Sometimes gigs have a certain ‘air’ about them. In the run up to these gigs, there’s an extraordinary sense of anticipation; maybe even slight nervousness. When these expectations and reality collide, you can often be left feeling a little underwhelmed, longing for more, or completely enthralled. Tonight, this collision found itself to be nothing short of a purely magical experience at Peckham Audio for Nix Northwest’s headline show.
Nix Northwest is a leading force in the lofi-jazz-rap / underground London scene. He’s been renowned by many in the industry for his lyrical flows that consistently hold themselves on a step above the norm, excellent production that leaves every second of a song feeling perfectly nurtured and crafted, and slick multi-instrumentalist sorcery (with a good portion of his recorded work being played by himself).
A friend of Majoris, we’ve experienced the wizard’s magic (derived from Nix’s original alias - the Young Wizard) in many forms. You can check out our recent interview with him, and our full length Major into his standout EP, to this effect. Throughout all of these there’s been a conclusion that, thus far, the man delivers in every area. And with this particular Major covering his live show, we can confirm that his delivery emphatically continues.
The space was just about as unique as the person playing in it. An amalgamation of all walks of life (complete with thrift, basketball and restaurant), it was a setup unlike we’ve seen before, but somehow appropriate. Intimate, focused and cohesive. Latest C-word variant notwithstanding, the relative physical closeness of one another seemed to mirror the metaphorical closeness that we know the community that surrounds Nix’s music has. Nix himself was a member of that crowd during the warmup to his set, and we think this really speaks to that close knit community feel that an audience member next to us described as a “family”. This overwhelming sense of the stage, its occupants and the audience being on a level pegging, coalescing around the music and its associated emotion was one of the main drivers of the show. “That’s the shit I care about”, Nix told us after the show, placing his musical priorities there - in the people that connect with him and his music - over numbers and notoriety.
There was a lifting of the veil between the stage and the floor where it felt like the audience were with the band every step of the way. The lifting of the veil also meant that the audience got sprayed with half a bottle of champagne at the end, which may have been a memorable experience, if wet, for some.
But before all of this kicked off, the show opened with a set delivered by Eerf Evil and Asher Kosher, spearheads of the label Root73 & The Silhouettes Project and fresh off the back of a set at the Jazz Cafe the night before. Their set was enjoyable not just because of the tunes and how they popped, but also because there was an overwhelming radiance of fun coming from the stage. Eerf and Ash were really enjoying themselves up there, and that passed residually into how the set went for the audience too. How the two bounced off each other was a joy to watch, and moments of interaction with the crowd were funny and added a lot of flavour to the music it sat in between.
The songs themselves were a good mix of some that you’ve likely heard before if your listening orbits the sounds of Nix Northwest, and some less popular too. Both hit hard. There seemed to be a game of what the two on stage called “Russian Roulette”, where the next song wouldn’t be fully known to them until it was actually played, and this added to that fun, engaging energy that was the umbrella to their set. There was one particular song that played, still unreleased, that we learnt Nix specifically requested As you would expect, it completely went off. We’re keeping an eye out for when the tune is released, and also keenly following Eerf, Ash, and all of the Root73 crew to see what they get up to next.
So we arrive at the main event, and start with the ’family’ that was described by an audience member earlier on. The role of the crowd was prominent, and included the familiar faces of ENNY and Paya Beats, as well as other special guests too. The energy was high up where it needed to be, and throats were sufficiently croaky from the extent of lyric-shouting that occurred throughout. You got the sense that there was a manifestation of the escapism, a hallmark of the notions of Nix’s music, alongside this connecting energy. What was evident was that they were in complete harmony with one another, recognising the melting pot of emotions and stories that went into that energy, and in that something could be shared with the person standing next to you in a ‘deep’ way. The audience naturally projecting the working duality between escaping and connecting made sense, (this is a perfect cross section of Nix’s discography on a plate) and it again showed the level of connection that Nix’s audience feel like they have with him. Rightly so, as it was Nix who told us, for a separate piece of work, that the relationship between the crowd and the artist is “symbiotic”. Whatever you decide to call it, it was special.
The setlist had a certain skew to unreleased material, but not for a second did it feel like this was beyond the capacity or want of the audience. If you think back to the last time you went to a gig where an artist played songs in the works or from the vault, there is usually either this respectful, subtle attentiveness, maybe even a little two-step, or in some cases a loss of the audience’s attention completely. All very normal and par for the course. With Nix though, as is so often the case, this musical gravity was defied.
It was nothing short of special that an astonishingly large proportion of the audience knew - quite instinctively - some lyrics and melodies of every single one of those songs, in spite of the fact they were yet to be released to the public. It’s true to say that part of this was because the songwriting in some is designed purposefully to be catchy and fun to jump into (which foreshadows to us only good things in the run up to his new album release next year and its subsequent reachability). But, more importantly, it's equally true to say that the phenomenon of an audience belting lyrics back to songs that haven’t been made public yet is entirely indicative of a fanbase devoted to the music and message of Nix Northwest. It struck Nix as a pleasant surprise and later he told us that this level of reflection between him and the audience was “pretty insane and cool”, but as modest as he will be, it’s a position most artists would want to be in when it comes to the people that receive their craft.
A setlist littered with unreleased material is just one angle to the low-key mystery that Nix Northwest thrives in. Though he might not like to admit it, this show, packaged with the handing out of inconspicuous QR codes from his label at the end, are all part of something bigger. We spoke to him about Xin’s Disappearance, his anticipated album, and it became clear that the release being built, shrouded in puzzle as it is, is exactly the kind that he wants.
The set itself had the perfect blend of jazz, hip hop and even elements of rock. Nix told us that he and the band “were rehearsed well”, and this really translated on the night. Added jazz breakdowns, silky transitions between songs and the dynamism that they all demonstrated strung together a really good musical performance. It was the kind of performance that let you into the fact that in his curation, Nix lets his appreciation for good music guide him, rather than what might work well or get the most cheers. In the way that the world works though, this was a concoction that worked the best and got the most cheers anyway. For folk who also love the grace of good music, this was pleasure at its highest level.
Some occasional misguided levels could (or ironically couldn’t) be heard from the sound team at the back, and this seemed to be most prominent for B-ahwe’s backing vocals. When BV’s are given less than they need it’s always tough on a set, but particularly so for B-ahwe - who’s voice really does add a sublime nature to any track it graces. Barring a sense of not getting the full force of her vocal powers, the dynamics were otherwise excellent and everyone and their instrument had the exact sound they needed. Special shout out to the band of merry men and women in Greg, Seb, Tricky, Grifton and B-ahwe for together putting on a sublime set of music. Not forgetting too when Nix himself joined the instruments and shelled off a solo on the keys as if it was the most standard thing in the world. It wasn’t, it was incredible.
And then, suddenly, the show ended. It wasn’t just the hard, heavily enforced curfew that made this end as sudden as it was, but more so the fact that the musical environment that was created on the night was one you just didn’t want to end, pretty much ever. Almost every aspect of the show was completely immersive, and the consensus outside with the people we spoke to was that it could’ve gone on and on with an audience willing every second. It was one of those fabled gigs that would’ve ended too soon, regardless of when the end was.
Nix sold out this show within three days. He curated, inside of the setlist and out, a musical experience seldom seen or felt. He gave every single person in that audience exactly what they needed, and it just so happened to be what Nix really wanted to give too. Nix Northwest took this show seriously, as he does all of his music, and put something on preluding as clear as day the path onto bigger stages, bigger crowds, and music for the masses. This was Nix Northwest, and what a show it was.