Welcome to Night Vale's Ghost Stories is a Creepy Delight

Friday, April 8th, in Detroit was cold, wet, and just about as far removed from what one might imagine the local weather in the desert community of Night Vale to be. It was however, not a bad match for the title of the Welcome to Night Vale's latest touring live show, "Ghost Stories."

Interior shot of the Fillmore Detroit showing a moodily lit domed ceiling
This was the second time I've gotten to see Welcome to Night Vale performed live (the first was when "The Investigators" was touring). Both times have been at the Fillmore Detroit which is an excellent venue for the show. Formerly called the State Theater, it was built in the 1920s in Detroit's heyday and is full of that rich, beautiful, and ever-so-slightly creepy atmosphere that makes for an elegant complement to the shows unsettling narrative style.

The show was opened by Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt, who would later perform as the weather. I wasn't familiar at all with their music before the show, but as has often happened with Welcome to Nightvale's musical performers, I think I may have ended up with a new favorite. They are a lovely singer-songwriter team who both have solo careers, but as they are a married couple, they were clearly enjoying the chance to tour and preform together. They have both previously been featured on Welcome to Nightvale's weather, but getting to hear a full set of their songs helped cement in my mind that, yes, I really did need to go check out more of their music. The songs you might be familiar with are "Echo in the Hills" and "This Too Shall Pass." Both of those songs were played at the show along with a selection of their newer music.

Cecil Baldwin standing at a microphone reading from a script
The show itself is based on the idea of a city-wide compulsory ghost story contest. Cecil tells his own long-form ghost story that is interrupted by regular features such as community calendar and the Children's Fun Fact Science Corner as well as other characters telling their own ghost stories. I suspect the formatting allows for side characters to join and leave the tour as their scheduling permits. In Detroit we heard from Deb the sentient patch of haze and Tamika Flynn, the 14 year old veteran of the Summer Reading Program.

The voice of Night Vale, Cecil Baldwin, is an absolute joy to watch perform. His expressive face and body language add an engaging layer to the live show experience, and at one point become part of a joke as his character remembers that the hand gesture he just made would not be visible to his "listeners." His own story begins like a classic ghost tale and slowly mutates into something far more intimate. It also follows what I consider to be Night Vale's best tradition of taking the horrifying and making it hopeful; it reminds us of our communion with one another over the ultimate commonality of death in a way that is perhaps only possible in a room full of hundreds of strangers.

Miz Opifex is a union electrician by day and a champion of feminine geekery by night. She lives in the American Rust Belt with her cat and a staggering amount of books, movies, and albums on vinyl.