On the third night of Noise Pop 2020 at Great American Music Hall, Meerna opened the night with a room-silencing cover of Joan Baez’s “Silver Dagger” and set the stage for what would be a lovely and soulful performance. Never have I seen an audience so silent, so willfully watching the first opening act. Meerna frontwoman Carly Bond, who typically plays with a full band, braved the stage solo and confessed, “Guys, I’m scared,” then tuning her guitar added in a drawn out voice, “Soooo scared,” to audience chuckles. After busting out an old favorite, “Good Luck,” Bond tuned her guitar, told us she was going to play a new and complicated song, then looked out at the growing crowd shrined in blue lights and said, “Guys? You seem nice, so I trust you,” then laid out a strong song to leave us with.

Bay Area native Tré Burt took the stage next with his finger plucking guitar and obvious Bob Dylan and John Prine influences. Though we didn’t catch his name nor any of the song titles, or really anything about him other than that he grew up in both Sacramento and San Francisco, his mastery of the blues-folk guitar was enough to keep the audience engaged.

Los Angeles-raised singer Angelica Garcia was a force and a half and a solid example of what true command of the synth machines paired with gale-force vocals can look like. She was all fire and dancing, with a passion and presence that elicited lots of cheers and a stirring of movement. With an obvious pride of her Latinx roots she burst out lines like “they say my home town hinders me, they say it hinders me, and that hurts me.” Last year Obama chose Garcia’s “Jícama” as a favorite song of the year. Damn right. The crowd felt it too.

Though the audience was purely engaged for most of the night with all three openers, there was an obvious shift when Helado Negro finally took the stage with his rich and stirring vocals. It was fun to watch the energy in that sea of faces watching with smiles and sways. Despite the rather sickening bass — a stark change from the rest of the night’s sound — Helado Negro (stage name of Roberto Carlos Lange) was an all-around solid performance. He was all positivity and excitement, lots of hip sways and engagement with the audience. Props to his multi-instrumentalist crew, who jumped from violin to sax to keys to vocals in a jif and created a feel almost as good as his latest album, This is How You Smile.

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