So before we get all emotional I wanted to extend a little light in this situation. I reached out to see if Cheshi wanted to do a final interview. The response I got from Ash was no, but they did say, “Know that there is definitely something else in the works and when that gets its feet on the ground I would be happy to chat with you. I’m not ready to go quietly into the night.”
So here’s the deal. Cheshi played their final show on Saturday. I’ve taken longer than usual to put this review of the show and memories from many in the Frederick scene up because I wanted to make sure that this is as fitting of a goodbye to Cheshi as Saturday night was.
My experience with Cheshi is incredibly personal. The first time I saw the band was September 11th, 2016 – Middle Kid’s “Yeah, Sure” release show with Tina and
Bested at East Street Arts Center (now defunct, for those unaware). I was 19 at the time and wondering where the hell cool music was happening in Frederick. See, all ages shows were nearly impossible to come by. I was pretty depressed around that time and just feeling unfulfilled with what I could be doing with my life – music, writing and otherwise. This show opened so many doors. First off, every band was great and it was a major change from the stale cover bands I was used to seeing. I met so many people for the first time that night: Max (drummer of Bested at the time, now Gloop), Roy Ghim (who I’d go on to work with at Subversive Zine), and Ash, Trevor and Matt. Everyone was so cool to me and I realized that the people I fit in with were right in Frederick after all. I still have the poster from that gig on the wall in my room and I think about it often. It’s where I became absolutely obsessed with Cheshi.
Below you’ll find some Cheshi memories. If you want to add to them, please send any my way. After the memories you’ll find the write-up from their last show.
Kyle Robert – “I have a lot of memories of Cheshi, from watching Ash play solo shows during their early days in Frederick to seeing them play on the main stage at The Thing right before Rozwell Kid. That being said I think my favorite memory isn’t even from a show that the band played. Once, late at night after being out at the bar Ash, Trevor and a small group of people, myself included, decided to go hang out in Trevor’s apartment. While there Ash decided to play a few of their songs, and Trevor, who did not know Ash very well at the time, picked up a guitar and started playing along. This was the first time the two of them ever played together and it was immediately clear that they could make incredible music as a team. It wasn’t too long after that Cheshi become a full band project.”
Roy Ghim – “Cheshi has loomed large in Frederick over the past couple of years -I’ve got a number of good memories of the band in action. If I had to pick one, it was the Weinberg Playlist show where Ash came out in full Deathlord attire, mysteriously hooded all in black and accompanied by what looked like man-servants. Ash eventually handed the robe to said man-servants (can’t remember if it was before starting the set or after the first number). It was full on spectacle and I absolutely loved it. That and the set itself, they just slayed.
If I had a runner up, it was the mere fact Cheshi booked fantastic bands outside of Frederick -like Hexgirlfriends from B’more. When that particular band played Nola about a year ago along with Cheshi, it was so lit. Someone touched me on the shoulder to ask a question: “Hey I just moved to Frederick, I’ve been looking for cool shows like this but it’s been quiet…until tonight. Does shows like this happen all the time?” I laughed (not at him of course) and I said…”well it depends. Sometimes…”
That’s the only answer I could give. Nevertheless, the fact is they helped elevate the Frederick music scene with their amazing sound, poking and stirring up our collective political consciousness and ‘curating’ out of town bands to Frederick.”
Zack Willis – “Cheshi and Middle Kid both started out as solo projects around the same time, grew into bands around the same time, shared a band member, and, for awhile, played practically every show together. The rate at which they grew was insane, and every new song was absolute gold. I’ll never forget the first time I watched Trevor bust out the solo to “You Don’t Know Safe.” I’m pretty sure I screamed.
I think I’ve told this story before, but when I wrote our song “Competitive,” I always called it “the Cheshi song” because of the time we were sitting outside of Artomatic and I made some off-hand remark about Cheshi achieving some kind of Frederick success versus me feeling down about the slow movement of my own band, which in turn led Ash to tell me “It’s not a competition.” This, at the time, made me feel super indignant, like “Of course you would say that, you’re doing better!” but also forced a lot of self-reflection to help me understand that the point is to prop up your peers, not compete with them, and to understand that comparing yourself to others does nothing for you. Plus it made a good song, so thank you to Cheshi for helping me learn that lesson.
It does legitimately suck that this band won’t be around anymore, but we can remain thankful that all of these incredibly talented people will still be around. Rest assured, it’s likely that no one is quitting music, and the best part of band breakups are the spin-off bands.”
Adrienne Smith – “My favorite part of Cheshi was how their music made me feel. There are bands that you want to get down and dance to and there are bands that rip your fucking heart out. Cheshi is the later. This group comprised of incredibly talented musicians had the ability to convey emotion unlike I’d never experienced in Frederick. My favorite Cheshi show was at the Weinberg Center Frederick Music showcase in 2017. I was just so proud to see all of them up on that stage where I’ve seen so many other skilled acts before.”
Dustin Davis – “Wow, it is kinda crazy that saying goodbye to Cheshi happens to coincide with my own farewell to Frederick! I’ve never been one to be able to express or pinpoint certain feelings but Ash’s songwriting has always had a way to poke me in every single one. I don’t exactly remember the first time I saw Cheshi but I know it was in 2015… Wait maybe 2014. Idk. Anyway, I was hooked and a huge fan. Took every opportunity to watch her play when Ash was just solo all the way up until now. I even had the pleasure of booking Cheshi at Guido’s Speakeasy and Cafe Nola for a few heavy rock/metal shows and the juxtaposition was perfect and even made sense since the lyrics and mood of the songs were so damn heavy! One of my favorites was June of 2015 Cheshi played at Guido’s with Backwoods Payback, Admiral Browning, Faith In Jane and B&O Railroad. All of those bands were my favorites at the time and the vibes in that room all night were magical. Oh yeah, and when they played the outdoor stage for The Thing festival in 2017 I was awestruck. The setting and atmosphere was amazing and Greg Clark had the sound dialed in perfectly! When Ash rounded out the lineup with the full band it was explosive; each member was a master of their instrument and it was exciting seeing the chemistry and comradery they had on stage and off. It’ll be a shame to see them hang up the towel but they will leave behind some tunes that will be timeless and I for one will be belting out “To Find Home” whenever I find myself missing them! Best band to come out of this area in a long time.”
Emily Jessee – “I was in the living room where Cheshi as a full band began to form. Ash and Trevor were jamming out together in a pleasant drunken stupor, having only met for the first time a few days before. The two seemed to instantly click creatively, and they were both such talented musicians, for starkly different reasons. Ash was the dramatic, boisterous, empowered frontrunner putting their entire soul into the songs. Trevor was the quietly skillful guitarist that created powerful chords in the background. They seemed to mesh together easily, and things only got better as Matt was later added on bass (someone else who is ridiculously skillful at their instrument), and then with Evan Braswell, which later became Evan Owens, on drums. They were a dynamic unit of bandmates, musicians, but most importantly, friends. A lot of heart and soul went into Cheshi, and each person brought something different to the table. I can only imagine each person, or piece of that masterful unit, will have extreme success in their creative endeavors they try for in the future. Maybe Cheshi was only the beginning for them—the beginning of something truly great.”
Now onto the show.
Baby Razors – Screaming rage from singer Olivia Helen Henry. Jolting guitar, bass and drums hit hard and are unforgiving. The band leaves it all out on the stage. Hardcore punk at its finest.
Hexgirlfriends – Dark indie synth pop with a twisted 80s influence. This band is a ton of fun with wild screams and unique dual vocal harmonies. Drum machines and electronic sounds mixed with distorted and scratchy vocals mesh brilliantly. The band’s best feature is the interplay between the two singers and the flow of bass and guitar that distinctly separate themselves organically from the spacey synths. The slower songs feel like messed up ballads with lots of spontaneity and frustrated emotion.. and they get dancey just as much as they get sad. The group ended on an energetic and fitting cover of the Eurythmic’s “Sweet Dreams”.
Cheshi – “Strap yourselves up for an emotional roller-coaster. You’re not gonna feel better but your not gonna feel worse.” – These were Ash’s first words to the packed Cafe Nola crowd as the band took the stage Saturday night for what would be their last show. Sadness is always Cheshi’s specialty and the feelings they can convey are straight from the heart and unadulterated. Ash, Trevor, Matt and Evan made this tight all together band with an overall performance like nothing I’ve seen from a Frederick band or otherwise.
The entirety of Café Nola was ROWDY and you could tell everyone was absolutely smitten with Cheshi and what the band has meant to each one of them. “It feels really good to have everyone I love in one room.”, Cheshire remarked. NOLA even had Cheshi music videos playing on the TV – The vibe was unreal. Frederick bands have a habit of great farewell shows (I have heard about Old Indian’s last show so many times)- I was happy and sad to witness Cheshi’s.
Cheshi’s trademark gloom along with shrieks of anguish and dissonant guitar parts made the band unique… the sound doesn’t come easy you can feel the personal pain and the experiences and consequences of living in each lyric. Most songs have a habit of switching between soft and dreamy picked guitar parts and heavy rocker build ups, but no matter how many songs use this formula it always seems to be an amazing intensity and different feeling in each.
The impact Cheshi has had in LGBTQ community along with She/They and their political and general activism is inspiring.
The band is a prime example of music reaching a completely different dimension. One thing was for sure, those on stage and in the crowd were soaking in the experience. If this show were somehow the last ever musical performance on earth it would be strangely fitting and comforting in the darkest possible way. The world is confusing but it seems like Cheshi was helping you figure it out one song at a time.
An untypical Cheshi moment occurred in the show when the band sang happy birthday to two special people (Anna Jachowski and Thom Huenger). Anna got up to sing a rocking Zeppelin cover after Matt told the crowd about her being in a led zeppelin cover band when they met. It was a sweet moment between the husband and wife.
The Saturday night drinking crowd got to be a little much for Ash as they wanted everyone to be able to hear the more dynamic and sensitive parts of their songs in this incredibly personal show. Most were certainly there for the music after all.
Ash spoke once more on a somber note saying, “I honestly don’t care to talk anymore about anything. I’m thankful for the journey that we had and for all of you.” After that the band launched into their final two songs. But that wouldn’t be the end…. The crowd chanted for an encore and it was truly a great end to this band we had come to know as Cheshi.