You Say You Want A Revolution: Nice As Fuck at Bowery Ballroom

We’re Nice As Fuck
Wish you good luck!

–Nice As Fuck, “NAF Theme”

It was a nice surprise when a friend sent me a VISA gift card for my birthday. I could finally justify spending money to seeing Nice As Fuck’s most recent show in New York City at Bowery Ballroom. I kept missing NAF perform (at the just closed The Deep End Club or opening for M. Ward). I pinched myself as I hit “confirm payment” thinking about how I would get the chance to see Jenny Lewis for a second time this year, and witness Tennessee Thomas and Erika Forster groove up close. This summer has been oppressively hot in New York, and without One Direction I have had little to look forward to. I was geeked about having the opportunity to see one of my favorite musicians in a totally new dynamic. Jenny Lewis, the lead singer of Nice As Fuck, has had an impressive solo career for the last ten years. She came to fame in the music industry in her previous band Rilo Kiley. Tennessee Thomas was a drummer in the rock group The Like. Erika Forster established her name with Au Revoir Simone.

I got off work on August 1 ready for the revolution. I’d spent months scouring the Instagrams of Tennessee Thomas and Jenny Lewis as their friendship led to the formation of the new rock trio. I giddily got excited as Matt Hitt and Alexa Chung popped up around the band. The network of New York models, artists, and performers all coming together in solidarity. Despite waiting to buy a tee and beer, I managed to snag a spot right in front of Jenny Lewis’ mic stand. I’m not kidding when I say I was on top of the keyboard. I figured you don’t let a chance like this go by without grasping it.

Alix Brown DJ’d the first hour of the evening as we waited around NAF’s staging on the floor of the Bowery. The songs set the perfect tone for the evening, even though I will admit, I didn’t recognize a single song. However, I was happy to sip my beer, snap pics of the staging, wonder if Alexa Chung would be at the early show (she was at the late show), and subtly shake my hips to the tunes.

NAF came out a little after 8pm for their first show of the evening at the Bowery. Dressed in black pants, Nice As Fuck black tees, green military jackets, black berets, heavy winged eyeliner with bold lipstick, NAF were a conglomeration of radical 60s counter-culture attire and attitude. The Bernie tee taped to Tennessee’s drum set was a nice touch, a shout out to her advocacy and campaigning for the Senator in his Presidential bid. NAF asks for all those in attendance to unite in a desire to experience connection, love and freedom.

naf

This was the point when it settled in just how close I was going to be to Jenny Lewis during the set. As you can see, without zoom, I felt like I was pretty much in her personal space. But in terms of art, there was a great closeness that developed between artist and audience as the set began. With no barrier, not even a rope, we were a part of their raucous set. It was contained chaos performed with a smirk.

NAF performed “Runaway”, off the new album, first. In the aftermath of Jenny Lewis’ rumored break up with writing partner Jonathan Rice and her move to the East Coast, it’s hard to not read her own departure into the lyrics. The solace Jenny has found alongside Tennessee and Erika is obvious in her stage presence, and her Instagram posts where her smile is infectious, large. All three performers seemed genuinely humbled by the outpouring of love for their set.

Jenny Lewis sang the opening verse of “Cookie Lips” directly to me. As I sought to break eye contact do to the overwhelming feeling of having my favorite singers eyes on me, she sang Oh cookie lips, give me a crumb /Oh cookie lips, are you the one? As Tennessee explained before the song began, “Cookie Lips” is about a lover who gives you enough of the “cookie” to keep you wanting more, but it’s ultimately “crumbs.” A lover who ghosts. I think I just got ghosted by cookie lips / (What a dick). The song is fresh, young. Fun. It’s also catchy as hell.

Universe pulls us together
For tonight
Cookie lips

 

If you want to know who I am? 
Just ask any of my friends

“Higher” was a stand out of the night. The soaring vocals, bass and drums pulsing within the confines of the Bowery. True love never dies / I’m getting higher and higher. Jenny’s stage presence was electric, intense. She was actually lit up. The confidence she has as a performer so clearly comes from years of experience on the road, and it’s hard to look away as she commands everyone to join in the experience. To revel alongside her.

The set drew to a close with “Door” and “Guns,” the two most obvious songs of revolution and power on the album. “Door” has a recurring exclamation of Don’t Close The Door! An insistence that the message of peace and love brings about real unity. “Guns” is a call for us all to put our guns away. Nice As Fuck doesn’t want to be afraid. The album, written this past spring, feels like a direct reaction to the current political climate. As Jenny instructs, the solution is revolution. NAF’s politics cannot be ignored. They don’t want you to be able to look away, misinterpret. Leaving, I felt like over the course of 9 songs I had become closer with the band. I somehow understand their energy, their sound better.  I’m excited to see what they all do with this side project in the future.

I highly suggest checking out this new act if they stop into your area. Join the revolution! You can check out The Deep End Club’s activism blog and even buy your own NAF tee before attending. Let’s all try to be a part of the solution!

Setlist:

Intro – Jem and the Holograms theme
Runaway
Angel
Homerun
Cookie Lips
Higher
Mall Music
Door
Guns
NAF Theme

Ashley

About Ashley

Ashley Hull wishes she was a mermaid, but she’s happier she’s managed to find her voice. She currently resides in Brooklyn. If you’re looking for her, she’s likely in front of a mirror applying lip stain while singing Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” under her breath.

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