Hi Hat, Los Angeles, CA

For such a tiny venue, the Hi Hat saw some major admissions the night of Nicole Dollanganger’s performance. Each act shared deeply personal sides of themselves, from suffocating romantic feelings to queer awakenings amid Christian childhoods.

When you looked into the audience, you caught glimpses of wispy, waif looks straight out of a Gothic ghost story. Dollanganger’s image and music pull heavily from Goth Americana; it’s like the voice of Grimes, the whimsical anguish of Lana del Rey, and the minimalist production of The xx. The commitment to this persona clearly resonates strongly among her fanbase, who all felt comfortable embracing their own gender identity and/or the macabre alike.

Opener Brooks Ginnan, dressed like a spectral mime in a frilled neckpiece, flowy shirt and striped tights, perfectly fit the show’s atmosphere. Atonal but deliberately so, Ginnan’s voice droned atop much heavier, lumbering productions for an unnerving but captivating effect. Their silhouette against the venue’s brick wall only added to the performance’s lingering atmosphere of unease.
“This song is about growing up queer in the church,” Ginnan said of a track entitled “Christianity.”

A break in-between the unsettling auras of Ginnan and Dollanganger, Infinity Crush acted exactly the way you expect someone with an infatuation to act: bashful, endearing, and slightly snarky. Of the three sparse sets that evening, theirs was the most minimal. Using just her voice and guitar, she bared her soul the way you typically see from an acoustic act. She broke those moments between songs with terse little jokes and exclamations, all of which added to the “crush” quality of her name.

“Cool!” they exclaimed at the literal end of their set. “I have some stuff over there. Thanks, bye!”

Dollanganger arrived to the stage with nary an introduction nor entrance, a letdown I’ll attribute to the Hi Hat’s cramped quarters. Still, those in attendance for her cared not at all, instead just happy to see their queen. With her trusty accompanist at her side, Dollanganger needed little else to pull in the audience.

It resonated like a soliloquy delivered in a field beneath moonlight. Spooky yet also quite sad, Dollanganger gave the impression of loneliness without quite sounding lonely. Much of her work resembled that of a bard, retelling the stories of others through her airy, echoing voice. She’d sing “He’d broken all their hymens/ Cut them open and played inside them” and merely stare at the crowd under the dark blue and pink lights, letting her words sink in slowly.

With six full projects under her belt, Dollanganger performed material from across her career. This helped add a little variation to what was largely a one-note performance. There were the sparse folk of 2012’s “Dog Teeth” alongside the more noticeable electric riffs on “Alligator Blood” and “My Baby,” the latter which rumbled with particular intensity. The crowd gave off a palpable silence with every single song: only between tracks did the crowd make any noise, which got rapturous.

Thankfully for the many assembled diehard fans, they got the chance to see Dollanganger in a setting as small as the Hi Hat. Fear and mystique work much better when closer to the source, and nearly everyone got what felt like front row seats.

“Thank you for coming to LA,” shouted one fan. “I’ve waited years for this!”

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