At high noon today, Julia Nunes broke me into Bonnaroo. The ukelele-YouTube-sensation turned burgeoning-indie-folk-rock star had me sweating (even more so than the blazing Manchester sun) as I shook my groove thing.
You wouldn't expect it, what with her minimal approach to instrumentation, but a person can really cut loose to a Nunes tune. Over the course of her hour-long set, I discovered three reasons why. I'll present them to you now in Bonnaroo-themed bullet points:
Point-a-roo #1: Julia Nunes plays a delicate instrument with reckless abandon.
The ukelele is small, but it can be mighty. And when Nunes throws it over her shoulder, she makes you believe it. "This is the most hardcore a ukelele will probably ever sound," she says before starting into "Comatose." It sounds like she was looking for an electric guitar, but grabbed a ukelele instead. She does the jolly beach strum, too, but when she jams, she jams.
Point-a-roo #2: You can understand her.
This girl does not mumble. She attacks the mic with volume and diction and just a little bit of attitude. You get every word to every song she sings the first time she sings it. So when she says, "Well the way you pull the fuzzys from my sweater/Doesn't make up for the times you let me sink into the floor," you get it. You really get it.
Point-a-roo #3: She and her band can do more with their voices than other bands can do with their instruments.
The Nunes show was a beat-boxing extravaganza. Not what I anticipated from a blonde chick with a ukelele. During one tune, every single member of her band was creating some cosmic sound with his or her mouth, and the result was a poppy bluegrass hip-hop feel that had the whole crowd be-bopping. Beyond that, I'm convinced Nunes & co. could tour as a barbershop quartet. They don't shy away from ridiculously tight harmonies, opting instead to belt them over non-accompanied portions of their songs. It's powerful.
So there you have it, the three reasons (I've picked up on so far) why Julia Nunes stuff is ridiculously (if not surprisingly) danceable... and why I'm happy to list her as my first Bonnaroo show. Pick up her new EP, I Think You Know, at www.junumusic.com.