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.