The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Finishing Off Track Zero with ZORA, YXNG RASKAL, and Sarahann Kolder

Friday, November 17th was a cold evening. No wind, no snow, just cold. As I walked up to the James Theater, I eagerly awaited the warmth I would gain, both physically and hopefully mentally as well. My pal and I got to chatting in the lobby, before a voice began to slip through the theater curtain. We hurriedly entered in, finding our places amongst the crowd.

First, were the angelic tunes of Sarahann Kolder. This trip to heaven included songs from her album girl syndrome, as well as one song synthesized live with only a loop petal. Kolder’s spacey melodies danced between swaying bodies. The set ended with a showcase of multiple videos supporting the fight for Palestinian Liberation. Kolder also provided a free-to-look collection of her own books at the merch table, most of which centered around race, decolonization, and queerness.

The loop pedal was switched out for a laptop, allowing YXNG RASKAL to take her rightful place among the crowd. After hearing just 15 seconds of her emotional, offbeat opener “Nobeat”, which features soft piano contrasted with dark vocal synthesis, it was obvious that Rascal was taking us for a ride. Rascal’s energy was infectious, commanding the crowd to come alive during her set. She mostly played songs from her debut album SPLIT/TING. As the set began to wind down, Rascal hit the audience with her best song yet. “Prairieland”, a cutting callout to Iowa politicians, pushing towards a better life for trans kids and adults. The crowd went wild, generating into a small room of people transforming into a riot.

Image via Amir Prellberg

With that, Zora made her way onto the stage. I had listened to Zora’s debut album Z1, but somehow, I still had no idea what to expect. Her performance was equal parts heartbreaking and invigorating, switching from high-tempo bad-bitch bangers, to heart wrenching ballads with ease. Zora played a selection of tracks off of her debut album, ending with the album’s closer, “ICARUS.”. The song is a swelling, triumphant mood boost, and was set to be a perfect end to the night. Then, Zora asked the audience, “Do you guys want to hear some more?”, and the crowd erupted in cheers. Zora graced us with three last songs, all brand new. These three were unlike anything Zora has made before, and I can’t wait for them to be shared with the world.

As I stepped out of the James Theater, the warmth stayed with me, and it has been there ever since. <3