Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter Saved Grace Cathedral Attendees From Going to Hell

Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
March 2, 2024

Photos by Raymond Ahner

The musical evolution of Kristin Hayter has been an interesting one, to say the least. While most famous under the name of Lingua Ignota, Hayter retired the project last year following final shows in Chicago and London. Following creating her own label to self-release any new music, she became an ordained minister and rebranded herself as Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter in August of last year, and released the first album by the project, SAVED!, in November 2023. This Spring she went on her first tour as a Reverend, the final date of which saw her holding a sold out congregation in the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

Kristin Hayter

Something that needs to be addressed before talking about the show is Hayter’s status as a Reverend. Religion has been an intrinsic part of her lyricism since the last Lingua Ignota album, 2019’s Sinner Get Ready. Songs like “Repent Now Confess Now” and “The Sacred Liniment Of Judgment” didn’t just have religious connotations in their titles; the lyrics dealt (either explicitly or implicitly) with God, judgment, and reckoning (she even went so far as to include Jimmy Swaggart’s famous “I have sinned” speech on the latter song). So Hayter’s progression to releasing an album of mostly traditional hymns makes sense as a logical progression. On SAVED!, Hayter traded the Appalachian folk instrumentation of the last Lingua Ignota album with just vocals and piano, which is what her set-up was at the Grace Cathedral.

Kristin Hayter

Singing a traditional hymn as she draped a metal chain over the piano strings, Hayter soon sat down and played the ominous opening piano chords of the song “All Of My Friends Are Going To Hell” from her latest album. “Lord please forgive me,” she bellowed, “I don’t want to be like my friends who are going to hell!” There’s a sense of the lyrics being tongue-in-cheek, but it was performed with such fervor that it’s hard not to take it completely seriously. Another original from her new album followed, the album’s opener “I’m Getting Out While I Can.” “On judgment day do you know where you’ll stand?” She asked before singing, “I’m going to sing with the celestial band.” While over half of the songs on her new album are traditional hymns, the Hayter originals feel more like the New Testament when compared to the fire-and-brimstone Old Testament of her Lingua Ignota material.

Kristin Hayter

Most of the set that followed were the aforementioned hymns, along with a couple of folk songs that tied into the lyrical themes of the hymns. The first one was “Idumea,” my personal favorite song off of the SAVED! album. Hayter performed the song almost as a dirge, and it was easily the most somber and moody song of the entire set. There were moments during the set where the intensity of Hayter’s previous persona came through, most notably during her cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s “I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole.” Along with “There Is Power In The Blood” and “Nothing But The Blood,” it’s the third song on Hayter’s album dealing explicitly with blood atonement, and, seeing it performed live, it was even more powerful than the recorded version as she worked herself into a frenzy repeating the title of the song and the line, “I was sick and I couldn’t get well” over and over again. Repetition is a key part in most hymns, and whether it be there to cause religious fervor that leads to speaking in tongues or discovering some sort of Biblical truth or a combination of the two, Hayter threw herself fully into the lines the repetition of the song more than any other one that evening.

Kristin Hayter

It was no secret that at the time of the show Kristin was battling a kidney infection; a previous show in Portland had to be shortened because of it, while a show in Vancouver had to be outright cancelled because of the infection. Despite this though, Kristin played nearly a full hour before telling the crowd that she had one song left: “I Will Be With You Always.” Stylistically it’s the closest song on SAVED! to her Lingua Ignota material, telling the story of encountering a demon that is heralded by seven trumpets, a reference to the seven angels and their trumpets that sound the apocalypse in the Book Of Revelations. Are the lyrics meant to be literal? Is it an actual demon that is beset upon her, or is the demon a metaphor for something else, something of the flesh and of the human world? The song is an open-ended one, but with the closing muttered assurances of “I will always be with you, I will be with you always,” Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter stood up from the piano, took a bow, and walked away into the wings of the Grace Cathedral. May her next coming be heralded by an instrument of her choosing.

maria bc

Opening the evening was maria bc, an Oakland-based musician whose album Spike Field was one of my favorites of last year. Accompanied on synthesizer by a friend, maria herself played a Fender Stratocaster effected with delay, reverb, and shimmering chorus, her voice fittingly angelic in the large cathedral. While her arrangements feel sparse, her vocal melodies and lyrics kept the crowd in raptured silence for her set, the crowd seemingly not even wanting to break the spell of her music by applauding after every song. maria bc is someone who I had wanted to see for a while now, and I can’t wait to hopefully see her perform a headlining set in the near future.


Reverend Kristin Michael Hayter

Maria BC