From the moment I saw one of Julia Nunes’ cover videos on YouTube up until I interviewed her last month, I have been looking forward to seeing this up-and-coming singer-songwriter perform live. On June 7th I made my way to The Echo with two hundred other Nunes fans to see if the raw talent and bubbly personality captured in her videos would translate to the stage, and she did not disappoint.
Danny Tieger, a fellow guitarist, singer-songwriter, and friend of Nunes’ from New York City, was the perfect opener. He radiated excitement and resembled another YouTube sensation, Bo-Burnham, with his quick, intelligent lyrics and catchy melodies. A particular song comparing a girl to a planet featured some clever lines like, “The closer that I get to you, the faster that I start to move.” His “Man In The Mirror” cover won me over before he performed his “love song to Los Angeles,” entitled “L Fucking A,” which felt like he had written it for everyone who moved to the West Coast to chase their dreams. His closing song was the silly love song “Sunburnt Hand,” during which Nunes joined him onstage and burst out laughing several times.
Julia returned with ukuele in hand and began aggressively beatboxing. She was accompanied by another friend and proficient guitarist Mike Comite, and the two switched off while strumming before she abruptly stopped and said, “I’m Julia Nunes!” before beginning “First Impressions.”
After watching dozens of Nunes’s YouTube videos and being a fan of hers for years, I was so impressed by how well her talent translated to live performances and what incredible stage presence she had. While I love how well she edits her online videos, there is something beautiful in the simplicity of her and just her ukulele (she was sans guitar because “airports are terrible”). Points where her voice raspily broke, which would normally be edited out of her videos, expressed more emotion than even her deeply personal lyrics. Songs like “This Is What I Used To Know,” “Lullaby,” and “Waiting” demonstrated Nunes’ sincerity and were overwhelmingly moving as her impressive voice filled the small Echo.
When Nunes wasn’t opening her heart, she was tickling the audience’s funny bone. The lighthearted energy and sunny demeanor expressed in her videos is clearly genuine as before several songs she told funny anecdotes regarding their origin. It was as if Nunes was testing out her stand up routines between songs as she endlessly, effortlessly joked with the audience. Unlike most generic jokes bands throw out every stop while on tour, her jokes weren’t staged, as most were usually in reaction to what the audience said or did.
Nunes and Comite layered soaring harmonies and complemented each other on their stringed instruments of choice on songs that spanned her four albums — Right Left Wrong (2007), I Wrote These (2008), I Think You Know (2010), and Stay Awake (2012) — such as “To The Damsels, Run,” “Lullaby,” “Odd,” “Maybe I Will,” and “August.” She indulged in some of her silly songs as well, such as “Pizza.”
Since Nunes rose to fame for her unique spin on cover songs, she performed a medley of popular songs with a slow, indie twist, including “TGIF” and “Part of Me” by Katy Perry, “Poker Face” and “Marry The Night” by Lady Gaga, “Party Rockers” by LMFAO, “Set Fire To The Rain” by Adele, “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha, and “Somebody I Used To Know” by Gotye.
Nunes explained to the audience, “This next song is about how much I love touring, and you are responsible for it, and I will wait to say ‘hi’ to everyone after the show,” before playing her touring anthem “Anywhere With You.” She then played her most recent single, “Stay Awake,” which she “played on Conan and it was so weird!” Nunes played a cover of her friends The Bell Brigade’s song “Losers,” which was a middle-finger to anyone worried about being popular. It has killer harmonies and hard-hitting lyrics, so it’s clear why Nunes is a fan (she prefaced the song with, “This might be a time when we are having more fun than you, but we hope you like it”).
On the rare occasion when Nunes messed up chords or lyrics, it was endearing and made the audience laugh along, and she happily brushed it off. Nunes possesses such a raw talent for powerful, emotional singing and songwriting paired with a goofy charisma that nothing could make her shine less.
Nunes ended with her semi-silly but wholly entertaining cover of “Build Me Up Buttercup,” which sparked her YouTube fame, and the audience loudly sang the gang vocals.
As promised, Nunes stayed until every audience member could take photos with the singing sensation and express their gratitude. Two hundred of her viewers down, hundred of thousands more to go.