August was a whirlwind month for me. I visited New York for an extremely long trip where I was lucky enough to see many shows (including three at 54 Below, which was absolutely surreal after a lifetime of watching clips from it on YouTube). Because I saw so many shows, I don’t remember all of them well enough to write about them. However, there is one I am sure will stay in my memory as long as I have a memory for it to stay in, and that is Molly Rice’s Angelmakers: Songs for Female Serial Killers.
See, my entire life, I grew up hearing a story about how my mom met Ted Bundy when she was a teenager. Consequently, the only natural outcome that could happen happened—I became a fan of true crime. Now, I listen to the podcast My Favorite Murder, watch Datelines, 20/20s, and 48 Hours until the cows come home. So when I got an email from Gelsey Bell’s mailing list that she was doing a concert entitled Angelmakers: Songs for Female Serial Killers, I was immediately sold. To make it even better, it was four days before my birthday. It felt like a present from the universe.
When I arrived, I barely had enough time to place my order and glance over the program before Gelsey took the stage. The program gave a brief overview of each of the women there were songs for. Luckily, I already knew most of them, so my tardiness was not a problem. And then, with little fanfare, one of the greatest theatrical events of my life began.
The songs were told from the perspective of eight women, from “the one who hasn’t been caught yet,” “the one who hasn’t done it yet,” to “all of us”. In total, there are eleven different songs (the last one of the women was a duet between her and her guitarist) and eleven different identities Gelsey Bell had to adopt. Having already seen Gelsey in Ghost Quartet, I knew she could do it, but I did not know she would just completely blow me away. The only physical change she had was a small shrug she wore when singing the song “They’re Not Real”, which was for Countess Elizabeth of Bathory (the female Dracula). Even that wasn’t necessary to sell it.
From her childish confusion as she sang “Teeth” for a ten-year-old Mary Bell, to her heartbreaking wistfulness in “Michigan” (my personal favorite) for Aileen Wuornos, Gelsey slipped entirely into each new identity like it was a custom made glove. I felt shivers down my spine at how apathetic, indifferent, and just in general unremorseful she felt as Jane Toppan in “I’m Sorry Everybody,” and I cried at her earnestness in “Will To Live”, the one for all of us.
Angelmakers made me feel more comfortable: I had finally found a home with others who shared my interest in the macabre. It was okay for me to be a girl who was fascinated in things like serial killers. (This is something I have struggled with much of my life, and I was able to tell Ms. Rice this after the concert, and I almost started crying when I did.) Angelmakers also solidified Gelsey Bell’s place in my list of favorite performers. And it was the best birthday present the universe could have given me.
If you’re interested in the music, you can find the album (though it has Milia Ayache instead of Gelsey Bell on the vocals) on Molly Rice’s bandcamp, here.
(Photo by Molly Rice.)