After a false start, Nikolas Laurien re-emerged on stage in his signature mesh bag over-the-head look, prompting excited murmurs from the Brighton Music Hall crowd. Nikolas AKA Nick Nicely has been active since the 70s, with a style that I suppose could be considered a variant of hypnagogic pop. But the band I saw was deeply psychedelic, with songs like “On the Beach (the Ladder Descends)” having caught my attention.
Guitar and bass were played over the DJ set, and Nikolas’s vocals were somewhere between pitched-down doubling and a vocoder. Occasionally he’d reach into his pocket for a harmonica to play, droning through the mic line, and even utilized the metal body of this underestimated instrument to strum his guitar.
The set began with text on screen that read, “Nick Nicely’s foreseeable past.” Projections of mirrored and natural images provide something for the audience to zone in on; viewers get a feeling of nostalgia for memories that aren’t theirs, with occasional text flashing on.
John Maus provided an altered state of consciousness, not only within his performance but in our interactions after the show. Though he didn’t play “Decide Decide,” like the music bro to my right begged for in between each song, he did play a great mix of his older and newer work, including well known tracks like “Rights for Gays,” “Cop Killer,” and tracks from more recent releases, like “The Combine” from Screen Memories.
Even with the mic to his chest, you could still hear Maus’s bellowing screams over songs like “My Whole World’s Coming Apart,” as well as the muffled sound of bony flesh to hair as he repeatedly smacked his own head. As the show progressed, the crowd got more rowdy, drinking in Maus’s raw emotion as he spilled water all over his gear and body, tossing bottles, and leaving them half empty to drain onto the stage.
Waiting for him to come out of the green room, I met someone posing as a merch guy who didn’t know the prices of any of the records. As each consecutive person approached the table, he explained he was an old friend of John’s and if we could just be patient, he was sure Dr. Maus would be out to speak with us shortly.
Perhaps due to imposter syndrome, my new friend revealed himself to me just before Maus exited the green room. He confessed that he was trying to prevent people from stealing the vinyl copies, something that Maus himself did not seem perturbed by.
Maus said that he has a hard time asking people for any money for them, and in fact put his own music on Napster for free in the early days of music pirating. Although, he found it funny that he lied to everyone about being the merch guy.
People treat him like the brilliant philosophy professor he is, for the most part – almost berating him with questions about music and life as if to steal his soul, or at least pick his brain. Conversations dipped into deeper territory as quickly as they started, and did not always revolve around music.