The highlight of my fall break was definitely seeing Princess Nokia perform at the Majestic Theater in Detroit. Going to Detroit is always a treat, especially to see a show in one of America’s oldest independent theaters. It opened in 1915 as a movie theater, but now operates mostly as an event space. One fun feature about the Majestic is the bowling alley accessible from the deck, which the artist herself passed some time at shortly before the concert. Before Princess Nokia graced the stage, the Majestic hosted many other up-and-comers like the Black Keys, the Fleet Foxes, Drake, and Post Malone as well as favorites like Patti Smith and Sonic Youth.
Opening up for Princess Nokia was newcomer Dounia, a body-positive model turned performer who joined the tour a couple months ago. 24 year old Dounia is NYC born and raised, like Nokia herself. Before touring with Princess Nokia, she previously released a single with Kehlani. Monday night, she sang a few tracks off her 2019 album The Studio. Her dreamy tracks were a nice prelude to the evening and ramping up the anticipation for the high-energy performance that Nokia would deliver. Lyrically, “Smoke and Slow Dance” and “Lavendar” left something to be desired but as a young artist, she claims her space on the stage with an admirable confidence.
Some time Dounia finished her set, the lights shifted and we heard the ambient beats filter as Princess Nokia and her dancers stormed the stage, ripping into “Crazy House”. The stage was truly blooming, festooned with large glowing paper blossoms and inflatable mushrooms. The audience got more and more hyped up as she moved through Everything is Beautiful and launched into one of her all time greatest singles “Tomboy”.
Her backup dancers accompanied her in colorful costumes and orange lifejackets, while she stayed in her recognizable plaid mini-skirt, anime tank, and knee highs. Princess Nokia has never shied away from camp or looks that might, at first glance, seem cliché. Rather, she chooses to embody many ideas: goth, witch, Boricua, weeb, and rave kid. By wearing pieces like the schoolgirl skirt, she also pays homage to her positionality as a sex worker. (Nokia started creating content through OnlyFans in 2019).
She took us by surprise by performing “Brujas”, her anthem celebrating witchcraft and her Afro-Indigenous spirituality. This high energy track got us in the Halloween spirit and many people were dressed up for the concert, if not in costume, then at least to impress. She slowed things down by performing “Green Eggs and Ham” and everyone in the theater joined in to her cry of “Fuck these cops, fuck these cops!”. From the Coachella stage in 2018 to the Bloom World Tour, Princess Nokia has earned her hype. She is a seasoned performer from her own teenage years in the clubs of NYC. But she connects with people everywhere because she celebrates that which is creative, subversive, feminine, and fun. She pays homage to her roots with her vintage style and influences while also being firmly concerned with shaping the future. This is Princess Nokia in her Saturn Return* and it’s a glorious thing. She sees no limits and makes no apologies.
*in astrology, one’s Saturn returns to the same position it was during birth around age 27-31. This a time marked by decisions and changes in perspective related to one’s future and one’s responsibility, career, and role in society.