Voice golden and crisp, Rain Phoenix took the mic on the last night of her residency at Zebulon in Los Angeles, CA, and proposed: “Let's talk about death.”
She continued, “When we talk about death, let’s not change the subject, let’s be there for those who are hurting,” encouraging the audience to confront grief head-on and know that it’s ok to hurt. Her stage presence and confidence danced quietly around her with a subtle prowess. She had a tender and comforting voice, with long, dark flowing hair and an all-black outfit that channeled Stevie Nicks.
For those of you who don’t know her, Rain is the sister of actors River Phoenix and Joaquin Phoenix. Rain and River were in the alternative rock band, Aleka’s Attic, in the late 80s-early 90s before River’s tragic death. The Phoenix family is no stranger to heartache and Rain’s words on death came from a true place of understanding the duality of love and pain. Her vulnerability touched my heart as someone who also has dealt with grief at a young age and turned to art to heal.
Intimacy and emotion pulsated through the room. Rain’s set was grounded and earthy and one of the most intimate live shows I’ve seen in a long while. Playing her popular song, “Time is the Killer,” Rain hypnotically repeated, “Time is the killer/time is the healer” with the mysticism and captivation of a siren. Channeling the 90’s vibe of her earlier work with River, Rain’s music is rich with a texture that was reminiscent of the 90’s musical projects Mazzy Star and Hope Sandoval and the Warm Intentions. Her lyrics were simplistic and accessible, yet bold and profound. What better venue for Rain than Zebulon, an intimate space that has opened my eyes to a variety of cutting edge talent.
Appropriately following her statements on death, Rain played the song “Hey Heartache” which furthered her earlier sentiments. “Who knows what death is? It could be the most magical thing.” Rain poetically spoke. Rain concluded her set by inviting her sister Liberty Phoenix to the stage to sing a song that Rain co-wrote with River called “Lost in Motion.” The two sisters’ song faded into an experimental guitar and saxophone riff that drifted into the realm of a combination of Pink Floyd psychedelia and 90’s dream-pop, slow-core improvisation.
The legacy of the Phoenix family shines through in Rain’s work while establishing her artistry. The body of work she presented on the closing night of her residency felt like a tender hug and the loving encouragement to get back up and keep going in times of heartache. Rain’s posthumous collaboration with her brother, River, proves that love overcomes death and art is truly immortal. Like a Phoenix, she rose.
Rain’s debut solo album, River, is set to come out on Halloween this year, the anniversary of River’s death.
Marina Pipher is a Los Angeles based filmmaker, musician and writer studying Film Production at The University of Southern California