Live Reviews Nacosta- Under the Half Moon

Published on March 31st, 2014 | by Lena Olive

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Live in NYC: Nacosta at The Bowery Electric

 

As a novice to The Bowery Electric, I was both excited and anxious treading an unfamiliar bar. A casual mix of downtown cool and twenty-something nonchalance, the venue was intimate yet informal. Despite the longish walk from the subway, I found the place without a hitch.  With is hot blue neon sign illuminating the Bowery, it was almost impossible to miss. Freezing, yet exuberated I approached the venue’s two doors, eventually pulling the wrong one.  A dark, vaguely male figure sitting behind a high podium pantomimed a pulling motion, all the while pointing to the other door. When I got into the venue the figure materialized as a studly brunette guy in a denim jacket.  He crossed my name off a list and directed me to the basement. The Subterranean staircase led to a baron candlelit bar and sunken stage area.  I waited around for Nacosta, even though they wouldn’t go on for another hour or so. I sat near the bartender, taking in the boozy lay of the land.

Despite its sparse patrons, the downstairs bar was mildly upbeat. As I sipped my Whiskey neat, a tall baby-faced rapper was amidst his set.  I’d come to know him as Hollywood Anderson. Accompanied by a drummer and guitarist the trio seemed old school and loose. Their straightforward hip-hop sound flirted with acoustic guitar and simple drum beats. Anderson’s unique brand of soul-folk-r&b was both refreshing and different.  Even though at times his banter with the audience seemed a bit like nervous chatter, he was comfortable on stage. Eventually, Anderson would launch into an unexpectedly sandpaper falsetto, that left the audience hypnotized.  I caught up with him later on, as I waited for Nacosta to take the stage. As I approached him for an interview he seemed charismatic and less nervous than he had beforehand. When I questioned him about his sound he looked me in the eye and asked “Can I use explicit language?” I told him “You can say whatever you want.” Without a beat, Hollywood Anderson answered “New pussy…But with a better bed.” He then launched into a story about his time at SXSW. “I hooked up with this girl there, and the bed was good…but the pussy was so much better. That’s how I like to describe my music. The instruments are the bed and my voice is the pussy.”  As he is a Florida native, I inquired if his southern state upbringing had any bearing on his approach to music. “I grew up between the hood and the suburbs. I grew up with ratchetness and then class. My audience is my audience.” I asked if NYC fans were different than those in the south. Through a smile he answered “There is no difference. Good music is good music.”  He was charming albeit confusing but seemed whip smart on the whole.  There was a small blonde woman standing in back of me as I took the interview, milling about with her friends.  Anderson inquired “Is she cute?” I told him she was boyish in a sexy way. He directed me to his manager and we exchanged contact information.

As the night progressed and I drank my body weight in Well-Whisky, the crowd began to grow. I questioned if it was my double vision, but conceded it was mostly tangible party-goers. Eventually, touring buddies to Nacosta, Thieves and Gypsys took the stage.  Incredibly loud, I had a hard time hearing lead singer Jared “Jerry” Garcia, over the wall of sound created by him and his electrifying counterparts. Garcia had a roundness to his voice as well as an unexpectedly creamy vibrato that swirled well with the rest of the band. Despite playing for a mostly empty room, they thundered on with freight-train aggression.  Sitting down with Garcia after Thieves and Gypsys’ set, he was personable and warm. “We’re a noise band” he said. “…There are a lot of undertones in our songs. It sounds like a lot more people playing.” As out-of-towners I inquired about his bands’ time in New York. “My first impression was that this place is mind blowing. This is my first time in New York and from the moment we rolled in, we got a good vibe here.”  We chatted about his hometown of Santa Fe. “There’s something about the heat there and how the winds pick up. It influences our sound a little bit. I guess you could call our sound wave pop.” Garcia disappeared behind the merch table and I sat at the bar, watching whisky disappear into my gut.

It was show time for Nacosta so I perched myself near the terrace-like appendage hanging above the sunken stage. As they launched into their set my initial thought was “Wow, there are a lot of people on stage.” With three guitarists, two guys on tambourine and a drummer and a half, it was a tight squeeze.  Despite all the noisemakers, Nacosta swung on cohesively. They seemed to reinvigorate the otherwise drowsy crowd.  They would float into album cut “Aberlina.” Hearing it live gave it a new kind of depth. It also showcased the wiggly dance moves of front man Brandon Graham.  They snuck a new song in their set that was both noisy and layered.  In this particular tune, the guitar and drums seemed to meld perfectly. Despite being longish, it brought the set together. Next they drifted into “Stangers,” a less heavy tune that thoroughly displayed their dreamy, sunkissed, Cali sound. The highlight of the set came when Brandon Graham jumped from the stage and soloed uncontrollably into the crowd. Someone on the tambourine followed suit and the whole scene felt like a budding jam session. As the set closed the crowd thundered “ONE MORE SONG!” as an unexpected encore they played album single “Sit and Wait.” By the end of it, the crowd was in love. The audience would erupt into yells of admiration and Nacosta would close their set proudly.

Sharing a few drinks after their set, I chatted up Nacosta’s drummer Shane Graham. “We definitely have a West Coast sound.” He said. “We sound a little like the doors. It comes out of that Laurel Canyon scene.” I mentioned to Graham how I felt as if Nacosta was holding back in their set. “We like structured tunes, but we feed off of the audience’s reactions.” He reassured me that Nacosta ‘is not a jam band.” As brother to lead singer Brandon Graham, I wondered about their conflicts. “Yeah…we are brothers. We have disagreements. We always reconnect.” With a rotating cast of characters I inquired about their current tour lineup. Shane informed me that they “found a few folks on Craiglist” And that there is an indelible “network of musicians” on both coasts, as well as online.

As a fan of their most recent effort “Under the Half Moon” I enjoyed Nacosta’s live show, immensely. Their musicianship was rock solid and everyone in their seven man set-up gave 110%. The extra bandmates added cadence and subtly without overloading their sound. I would see them on tour again, no question.

The Bowery Electric is a fine venue, with eclectic bands and the type of casual atmosphere that will bring both the dive crowd and the hardcore snobs. As a fan of the former, I will let them fill my glass, preferably three fingers high, anytime.

For more information on Nacosta, check out Nacosta.com

For more information on Thieves and Gypsys check out thievesgypsys.bandcamp.com

For more information on Hollywood Anderson check out Facebook.com/HollywoodAndyNyc

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