Monday, July 26, 2010

Nico Vega’s Live Show Still Haunts Me

It has been more than a week since I paid a $10 door charge, walked into a largely empty venue, and became utterly captivated by Nico Vega’s amazing live show. The fury and intensity of the performance I witnessed that night left a lasting impression on me. The trio from LA made up of Dan Epand on drums, Rich Koehler on guitar, and Aja Volkman as lead vocalist, packs an astonishing amount of unbridled power. The on-stage chemistry between band members is a provocative mix of familial interaction and palpable sexuality. The fact that the crowd was small and subdued seemed not to matter. The band interacted with the crowd, with Aja talking, making eye contact, and grabbing hands of people in the front row. Yet it felt as if Nico Vega was performing for their own entertainment as much as for ours, and had they been in a living room alone, they would play with the same raw intensity.

As I watched Nico Vega perform, my sense of time and place dissolved. I felt transported by the occult-like nature of the stage theatrics. Aja’s eyes, wild and darting, arms flailing and pointing at the audience as she wailed in narration of their songs. She stomped and danced around stage barefoot in circles, as if participating in an ancient pagan ritual summoning the gods. The audience might feel the howling wrath of a woman possessed in one moment, and in the very next be enveloped by tender vocals and the welcoming smile of a maternal figure. All eyes transfixed on the captivating front woman to see what form she would take next. Watching the primal nature of Nico Vega’s performance left me feeling like I had fallen in a time portal and landed in an unknown past or future.

For as much intensity that was generated on the stage that night, the band looked like they were having a great time playing together. Aja would lean against Rich, dance around him, or sing to him, as he played his guitar. She also went behind the drum kit and picked up some sticks to play along with Dan. They were smiling throughout the show and visibly enjoying their time on stage.

It is pretty rare to come across a stage performance that is as compelling as what Nico Vega offers. I don’t own Nico Vega albums, and I am not greatly compelled to listen to the recorded versions of their songs. They are a band whose energy, sexuality, and guttural emotion come through in performance, with the visual aesthetics adding tremendously to their songs. I cannot understate the intensity of their live show; when they come back to perform to my town, I’ll be there.

It was difficult to find a video clip that even comes close to capturing the energy of a live show, but the one below will give you an idea. Even if their music is not what you typically enjoy, I recommend catching their show if they come through your town. They will haunt you, in a very good way.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Catch 'Em on the Rise: TAB the Band

A couple of months ago, while wading through the muck of new band mediocrity in search of some good old raucous rock and roll, I finally stumbled on a goldmine: TAB the Band. The tip came from the Twitter music community, where I become introduced to many of the young bands that fly under the radar of major music publications but have talent that far surpasses most household-name acts. The tagline of TAB’s Twitter account reads “Rock is back… in the form of us.” Yes it is.

One of my favorite things about rock and roll is that is connects fans of different ages by a common love for the music. On many occasions, my enthusiasm for older bands has served as my connection to other rock enthusiasts from generations not my own. No matter how many decades separate two rock fans, you can always find a hardy debate over the merits of one Beatles album over another. My initial thought upon first hearing TAB the Band (besides “damn, these guys rock!”) was that they have great potential for multi-generational appeal. Their music has a distinctively bluesy, classic rock sound but feels fresh in its arrangements and delivery. I was instantly hooked - and because TAB’s sound is reminiscent of 60’s and 70’s blues-rock bands like the Yardbirds and the Rolling Stones, I knew my parents would enjoy their music too. (Which they do.)

TAB the Band can probably most closely be compared to early Rolling Stones. It has the same dirty, bluesy garage sound that is pretty equally guitar and drum-driven. The vocal similarity of Adrian Perry to Mick Jagger, is also a factor in the similarity in sound. However, it is evident that their influences are broad. Songs with heavier bass and percussive tones hint at some punk influence, while other songs are a bit more folk-rooted, with a strong emphasis on vocal harmonies.

The band is made up of Adrian Perry on vocals and bass, Tony Perry and Lou Jannetty on guitars, and Ben Tileston on drums. Not only do they make great music, TAB is admirably navigating their career under “double edged sword” circumstances: brothers Adrian and Tony Perry are sons of Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. While having a famous rock father has undoubtedly offered guidance in pursuing a career in the music industry (and likely instructional cautionary tales), TAB seems to be diligently paying their dues and staying clear from all coattails. In addition to working day jobs (Adrian is an Intellectual Property lawyer in NYC), the band is financing their summer tour through Pledge Music, a platform for fan donations to fund the making of an album or support touring with portions of the proceeds going to a charity. Depending on the amount fans pledge, they receive audio recordings or band merchandise. I think it says a lot about a band that probably could take advantage of family fortune or personal ties but chooses instead to carve its own path toward success. But why shouldn’t they? The music speaks for itself.

I hope that TAB the Band gets the exposure needed to introduce them to new music fans, young and old, because I think their sound has universal appeal. One thing is certain; they will come into success well deserved and on their own terms.


Here is the band's Pledge Music site and check out the video below for their latest single “She Said No (I Love You)”