Tag Archives: Dan Epand

Nico Vega – The Conversation, At The Bluebird Theater

The Bluebird Theater
Denver CO
July 14, 2013

Nico Vega‘s show at The Bluebird Theater in Denver on Sunday reconfirmed why they are among my favorite bands.

I was first introduced to Nico Vega when I was working with an online music video company several years ago. The band was coming to our offices for a video shoot and, as happens before a shoot, the production team had numerous conversations about what the set should look like.

When Aja Volkman, Dan Epand, and Rich Koehler  (“Nico Vega”) arrived, the creative director asked them if they were ok with the set design or whether they wanted any changes. “No, we can go with this. . . Thank you,” they replied. Nico Vega has repeatedly shown that they can play in any location, without requiring anything special. Among some of the more unusual places they’ve played: in the kitchen while cooking, on rooftops, in bathrooms, and while trapped in an elevator during the middle of the night.

When Nico Vega played unplugged at our office that day, you hardly noticed they were playing in front of a warehouse garage door, surrounded by pink balloons. The band was mesmerizing, their power and presence undeniable. The production team’s deliberation about the set design was a professional thing to do, but it wasn’t necessary.

I’ve since seen and been equally blown away by Nico Vega a dozen times.

Flash forward four years. . .

Every summer I visit my family in Colorado and, naturally, the weekend trip is planned around at least one concert. When I checked the local listings and saw Nico Vega was playing at The Bluebird Theater on July 14th, the date of this summer’s trip was set.

If you haven’t traveled outside of your hometown to see a show, I highly recommend it. Getting away from the routine, experiencing new venues, and dropping into an unfamiliar crowd is a great way to expand your perspective.

Being outside of LA, away from the “business”, was liberating. It felt almost as if I were experiencing Nico Vega for the first time. I was able to appreciate everything I love about this band – their music, their empowering messages, and how they interact with the audience – in an expansive, new way.

What I experienced at The Bluebird Theater wasn’t just a show; it was a conversation. Nico Vega isn’t merely playing and singing songs, they’re engaging the audience in a constant dialog. The exchange is dynamic. Everyone – band and audience – participates.

The conversation is about integrity, life, love, compassion, equality, justice, power (individual and collective), empowerment, freedom, strength, gratitude, growth, and change.

It’s not only communicated in their lyrics, it’s part of every beat of Dan’s drum, the way Rich plays guitar and shuffles onstage, Jamila Weaver’s harmonies and bass, each note Aja sings and every piece of equipment she climbs. Nico Vega embodies everything they’re singing about – on and off stage, which makes their shows powerful and transcendant.

When people talk about stage presence, they’re often referencing showmanship. In the case of Nico Vega, it’s truly about presence. They are entirely present, immersed in the moment, feeling and communicating the songs with every cell in their bodies. They somehow manage to connect with each person in the audience, individually, and the crowd responds in turn. Not to be confused with theatrics, an “act”, a show, or even a performance — Nico Vega simply is everything they play and sing about.

The audience shows up and they know their part. The band doesn’t need to cue the claps nor sing-a-longs – it’s felt organically. This was my cousin’s first time seeing Nico Vega and she wasn’t familiar with their songs. However, she was singing along at every opportunity and throwing her hands in the air with each empowering drum beat of “Beast”.

This is true of all the Nico Vega shows I’ve been to. However, at the Bluebird Theater,  outside of my usual environment, I was able to further absorb and articulate what was happening. I experienced what makes their shows so potent, beyond the outstanding musicianship, exceptional stage presence and Aja’s powerful voice.

When Aja sings, she is the song. She’s able to communicate the music and messages of  Nico Vega on a truly soulful level. It’s expansive, invigorating, and inspiring. It appears as though all in attendance are not only listening, they’re feeling. They feel the empowerment, their feet leave the ground, their hands touch the sky, they lean in toward the stage as Aja’s presence reaches every inch of the venue.

At times she sits down and sings so powerfully that you forget she’s sitting. When she leans over the edge of the stage, it feels as though she’s hovering above the entire crowd. She makes eye contact, smiles, shares the microphone, sings from atop the drum set or a Nico Vega trashcan. Aja is not constrained by the mic stand – she knows it’s not locked to the stage and she moves about accordingly. The way she covers the entire stage is a physical expression of the words she’s singing. Meaning is conveyed in everything this band does, collectively making an even greater impact.

One of the moments that moved me most was when Aja sang a song she wrote upon regaining her voice after an extended hiatus from singing, due to vocal strain. While it’s not possible to truly “know how it feels”, having not experienced it firsthand, Aja shared her experience in a way that allowed me to feel the range and arc of emotions she felt throughout that ordeal. The song came to life, transported us back to that time, and carried us – as it carried Aja – back to the stage, in the present moment.

After the show, the band made their way to the lobby to greet their fans. I watched as Aja, Dan, and Rich, graciously signed posters, arms, t-shirts, and tickets, but what struck me most is the way the band listened to everyone who approached them. They took their time with each person and absorbed everything they had to say. Their presence, attention, and energy was as consistent and strong off stage as it was on stage. Nico Vega is dynamic – musically and personally. At the same time, the integrity of who they are is unwavering. The conversation that took place on stage spilled out into the lobby and is continuing still today.

Nico Vega is on tour now and I highly recommend you see them, even if you need to travel out of town to do so.

If you’d like to experience the conversation for yourself immediately, the band is sharing their music, stories, insights, and friendship over at PledgeMusic. You can pre-order their new album Lead To The Light there, as well as receive personal updates from the band, and see what happens when they try to act.
Badge

Share on FacebookShare on Twitter+1Submit to redditPin it on Pinterest

Nico Vega at The Palladium

March 26, 2010
The Palladium, Hollywood

The last time I saw a line wrap around The Hollywood Palladium the way it did before doors opened for the Nico Vega/Codeine Velvet Club/Metric show, Nine Inch Nails was playing.

Nico Vega

Nico Vega

There are some bands I will continue to write about; Nico Vega is one of them.  It was great to see such a sizable crowd arrive early to see “the opening band.”  That’s only in quotes because Nico Vega is much more than an opening band, and the next time they play The Hollywood Palladium, I expect that they’ll be headlining.

Their set was too short.  Yet, within that compact set, fans were treated to more energy, fire, and great music than you often experience during another band’s full set.  Aja Volkman can sing, scream, and thrash around on stage, with grace.  Both women and men seem to admire her combination of ferocity and poise.  The only people who didn’t know how to receive Volkman were Palladium security whom, upon seeing Aja balance on the rail to sing amongst the crowd, looked as if they were going to go into cardiac arrest.

Dan

Dan = drums

Dan Epand used to play drums.  He’s since become the drums.  Whereas he used to hit the drums and cymbals to create the sound, now his body is merely a more flexible extension of the drum kit.  He levitates off his seat each time he strikes the drum.  There’s an illusion that Epand has really long arms as he extends the drumsticks well overhead before hitting the next beat.  I watched him walk off stage after their set because I expected the entire drum kit to move with him.  Epand, whom some may mistake as the shy quiet one, has become an animal on the drums. Just remember – the “quiet” ones are usually the most fun.

Rich Koehler

Rich Koehler

While Volkman is climbing, jumping, twirling, writhing, and flawlessly singing, Rich Koehler is doing the equivalent, balanced with cool restraint, while playing guitar.  Koehler may not be wireless yet, but that guitar cable does not restrain him from jetting around the stage, often in playful musical conversation with Volkman.

Nico Vega

Nico Vega

All of this is happening while the crowd sings all the words, jumps, and screams for more.  The audience was ready for this show – they responded as if they had been craving Nico Vega for a very long time.  And that’s indeed possible.  Nico Vega represents all that’s cool, sexy, smart, raw, edgy, kind, authentic, strong, and graceful.  You may find yourself feeling anxious between Nico Vega shows as you await your next “fix” (I often do).  Nico Vega – the 100% legal drug – just say “Yes!”

Share on FacebookShare on Twitter+1Submit to redditPin it on Pinterest

Nico Vega Kicks It Up A Notch At The El Rey

February 26, 2010
The El Rey Theater, Los Angeles

Nico Vega crush the El Rey

Nico Vega crushes the El Rey

I love it when a band transforms a venue. I’ve experienced it before – that feeling that a venue I know so well, and associate with hundreds of other live performances, has been transformed into another band’s playground.  For a moment you’re transported to an alternate reality. You lose track of space and time, forget that you own a cell phone, and question what city you’re in. That’s what Nico Vega did at the El Rey Friday night.

Nico Vega Blood Machine

Nico Vega Blood Machine

I’ve seen this band perform countless times and have always been impressed, but something was different this time. I don’t think drummer Dan Epand sat on his stool for more than a few seconds. With each strike of the drumsticks, Epand levitated completely. Rich Koehler was playing guitar as if it were a rocket launcher and we were all headed to another galaxy. And Aja Volkman, who is and always has been, a star, took us there.

When their set concluded, my friend looked at me and said, “Well, I don’t need to see anything else!”

I’d say we should all see Nico Vega again.  Hopefully soon.

Share on FacebookShare on Twitter+1Submit to redditPin it on Pinterest