ACL Review: Nick Hakim

D.C. virtuoso offers a surrealistic tour de fource

Some artists thrill by bending a groove to its absolute limits. Others relish in breaking it altogether. On Saturday afternoon, Nick Hakim walked that line like a tightrope, his indie R&B jams twisting and turning around psychedelic riffs like a kaleidoscopic whirlwind.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Just when a pattern began to settle, he contorted the glass to shatter it into new, uncanny prisms. The results at times frustrated, yet they never failed to intoxicate. Hakim and his backing fourpiece proved precise and intentional.

Throughout, the songwriter’s roughened vocals wound amid the shifting tempos and rhythms on their own journey. Opening his balmy Tito’s tent set with the title track from this year’s head-turning debut, Green Twins, the D.C. native and Berklee School of Music grad worked through the album almost directly. “Bet She Looks Like You” chiming in surf-psych tones and “Roller Skates” sedated behind a heavy, percussive push.

A technical tour de force as they shuffled through an almost surrealist melding of styles, from deep soul with a gospel flair to jazz-tuned funk-pop, the band challenged the crowd even as fans worked into admittedly awkward dance frenzies to keep pace. Hakim prowled the stage with “Needy Bees” and “TYAF,” his croon drifting into feral, inarticulate wails. The songs propelled an underlying anguish of want and lust that countered the musical precision with animalistic howls.

“The Want” waxed appropriately seductive into new song “I Don’t Know,” which, rounding out the close, Hakim drowned in a cacophony of beats and moans. There’s no doubting the talent of the young artist, but behind his debut, he seems almost overwhelmed by the possibilities of it all.

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Nick Hakim, ACL Fest 2017, Berklee School of Music

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