The Best NYC Shows This Week: Princess Nokia, Xenia Rubinos, Tinariwen


We are nearing Day 100 of the Trump Presidency and, against all odds, the world is still turning. Over these intense few months, many of us have learned about the diversity of resistance; not all forms of struggle are obvious. New York concerts this week run the gamut in this regard, from Princess Nokia, whose self-confident rhymes were brewed in the depressed Bronx of her childhood, to the underground pop artist Xenia Rubinos, who uses joyful music to reckon with her American identity as a descendent of immigrants. Tinariwen, a bluesy African group, know firsthand about what it means to struggle for freedom when you’re no longer welcome in your homeland. As our new reality continues to unfold, we can draw strength from these artists, who are far from giving up.


Jonathan Richman
Bowery Ballroom

8 p.m., $20

Jonathan Richman’s influence on modern music is hard to quantify. Starting with his pioneering proto-punk group the Modern Lovers in 1970, Richman has developed a trademark mix of shambling rock ’n’ roll, baritone voice, and innocent, wide-eyed wonder that would go on to inspire artists from the Magnetic Fields to Jens Lekman to M.I.A. (who borrowed lyrics from the classic Modern Lovers track “Roadrunner” for “Bamboo Banga”). Since the breakup of the Modern Lovers in 1974, Richman has written countless memorable tunes on his many albums, earning a cult fan base in each generation that discovers him.

Bing & Ruth

The Mission

7 p.m., $15

Musician David Moore’s project Bing & Ruth combines classical music with a flowing sentimentality reminiscent of a film soundtrack. His last release, No Home of the Mind, delivers strong and clear emotions on its ten piano-based, wordless tracks. The album stands up to the best and most beautiful works of ambient music ever made — it’s just gorgeous.


Princess Nokia
Brooklyn Bazaar

8 p.m., $15

Several years ago, the Bronx underground rapper Destiny Frasqueri began appearing at queer parties around Brooklyn under the name Wavy Spice. Her presence and flow was instantly commanding, but it wasn’t until this year that Frasqueri came into her own, under the name Princess Nokia. 1992, put out on SoundCloud last fall, is her first straightforward rap album, showcasing a confident hip-hop sensibility and rough-around-the-edges productions. At this point, Frasqueri has modeled for Calvin Klein and Vogue and had her track used at an Alexander Wang runway show — it’s unlikely she’ll be playing venues this intimate for long.


Xenia Rubinos, the Kominas, Starchild & the New Romantic
Bowery Ballroom

8 p.m., $15

Brooklyn musician Xenia Rubinos has a voracious cultural appetite, synthesizing genres like indiepop, hip-hop, jazz, electronic music, and soul into her maximalist compositions. On her most recent album, 2016’s Black Terry Cat, she uses this diverse palette to investigate her identity as a person of color and descendent of immigrants in America. Her kaleidoscopic instrumentation and inventive song structure can make it easy to miss her sometimes scathing lyrics. On the polemic “Mexican Chef,” she lists the positions that brown and black Americans find themselves forced into: “Brown cleans your house, brown takes the trash, brown even wipes your grandaddy’s ass,” she spits. If we weren’t convinced before, this album should cement Rubinos as a fascinating force in underground pop music.

Floating Points, JFDR, Okay Kaya
Brooklyn Steel

7 p.m., $20–$25

After a reunited LCD Soundsystem break in this cavernous new Brooklyn venue, Floating Points — the electro-acoustic instrumental project by producer Sam Shepherd — will provide the comedown. Shepherd’s debut album, Elaenia, released in 2015, beautifully realized his vision across sweeping, atmospheric tracks that combined electronics, traditional orchestral instrumentation, and personal touches like handclaps. Shepherd will perform live this night, which often means alongside musicians playing real instruments, who help to bring his expansive works to life.

gobbinjr, Yucky Duster
Baby’s All Right

8 p.m., $10

On Emma Witmer’s song “bb gurl,” off her 2015 album as gobbinjr, manalang, she sings, “Last night I dreamt your girlfriend died/You should have cried/You didn’t.” Witmer’s lo-fi pop songs are full of these kinds of slyly mischievous thoughts on jealousy, self-hatred, and growing up. More recently, on her 2016 EP, vom night, she repeats, mantra-like, “I just want to be perfect/Anything less is shameful.” Her bracing honesty is cushioned by twee vocals and Casio-esque synths. Witmer is following in the path of artists like Mirah or the Blow, whose cutesy aesthetics often belie barbed and risqué lyrics.

Quiet Time
Objekt, Amourette, Solpara

Secret Brooklyn Loft TBA

10 p.m., $23

The German producer TJ Hertz, who goes by the stage name Objekt, uses the structure of techno as a base for wild experimentation. His tracks explode with IDM breakbeats, industrial noises, and atmospheric flourishes. Hertz’s music is clearly the work of someone obsessed with detail, yet he never delves so far into the realm of formal experimentation that the music ceases to be dynamic and danceable. Hertz will play at this underground late-night rave at a loft with a rooftop space.

Dan Friel, Jerkagram, Parlor Walls, Collapsible Shoulder

8:30 p.m., $7

Dan Friel, a solo musician formerly of the band Parts & Labor, is the standout on this lineup of great local musicians. Friel’s bombastic 2015 album, Life, showcased his talent for creating compositions made up of abrasive synths and effects pedals that somehow come out sounding like pop music. His instrumental barrages of drum machines, simple synth melodies, and video game noises are a joy to experience live. He’ll play with the rising Brooklyn group Parlor Walls, who mix rock with dissonant experimental jazz.


Tinariwen, Dengue Fever
Brooklyn Bowl

8 p.m., $30

Tinariwen’s sublime African blues is the best kind of world music, an often problematic genre. The group of Tuareg musicians, who first formed in 1979, has crafted a unique sound, mixing the rhythms of its native Saharan Africa with products of the African diaspora, from jazz to blues. The musicians were forced to flee their home in 2014, because of conflict and increasing restrictions on secular music. At a time when global borders are tightening, Tinariwen’s music is a reminder of the strength and resilience of displaced people everywhere.

Why?, Eskimeaux
Irving Plaza

7 p.m., $22

After several years of mediocre output, Yoni Wolf gives his project Why? a new lease on life with his latest album, Moh Lhean. Wolf, often known for his uncomfortably confessional lyrics and unlikely genre hopping, sounds more cohesive than ever here. Sonically, Moh Lhean is his prettiest album yet — while the songs still pop with vibrant and surprising instrumentation, there’s a lot here that’s simply beautiful. Though his lyrics are less purposefully shocking, his rhymes are just as creative and thought-provoking. After a few years of self-reflection, Wolf shows with Moh Lhean that he’s perhaps finally grown a little wiser.