As self-proclaimed President of the Spellling Stan Club, I was thrilled to see her perform at Le Poisson Rouge, in NYC, on October 23rd. A West Coast artist, this was Spellling’s only East Coast performance of the year, and her first time performing with her newly-formed band. Based in Oakland, Chrystia “Tia” Cabral known professionally as Spellling is an experimental pop musician currently signed with Sacred Bones Records.
I came across Spellling about a year ago via the YouTube algorithm—my music guilty pleasure—and fell in love. “This is the nocturnal psychedelic witch-pop I wanted,” commented one user under her “Under the Sun” music video; another described her as a “pop goddess from the netherworld.”
Either way, her electronic pop music is haunting, enchanting, and transformative, taking you to another world she’s created. Her album, The Turning Wheel, which takes inspiration from Frida Kahlo, dreams, and tarot, was one of my personal favorite albums released this year (Spotify Wrapped as my witness) and has turned me into a real superfan.
This was the band’s first time performing together, and, donned in all white, you could sense a newness in the air. As the concert unfolded, the band grew more confident, as did Cabral. I think the turning point of the performance (no pun intended) was the 7 minute and 28-second song “Boys at School.”
If I thought I was the only Spellling superfan in the audience, “Boys at School” proved me wrong. Hearing a crowd shouting “I hate the boys at school” at the top of their lungs over and over for 7 minutes and 28 seconds felt like the release we’d all needed and seemed to shake any performance nerves. For those 7 minutes, the band found their groove and connected with the audience.
I hate the boys at school
They never play the rules
I hate the boys at school
They never play the rules, ooh
The body is the law and I’m only human after all
Wanted to bе the one that you need
Tomorrow, I turn sixteen years and I don’t want to grow oldеr
The performance ended aptly with Cabral donning a flower crown a fan had thrown on stage. “I didn’t know so many people hated the boys at school,” laughed Cabral.
My favorite concerts to go to are by far those where you can tell there’s a camaraderie among the audience, singing along to the artist whose music speaks to them. Looking around the crowd, I thought, for me and many others present, this was one of those moments. I hadn’t had that much fun at a concert in a long time, camera in hand in the front row yelling “I hate the boys at school!” like I was about to turn sixteen and been personally victimized by school kids.
This was my first time shooting as a Photographer for Music Movies & Hoops, and I was thrilled to have my first assignment be an artist I admire. It felt like the world had aligned perfectly. It was the perfect introduction to working with MMH and I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.
As a queer artist of color who sings about myths and existing in cycles that dampen your creativity, Spellling’s work is refreshing. She possesses the inspiring skill of world-building and proves that music can be an act of magic.
Here are my photographs from the concert.