Erika Wennerstrom Intoxicates Fans With Tracks From Solo Album “Sweet Unknown”

Erika Wennerstrom performs at Gypsy Sally's

Although you may originally know Erika Wennerstrom as the face, voice, and words behind Heartless Bastards, the Ohio native is making a name for herself with a solo tour that is spreading heart and soul across the country.

Taking the Gypsy Sally’s stage on August 1, Wennerstrom kicked off her first show with a full band, starting the night with the leading track off her new album Sweet Unknown, “Twisted Highway.” Smiling through every note, Wennerstrom’s deep and rich vocals rang out crisp and clear, filling even the darkest corners of Gypsy Sally’s with light and life. The diverse crowd was comprised of the tattooed, the coupled, and the post-work music junkies who packed into the venue to sing and dance along with Wennerstrom, finding a beat to groove along to, even when the song wasn’t notably danceable.

Erika Wennerstrom

Playing with an ease and confidence that only stems from decades of experience, practice, and passion, Wennerstrom looked at home on stage. Her voice, somehow even more striking in person, is a distinctive fusion of grittiness, smokiness, and warmth that blend together to create a haunting and intoxicating listening experience.

Wennerstrom is the perfect blend between post-breakup angst and spirited self-empowerment, proving to be the perfect remedy to a bruised heart. Despite a disclaimer of being “self-absorbed” throughout her writing process, Wennerstrom projected the image of anything but. Preaching that “the world should be kinder” and that, “we can all be kinder to ourselves, and can use some self-love,” Wennerstrom beamed with self-awareness and self-love as she cooed the titular track lyrics, “be good to yourself.” 

Sweet Unknown feels personal, intimate, and reflective — descriptors you cannot achieve without throwing your whole self into a project. Songwriting and creativity are deeply personal experiences and beg to be fully explored in the depths of one’s own mind. I doubt Wennerstrom’s music would carry as much weight and heart as it does without those necessary “self-indulgent” thoughts.

Although playing mostly from her debut solo album, Wennerstrom took the time to experiment with new tracks as well as play a couple beloved covers, including Townes Van Zandt’s “Be Here to Love Me” and "Paint It Black" by The Rolling Stones. She was backed by an equally impressive band comprised of Lauren Gurgiolo (guitar), Beth Harris (background vocals), Donnie Shroader (drums), and Paul Allen (bass). 

Erika Wennerstrom finger picking.

Erika Wennerstrom finger picking.

Wennerstrom experimented with fingerpicking, a skill she recently picked up after the release of her album. Before launching into a new, previously unheard song, she admitted that fingerpicking has “always been something that intimidated me.” However, like everything she does, it was raw and well-done. After playing two new tracks back-to-back, Wennerstrom chuckled, “I’m getting ahead of myself.” However, fans eagerly welcomed the new songs as a sign that Wennerstrom’s career is nowhere near finished.

She closed off the main set with “Extraordinary Love,” which felt like the anthem of the album. As she told DC Music Review, “a lot of [parts of the album] are mantras and positive messages.” 

Erika Wennerstrom - Sweet Unknown

Oh and I was searching for a place to feel at home
A place where I could breathe
And oh I found that I needed to slow down
Then it was so clear for me to see
I want to feel extraordinary love
A love that always echoes through my mind I want to feel extraordinary love
A love that only comes from within side

//  "Extraordinary Love" from Sweet Unknown 

A talented musician, writer, and performer, Erika Wennerstrom is the complete package that is not to be missed. Catch her while you can… she won’t be a “Sweet Unknown” for long.

Wennerstrom is currently on tour around the East Coast and Europe. For more information, please visit her website, or click here to read her exclusive interview with DCMR.

Enjoy photos by our photographer Jason Herman of Jason Herman Photography.

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About the author

Abbie Ginis

Abbie Ginis has been a music junkie for as long as she can remember. Hailing from Michigan (Go Blue!), she is eager to continue to explore and be immersed in the DMV music scene. When she's not at concerts, Abbie can be found at the movies or longingly ogling at puppies.