It is never a good start to a concert when the promoters have to go on stage to announce that the headliners won’t be playing due a food-poisoned drummer. All I could think was, “At least it hadn’t been the lead singer,’’ but then again, trying to keep a beat in that condition is probably just as awful. I had been assigned to cover Royal Canoe at La Vitrola, but I was going to have to make do with the openers. What started as a disappointment became a fantastic surprise. This was quite possibly the best show I have seen in quite some time. The self-described space freak, NOVA, and the musical mind fuck that is Hannah Epperson more than made up for their tragically fallen comrades.
For her first live show with her backing band, NOVA certainly rose to the occasion. She has a beautiful voice that is dripping in cool detachment and poised elegance. She could quite possibly give Lana Del Rey a run for her money someday. In fact, she is better than most of the crap that inexplicably gets played on the always nauseating Top 40. My only criticism is towards her performance. She spent way too much time with her back to the audience, which is one of the worst things you can do as a performer. I get that being detached is part of her shtick, but she missed some beautiful opportunities to connect with her very receptive audience. I can’t blame her entirely though. First gig jitters are a bitch. Thankfully by the end, she started to really hit her stride. Her cover of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” was a gleefully unique spin, and her original, “Glory Box,” was as catchy as it was provocative.
When it comes to Hannah Epperson, I can’t begin to describe her. I can’t compare her sound to anyone else’s. Hell, I can’t even give you one genre she would fit in. Her act is something that you just have to experience for yourself. I actually had goosebumps. I felt like I had been told of a secret that no one in the world had been privy to. Epperson doesn’t so much stand on a stage and play songs; she makes you forget time and space entirely. I couldn’t tell you if I stood with my mouth open for two minutes or twenty. All of it is a whirlwind, but her “songs” usually start with a layering of her electric violin that build into an orchestra of one. Everything is so dynamic and challenging, yet highly enjoyable. Once you’ve got your feet tapping, the tempo accelerates like a runaway train. Before you can sing along, every note disappears, leaving Epperson with nothing but the whisper of her voice. There are catchy vocal lines, but not once did I hear a chorus. Beautiful contradictions were everywhere.
Epperson is an undeniable star. This does not mean she is your typical, stadium-packing diva. She is a musician’s musician. With her flowing blond hair and bare feet, she looks very much like your typical free-spirited hippy, who also happens to be a virtuoso violinist. She is soft spoken, but possesses a booming presence. Most of us were utterly transfixed, except for a small number of loud and drunken idiots in the back of the room. Other performers might have ignored them or made a scene, but not Epperson. She merely told them she needed their cooperation and that she would love to talk to them later, in the softest and kindest voice imaginable. The idiots never spoke again. At times, she was straining to use her vocal chords, perhaps due to illness, but amazingly she never lost her voice. Her personality, musicianship, and unique approach, shone through every moment that we were lucky enough to share with her.
Friday’s show represented exactly why I enjoy going to concerts and writing reviews. It is easy to become jaded and bored. You start to think that you’ve seen everything that there is to see. I love being proven wrong. Mark my words, you will hear NOVA blasting from a car radio in the not so distant future, and if Hannah Epeprson isn’t discovered and sought out, I will lose all faith in the music-listening public. Again, if you haven’t seen her live, you are missing out on a show that defies any sort of label or description. Trust me friends, I am not lazy when I write this. Writers are a wordy bunch, but there is nothing that brings us greater joy than to be rendered speechless. When I left La Vitrola, on Friday, I’ll tell you, I was one silently content man.
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Kate Erickson