Three Must-See Acts This Weekend: Drama, Nightmares on Wax, and Iceage

Experimental R&B at Rickshaw Stop, electronic at Mezzanine, and post-punk at Great American Music Hall.

Experimental R&B

DRAMA

9 p.m., Friday, June 8, at Rickshaw Stop. $15; rickshawstop.com

Living in what some call a “post-genre” era, artists have more creative freedom to experiment with new sounds and styles than ever before. For DRAMA, the Chicago duo comprised of vocalist Via Rosa and producer Na’el Shehade, their natural fusion of smooth R&B with sweeping dance rhythms displays authentic confidence as they navigate unexplored soundscapes. Prior to forming DRAMA, neither was a stranger to the music world, as Rosa’s parents were longtime reggae musicians who inspired her to release her own music at a young age, and Shehade licensed his own music to TV networks when he was 16, along with production credit on Chance the Rapper’s seminal Acid Rap mixtape. Meeting through fellow Chicago genre-bender Jean Deaux, Rosa and Shehade quickly began working together in the studio, releasing their inaugural EP “Gallows” in 2016, giving listeners a satisfying taste of what the duo labels “happy-sad music.” Standout track “Forever’s Gone” highlights Rosa’s impressive vocal capabilities backed by punchy beats and smile-inducing synths, operating in a similar upbeat-melancholic mindset as short-lived ’80s synth-pop duo Yazoo. After spending most of 2017 in the studio, Rosa and Shehade have returned with their excellent new EP Lies After Love. A decidedly darker turn than their last outing, Lies After Love is a lusciously produced whirlwind of sultry R&B and spacious electronica.

 

Nightmares on Wax

Electronic

Nightmares on Wax

9 p.m., Saturday, June 9, at Mezzanine. $20; mezzaninesf.com

Any artist who has the distinction of being one of Warp Records’ first signees is obviously a game-changer to some extent, but Nightmares on Wax is still releasing music that sounds just as ahead of its time as it did 30 years ago. Starting out in 1988 as a DJ duo between producers George Evelyn and John Halnon, and later Kevin Harper, Nightmares on Wax initially earned attention in their native Leeds club circuit, playing bizarre mixes of soul, funk, hip-hop, metal, punk, and whatever else to stunned audiences. The young Nightmares on Wax and newly founded Warp Records came together in 1989 to release the duo’s debut single “Dexterous,” which put both Nightmares on Wax and Warp on the map in the frontier of experimental electronic music. By the time Nightmares on Wax’s acclaimed sophomore album Smokers Delight graced the ears of trip-hoppers around the world, the “group” anointed Evelyn as its sole permanent member, along with musician Robin Taylor-Firth as a frequent collaborator, and comfortably transitioned from a DJ group to a live band with electronic elements. Today, Nightmares on Wax is the longest-surviving Warp artist, influencing later envelope-pushers like Flying Lotus and Hudson Mohawke.

 

Iceage

Post-punk

Iceage

8 p.m., Friday, June 8, at Great American Music Hall. $19.50; slimspresents.com

Once referred to by Iggy Pop as “the only current punk band I can think of that sounds really dangerous,” Iceage has proven in their decade of existence that there is more substance to their brooding post-punk than their rough and detached exterior would lead one to assume. The Copenhagen quartet formed in 2008 when all four members were frustrated teenagers who found inspiration in New York no-wave groups like Mars and avant-punk bands like Crass. Iceage’s 2011 debut album New Brigade introduced listeners to the blistering exuberance this young band could provoke, mixed with moody goth undertones. The group soon gained a reputation for their proudly chaotic and occasionally violent live shows, along with infamously awkward interviews, all of which earned frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt the title of “Rock’s Most Difficult Frontman” by The Fader. Iceage’s newly released fourth album Beyondless hears the band expanding into new sonic territory that incorporates elements of jazz and pop, but not at the expense of their now trademark ferocity. The band’s eagerness to develop their sound shows how Iggy Pop’s proclamation of Iceage being the only “dangerous” punk band is true, but perhaps in a different manner than he originally intended.

 

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