Barbarella’s black queen while vaguely British vocals pronounce, “I’m not an effigy.” My citified roommate said her high school friends had transmuted the lyrics as “I’m not a F.A.G.” which we thought was hilarious because really, no one cared if you were — please pass the Purple Passion ’cause “(Every Day is) Halloween.”
On first hearing “Stigmata” (from 1988’s The Land of Rape and Honey), I found the new sound of Ministry not unpleasant. I had expanded my listening to Throbbing Gristle, Test Dept and Foetus, dredging RE/Search publications for extreme artists. I sought out terrible stories about terrible people. I had lived in Chicago and San Francisco by the time “Jesus Built My Hotrod” started ding-donging cash registers. MTV was a joke, and so was most industrial music, with Wax Trax! Records dismissively labelled “Wank Trax” by people who wanted nothing more than solid punishment when they went to a show.
Now it’s far in the future and Allen Jourgensen, aka Buck Satan, aka Uncle Al, has only recently pierced and tattooed himself enough to obliterate the effigy he once wasn’t. The almost sexagenarian is billed as the godfather of industrial music, I guess because the long list of other godparents got lost. Part iconoclasm, part poli-shtick, Ministry’s current tour press promises “giant inflatable Trump chickens” and Antifa-style performance art. But before Al schools us on fascism for the price of a couple hours off your life, I have one consideration for you: Chelsea Wolfe is opening for Ministry and she’s the real reason I would creep through that crowd.
While her music has been variously classified as experimental, folk and doom metal, she is one of the best contemporary representations of the genre formerly known as Goth. Not cyber or nu-goth, but the good old-fashioned Tennysonian stuff. Her latest album Hiss Spun captures the deep-woods influence of Townes Van Zandt and goth-father Nick Cave without coming off as too pretty or trite.
When I first learned of the tour matchup with Ministry, I assumed Wolfe looked upon it not unlike hanging with some drug casualty uncles she bore faint resemblance to but had surpassed. That brings me to my point about Ministry: To deviate for the sake of deviance is not deviant at all. Let your goth flag trail behind you in the dirt.