After four long days, Hundred Waters closed out BUKU weekend in New Orleans on Monday night.
Okay, admittedly the concert had literally nothing to do with BUKU, but the vibes from the wild weekend were still hanging heavily in the air. Republic (host of the actual festival-closer Porter Robinson) looked worn down – the balcony was closed off and the bartenders were emptying their ice chests well before the final song, let alone an encore.
When I arrived at the club I informed the door man that I was press and he would find my name on the guest list. Looking me in the eyes, he let out a small laugh, “I don’t know anything about a press list. But I don’t care.” With that my hand was stamped and I walked in – then straight over for a whiskey ginger, it was a long weekend for all of us.
Within minutes of my arrival, Hundred Waters took the stage. Hailing from Gainesville, Hundred Waters has trekked the globe, playing hundreds of shows in the band’s relatively brief history (2012-Present).Hundred Waters at Republic New Orleans | Photo: Spencer Darr
The reps they’ve gotten in are clearly paying dividends. This group is tight, in the same way a well-rehearsed jazz band can sprint through changes in rhythm, tempo, and tone without slowing a single BPM.
Drummer Zach Tetreault’s rhythm was the eye of the storm, shredding double-time swing beats while samples rained down around him. The sets more chaotic moments toed the edge of incoherence, but Tetreault steadied the course at tempos that would break most drummer’s spirits.
Compared to when I caught the band in January 2013, Hundred Waters have taken a massive leap in showmanship. Vocalist/Pianist Nicole Miglis roamed over the stage like a tormented fairy, with her sharp, ethereal voice pouring over a thick low-end. Her pained voice and limitless range commanded the audience’s attention.Hundred Waters at Republic New Orleans 3/16 | Photo: Spencer Darr
Flanking Miglis was two banks of keyboards, samplers, and guitars. Paul Giese to her left and Trayer Tryon to the right conjured ghastly found sounds, warped strings, and haunting synths.
Behind the band were over a dozen mutating LED bars supported by four light cannons that drew purple and maroon clouds inside the smoky club.Hundred Waters at Republic New Orleans 3/16 | Photo: Spencer Darr
Hundred Water’s songs are a myriad blend of genre references. They touch folk, house, hip-hop, and experimental Icelandic pop – sometimes in the same song. It’s shocking how effortlessly their set shifted between emotionally couterpoints – one moment Seven White Horses was buoyed only by Migles and a piano – the next the rhythm is carrying you with the energy of an EDM festival act. Respectfully, Hundred Waters pays no service to the fans of the heart of OWSLA’s artist roster – their cathartic moments are well-earned – there are no gratuitous breakdowns, instead it all falls apart in one loud exhale. Their proficiency in multiple disciplines of dance clear up how they can fit so well within Skrillex’s world and the world of music fans who read Pitchfork and have positive Reddit karma.
Hundred Waters at Republic New Orleans 3/16 | Photo: Spencer Darr
One impressive aspect of Miglis’ range is her ability to blend into whatever mood or setting their music directs them. As Seven White Horses rose up, so did Miglis, hitting notes others could only reach through pitch manipulation. This ‘nifty feature’ allows the band to recreate the rush of house with the physicality of a live band. Giese’s guitar solos offered up a sincere 80’s hair-metal imitation, hitting the same pleasure center of a perfect dropped sample.
All of the band’s electronics are armed with fat punchy bass tones that rumbled just as hard as Run the Jewels set earlier this weekend. Live it is hard to miss Miglis’ MC-level of annunciation – hopping and swaying with the downbeat, she can rip through syllables at 400 words per minute. Also, hell of a pianist – clearly classically trained – she ripped the Boreal riff all the way through without so much as a slight stumble.Hundred Waters at Republic New Orleans 3/16 | Photo: Spencer Darr
The band mostly worked from one song into another, with one of the only interactions coming from Miglis, “I… I always regret when I explain songs, so this one is called Cavity”. There was nothing really to talk about. Those of us who were there wanted only to listen to more of their music. That was clear when the audience of around 90 refused to leave without at least one more tune. The band obliged, despite their clear pre-SXSW exhaustion, exiting with the house lights up so they could look the audience in the eyes as they thanked them and left. And that, kids, is a metaphor for their show. It is eye contact, a trance, and pretty damn incredible. Don’t miss it.