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Concert Review:In the midst of a pandemic, Blackwater Holylight dazzles the crowd in Highland Park.

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

Just as everything around the country began to shut down on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, the 5-piece band played a remarkable set at the Lodge Room. Unbeknownst to most people in the crowd, it ends up being one of the final shows to be seen in Southern California, for the time being.


If you've never heard of the band, you've most likely been living under a rock or on the moon. Bassist-vocalist Allison "Sunny" Faris, guitarists Laura Hopkins and Mikayla Mayhew, drummer Eliese Dorsay and synth player Sarah McKenna have collectively been making waves throughout the music world as Blackwater Holylight since 2018. Giving out some heavy Black Sabbath vibes mixed with a little bit of Warpaint, the group blends a mixture of ominous and wavy tones together that'll rattle your whole existence.

Hailing from Portland Oregon, the band came out with a bang with the release of their self-titled LP on RidingEasy Records. Soon after they became recognized as one of the heaviest bands from the area, organically building a huge fan base. However, it wasn't something the band aimed for from the beginning.

Before the band graced the stage of the Lodge Room, I sat down with guitarist Laura Hopkins to discuss life in a band and other topics.

All five members are into completely different types of music genres, "it ends up as this

cluster-fuck of great sounds" says Laura. "It happened just by getting louder and expressing what we were going through. All of our songs are based on our personal experiences. It was never my intention to be a heavy band, but it became that way."

Their quick rise to notoriety has allowed them to travel abroad and play festivals such as LA's Psycho Smokeout, Desertfest in Berlin, Levitation in Austin and Desert Daze. Playing Desert Daze for the first time was definitely a "surreal experience" for the band. Sean Lennon of The Lennon Claypool Delirium discovered them during the festival and walked away with a new favorite band.

Hopkins speaks more on the experience — "that festival was so much fun. It was so cool to see Wu-Tang, The Black Angels and Animal Collective. Parts of my life all came together and we got to be a part of that." A lineup that also included the likes of Devo, Viagra Boys, The Flaming Lips and so many more, it was almost unbelievable. The guitarist also mentioned how cool it was to "go run in the lake and go swimming."It doesn't get any better than that.

2019 also saw the band release their second record through RidingEasy Records titled Veils of Winter. It was widely acclaimed by many and regarded as one of the best releases of the year. The fun didn't stop there. The group also released the short-horror themed music video for their song "Sunrise", which was filmed by Mt. Hood and at their favorite local bar in Portland called 'Sandy Hut'.

It is truly is a psychedelic roller coaster. The horror elements are just the icing on the cake. According to Laura, "Our friend Claude from Oakland directed it. It was his idea really. He's into slasher flicks and makes short films. We went out to the snow on Valentine's Day and he told us all what to do."

If you've never seen the video, it's basically Laura Hopkins going around and killing off the rest of the band members one by one in sinister fashion. "Claude pointed at me and said I was going to kill everyone" Laura laughs. "It was a real fun experience because we were all laughing the whole time."

As far as 2020, the band embarked on their first headlining tour.

With only 3 dates to go after their debut at the Lodge Room, Laura had this to say about the experience thus far; "It's been amazing. We sold out our shows in Seattle and Portland. Our show last night in San Diego was so much fun. It was like a sweat house. Everyone was getting down, having fun. It was really cool."

When asked if there was more pressure headlining a show as opposed to opening, "it's

definitely a different situation. Like as the opening act you're part of the community of the night. With a headlining tour, you have more to express. There's more time to express it. You can get your intentions across in a different way than you would opening the show." Cheers to that, these girls know how to slay stages with sheer expression.

We live in an era where all female bands are becoming a norm. The people, including myself, absolutely love it. This new norm continues to bring out some amazing bands and artists that may have never seen the light of day a few decades ago when the indie community was male-dominated, to a larger extent. However, I'm sure it's not an easy thing for many people out there to swallow outside our progressive bubble.

Speaking from a reality I've witnessed, there are people who get discouraged from listening or wanting to go watch a band that has a female, let alone 5 of them. Ignorant, I know, but nonetheless it's interesting to contemplate. Why miss out on a whole new world?

"I think it would be weird if someone did that" Hopkins responds. "I can't really fathom that, but I kind of live in a green bubble where that idea doesn't seem real. There's so many women that don't even think about that. If someone felt like they couldn't see us, they would be missing out on such an incredible experience. We speak from our truth, we're very honest. If they were to walk away, maybe they have some inner work they need to do."

Enough said.

During these unprecedented and uncertain times, we must all turn to something we love to ease our minds.

Music stands as a common remedy and Blackwater Holylight is a perfect option for all music fans out there. Not only are they humble, but they kick ass. Just from talking to Laura Hopkins, I can tell they're well respected in the community. They don't think that they're better than anyone else and sure as hell don't ask for special treatment due to being ladies.

In the words of Laura, to all young women out there wanting to make music but may be afraid to take the next step, "I would advise them to start their own project, to lead a band. Be the leader and push through anything that holds you back. The bands that I see led by female musicians are in a whole different world from any other project. You get a lot of intensity that you haven't been hearing for a long time, so I advise them to do it and do it their way."

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