This past Saturday night at SXSW, the Philadelphia quartet Nicos Gun performed the last of their five South By shows at The Belmont in Austin. Many of the people at the venue were milling about the outdoor patio bar area (where the stage was located) in between bands; when the members of Nicos Gun started their set, it immediately brought the crowd to the front of the stage for what became a non-stop half-hour dance workout.
The band’s performance, led by its charismatic front man, singer, and guitarist Barney Cortez, was impressive. He strikes a compelling figure on stage, commanding the crowd’s attention with his low-slung guitar, confident moves, and engaging audience interaction. Though the spotlight shined on Cortez, he wasn’t the only bright light on stage. His band mates complimented and heightened the intensity of the show by exuding equal amounts of energy as him. They’re a tight unit. They play well with each other—and to the audience. At one point, keyboardist/guitarist Nick Bockrath jumped on top of the drummer’s kick drum, as Cortez dropped his guitar and put his hands in the air to get the crowd clapping.
Nicos Gun mine the musical territory of electronic dance rock. Though the sound of the band recalls elements of the past, they are a band of the moment. The full-force funk of songs like “Dirty Girl,” and “Soldier” bring to mind the R&B music of Prince, with its funky rhythmic bottom and slinky, chicken-scratch guitar riffs. On songs like “Control,” the sinewy synthesizer lines drive the beat bring to mind the lock-step electronic grooves of LCD Soundsystem. The band will be back in to town on April 5th at Johnny Brenda’s and they are playing The Roots Picnic at the Festival Pier on June 4th.