Setting the tone for the impending interpretation of traditional Iron Age music, and in appreciation of the land on which the venue was built, Heilung was ushered into the opening ceremony by members of IndigeCorp 5280, a group of Indigenous peoples representing 10 different western tribes. The consciousness of the artists was equally felt in the Mission Ballroom as a sold out crowd of nearly 4,000 people went deafeningly silent for the entirety of the ceremony. I knew this focused crowd, with many members dressed in medieval northern European and Viking garb, would be in-tune with Heilung and we were in for a treat. The hype was playing out and meeting expectations.
Breaking into their set, the fullness of the sound included a powerful drum cadence and angelic vocal harmonies. Complimenting each-other flawlessly, producer Christopher Juul and vocalists Kai Uwe Faust and Maria Franz held the crowd in mesmerization with ease. Blending chants and a choreographed support from their warriors and backing musicians, it is easy to understand why their performances are described as rituals instead of concerts. It felt somewhere between a Cirque du Soleil performance, the attire of a Renaissance Faire, and the accuracy of a museum. Knowing that so much thought and study has gone into their music and their costumes, the performance felt authentic and inspiring. Not an easy feat to pull off considering how this genre is typically portrayed somewhere between Halloween and hokey. Heilung manages to share an experience, to fulfill a primal need that one can only experience by being part of the ritual.
I left feeling enlightened and somehow more connected to the people and the place around me. That feeling would be short-lived as I walked out the doors of the Mission and was rudely transported back into the present. An uncomfortable reminder that, oh yeah, we were taken to a place that felt ancestral and comfortable and now we were in a world of plastic, and LED lights, and the unbearable reality that the world and climate around us is in chaos. Take me back, I’m not ready to leave the ritual.