Story and Video by Mitchell Brown, Reporter
I’m nocturnal by habit. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember. I can feel tired and uninspired throughout the day, but then it’s like the neurons in my brain begin firing at a faster pace when the sun goes down.
Last year I was working a job where I would clock out at two in morning, and I would often feel wound after work. Rarely would I pass out right after walking through the door of my apartment. I needed to do something to decompress, and every once in a while, I would flip on the radio.
And one fateful night, I briefly stopped the dial on 90.9 the Bridge, and I caught an earful of amazing. I was lured in by a bassline so deep and dank it could have been dug up from a swamp, and then the vocals came in. I could hardly believe what I was being treated to, a voice that fell somewhere between the soul of Aretha Franklin and the grit of Janis Joplin. I was nearly jolted out of bed as I heard the song “Wolf Den.” Who is this!?
A few months down the road I found out who was singing – Danielle Nicole. So, when I found out that this bonafide blues badass was going to be in Warrensburg I made sure to mark my calendar in advance.
I still work nights – only now I am out the door between 10:30 and 11 p.m., instead of early in the morning. I usually have to haul ass on the weekends if there is a headliner I want to catch playing at the Bay.
I walked into the Bay April 16 at around 11:15 p.m., and I almost had to do a double check if I had the right bar, as the place was packed. I had never seen it like this before!
I looked toward the stage and saw Danielle Nicole holding an acoustic guitar, instead of the bass she is known for. I had no idea how long she had been on stage. Panic set in. Did I just walk in on the end of her set? Is this the encore? Well, I was going to enjoy the moment… whatever it was.
My jaw was nearly on the floor at what I saw next. Sans her backing band, she launched into a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Her heartfelt delivery had the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end.
When a musician plays from the heart and soul, music becomes more than just an auditory algorithm and an arrangement of notes and chords, but the music can take on a transcendental-like quality. That’s the type of vibe that Danielle Nicole brought throughout the entirety of her set.
To my relief, I didn’t walk in on an encore, but she was just getting warmed up, as she brought her backing band, the Danielle Nicole Band, back on stage to plug in and keep rocking.
I talked to Bay owner Ben Blevins and asked how much of her set did I miss — he told me only 15 minutes. What a relief, and she proceeded to bring it on stage for well over an hour. I stood there, getting video, taking pictures, and taking in the music. I was amazed at how someone could go like that. I was witness to a fiery combination of disciplined, honed musical talent and unfiltered intensity.
If you’ve seen enough live music, you can tell when the musicians on stage are just phoning it in and when they are going for broke and leaving it all on the stage. Danielle Nicole definitely fell into the latter category.
The whole presentation was not just something to be heard, but an energy to be felt. The intensity was present in the way she shook up the stage, gyrating and grinding to the beat, shaking her sweat drenched shoulder length raven locks all about, occasionally downing a beer before launching into another song. In her hands, the bass guitar seemed more like a broadsword than a musical instrument.
And the crowd, in a symbiotic fashion, responded to all of that intensity. On the slower, smoother numbers like “Waiting On Your Love,” couples danced a little closer than usual, and on the more raucous numbers like “ Didn’t Do You No Good” it felt as if a mini tremor was happening under my feet, due to all the commotion and movement from the audience.
The commotion was turned up more than few notches when Danielle Nicole did a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” As soon as I heard the familiar rumbling riffs of a ‘70s rock standard, I thought “oh shit—it’s on now.” She owned it, and then some, with a strut and gusto that rivaled that of Page and Plant.
It was supposed to be the last song of the night, but the crowd howled for more, and more is what was delivered, a few more songs, and then it really was “thank you good night.” I walked away thinking I just saw the blues on steroids, so sonically muscular and powerful.
I made sure to briefly chat with the woman who is a living musical phenomenon.
Her opinion of the show was similar to mine. She used the word “amazing” to sum up the night.
“This was our first time playing Warrensburg,” Nicole said.” It’s a college town, and you’re like, oh man, I hope these kids get it, but we rocked it, and we had a spectrum of everybody out.”
Nicole stated that she saw no difference between playing in Warresnburg and the reception she’s received when playing in major cities.
“That crowd was just roaring, and they were involved and hungry and just wanted it,” she said.
She attributes the crowd’s energy to a sense of Midwest hunger.
“You get into a lot of the larger cities, and they are just oversaturated with so much music,” Nicole said. “I don’t want to say that in a bad way – It’s just there’s so much going on, there’s so much to look at, and I think that hunger and desire for that raw music is definitely here.”
I walked home from the show thinking “well, you don’t see that everyday around these parts.” But sometimes lightning strikes and that’s what happened when Danielle Nicole came to Warrensburg.
Follow Danielle Nicole Band on Facebook here.