I had no idea what to expect last Wednesday when I walked into the Crocodile. Luckily, this was not a night for disappointments.
Hailing from Sydney, Australia, Naked on the Vague were here supporting their fantastic new EP, Twelve Dark Noons. On record, NOTV sound like a faster, messier Joy Division. Live, their post-rock filtered through new wave sound is more pronounced, and frontwoman Lucy Phelan comes off like a much angrier Deborah Harry. It was all very noisy and incoherent in all the right ways.
Headliner Zola Jesus was up next. There was chatter in the crowd about whether she show would play “old” or “new” or old music. There is a pronounced difference between the two. Her older albums are noisy post-rock, the newer stuff is more focused synth heavy new wave bombast. It turned out to be the latter; the set focused mostly on the recent Stridulum and Valusia EPs.
After a short burst of intro music, Nika Rosa Danilova, a.k.a. Zola Jesus, took to the stage clad in a white sheet to the song “Trust Me.” The voice on the woman was truly something to behold. Her music has been compared to both Christina Aguilera (probably due to her classically trained voice), Kate Bush, and Siouxie Sioux. It’s somewhere in-between the latter two.
In addition to the incredible voice, Danilova has fantastic stage presence. She was backed by three men on keyboards and synths, and another guy on drums, but the crowd’s eyes were solely on her throughout the set. The woman seems destined for arena stages. The Crocodile has never seemed as tiny as it did that night.
Near the end of the final song, I had to back up so Danilova could jump off the stage to make her way through the crowd to the bar at the back of the room. She sang the rest of the song (“Poor Animal”) from there. She came back for an encore directly, but by that point I was in a daze, and I headed out into the night. Zola Jesus is poised to conquer the world.