Local blues fans packed the dance floor at Friday night’s Nikki Hill Band performance at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, the first of two appearances by the band as part of the Juneau Jazz & Classics festival. Hill and her band had audience members of all ages abandoning their seats in droves within the first five minutes; once the dance floor was full, they spilled over into the aisles and along the edges of the concession tables, happily encouraged by Hill from the stage.
Hill, whose petite frame belies a powerful voice, moved easily between a tough, bluesy growl and a sweet, soulful soprano during two sets that featured classic covers such as Little Richard’s “The Girl Can’t Help It” and original songs from her debut album “Here’s Nikki Hill,” released in April 2013.
Originally from North Carolina, the 29-year-old rising star began singing in gospel choirs in church as a kid, adding more styles to her repertoire — roots rock, rockabilly, R&B and even punk — while living in Chapel Hill. Though billed as a blues band, this range and versatility was clearly apparent in Hill’s performance Friday. Band members include her husband, Matt Hill, on guitar, Ed Strohsahl on bass and Joe Meyer on drums. All three provided backing vocals, keeping pace with the high energy level set by Hill, who danced around the stage whenever she wasn’t singing.
The Nikki Hill Band also played at Saturday’s Blues Cruise, which was sold out as of press time.
The 28th annual Juneau Jazz & Classics festival continues daily through Saturday. Tomorrow’s events include a free Brown Bag Concert at noon at the State Office Building featuring the Anton Schwartz Quartet; a silent short film double feature at 6 p.m. at the Gold Town Nickelodeon with the Akropolis Reed Quintet and Juneau’s own Playboy Spaceman; and a free Jazz Jam at 7:30 p.m. at the Lucky Lady featuring the Anton Schwartz Quartet.
For a full list of events, visit jazzandclassics.org/events.