Nico Vega is a band unlike just about any you’ve ever seen or heard before and no one who sees them for the first time (or the fifth) walks away unchanged. A band of merely three, they make music for the many as voice, drums and guitar meld into a tribal and combustible microcosm composed of fearless elements. They are what music should never forget that it has the possibility to be: a force of nature.
Friday night the historic walls of The Roxy in West Hollywood hosted the Halloween thematic event appropriately called The Witch Hunt for all to worship at the altar of rock and roll. Aja Volkman assumed her rightful place on The Roxy stage as the eve’s musical priestess flanked by Rich Koehler (guitar) and Dan Epand (drums) who wield their own very powerful weapons. Belting out and lovingly bruising the crowd with their precious brand of rock, the theme of the Witch Hunt (other than an excuse for adults to dress up as risqué/revealing/ridiculous as possible with every rationalization at the ready) was rising from oppression. The beginning of their headlining set found Aja a modestly shrouded creature dancing, singing, and musically fighting through her Puritanical clothing confinement song after song. She shrieked and howled, kicked and punched, while she simultaneously touched and welcomed us into their world while expanding ours. The set list was peppered with familiars like “Fe Fi Fo Fum”, the anthemic chant-a-long “Gravity” and shake your soul thang “So So Fresh” but many, fo the first time, got to taste some of the new material that they’re taking on the road with them like “Lucky One”, the powerful “Animal/Human” which shows Rich off as the deft guitarist that he is, and the evening’s theme song “Witchy Night”. The musical cult of Nico Vega is a seductive and authentic thing of thunder, heat, social awareness, and it’s damned impossible not to succumb to such a lure especially when Aja makes physical contact via outstretched hand or giving up her body to crowd surfing. Where Dan is downright destruction on drums (I dare you to find a better drummer) and Rich a sonic aggressor with effects pedals, Aja shape shifts from siren to Mother Teresa to something every guy and probably a few girls want to take home.
When Rich needed a moment to tune his gear, Aja took the cue to lead the audience through an impromptu round of “Coal Miner’s Song” complete with forgetting a line or two but us supplying them was what we were there for. But what surely was the shock and awe highlight of the night was the chill factor of Aja’s persecution when two Puritan brutes apprehended her through a fearsome struggle (note to all: she may be small, but the lady puts up a hell of a fight. I think one Puritan dude may have taken one for the team in the nuts). She fought, flailed, and clawed for her life but wound up being dragged and bound to a tree, semi-crucifixion style where the bad guys slit her throat for her sins. After making their sworded point that this could very well happen to “us” and leaving her to die, a guitar chord and a drum beat later the beauty was resurrected by the “Beast”. And then it was on. Blood stained, bare foot, stripped of her constraints (and most of her clothes), wild and wide eyed Aja and, Nico Vega stormed through their primal theme song, daring you to do better, be better.
And ever the ones to be giving (yes, Dan, Rich, Aja, that’s a hint/plea), Nico Vega practically blessed and sealed this hallowed night with the fiercely gentle and pliant testimony to our human frailty, “Wooden Dolls”. It was as tempestuous as it was delicate and when Aja climbed up on Dan’s bass drum to address the beauty of each individual soul, she looked to and through the fans singing for her attention and love and she gave it.
To catch Nico Vega on their West coast tour along with Saint Motel and Imagine Dragons, check their Myspace page: