A black curtain served as the background for the small stage at Brisbane’s GOMA (22 June).
Many great performances have taken place on that stage throughout the gallery’s Up-Late programme, with performers often crammed among their instruments. For this performance the stage was unusually bare, but American singer Zola Jesus and Brisbane rapper Miss Blanks filled it with their outsized personalities in two electrifying sets.
Zola Jesus, aka Nicole Hummel, made a spectacular entrance. She was absent at the beginning, her guitarist Alex DeGroot and violinist Michelle Woodward filling her void with industrial noise.
Draped in a red veil, Nicole emerged from the crowd and cooed the lyrics to ‘Veka’. Her voice grew in volume to match her large shadow projected onto the background, turning into a huge, operatic wail when she lifted her veil.
Nicole’s intense performance led her to pushing the veil away from her face when she wasn’t thrashing to electronic thuds. By third song ‘Dangerous Days’, Nicole discarded the veil and whipped her jet-black hair around her, her joints popping and locking to the clanging beats.
After moving the mic stand away, Nicole returned to her erratic movements. But as ‘Bound’ faded to a hum Nicole stood still, her head hanging and black hair draped over her face as she was surrounded by an ambient hum.
The fast techno beat of ‘Remains’ appeared and Nicole came back to life with more energy. Having leapt across the stage, she climbed atop a table at the back of the stage. Towering above the crowd, she threw her head back and belted a lengthy high-note before swooping back to the ground and close to fans’ stunned faces.
“Who wants to get nasty tonight?” asked Miss Blanks. The Brisbane-based 'Super Saiyan Rap Killer' pointed out this was her first performance in three months, but she dominated from the first step of her strut to the stage.
It was a loose set, with Blanks often pausing during her filthy rhymes losing herself in the beats. Along with a new wavy hairstyle – “I look like schmoney,” she correctly announced – she performed a stack of new tracks.
She debuted the Alice Ivy collaboration ‘Tommy’ and fired through ‘Down For It’ with such energy she feared her mascara was running. Blanks also took her haters down a notch on the diss track ‘This Bitch’, reminding them: “Without me, you’d be nothing.”
Seeing gaps in the crowd, she commanded the crowd to move closer, especially queers and femmes “because that’s where they belong, motherf#$%er”.
The closer proximity made the crowd bump and grind against each other through ‘Skinny Bitches’; at one point, a man galloped out of the audience with a girl riding on his back. It was misbehaviour only Miss Blanks’ massive charisma could bring out of everyone.