Hot Sugar leaves Schubas in high spirits


Santiago Covarrubias

Hot Sugar performed at Schubas on Feb. 3 at Schubas Tavern, located at 3159 N. Southport Ave.

By Arts & Culture Reporter

The audience roared as it inched closer to the stage to see Hot Sugar opening his set by shredding on his guitar. His eyes rolled into the back of his head as he moved toward the crowd. 

The artist, whose real name is Nick Koenig, performed at Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport Ave., on Feb. 3.

Hot Sugar is a New York City native known for using organic sounds, such as the clashing of bones as percussion, to balance out his quirky electronic beats. By incorporating real-life sounds throughout his songs, which feel as if they could melt together, Hot Sugar creates an atmosphere that even an electronic dance music critic would enjoy.

Opening for Hot Sugar was a lineup of local DJs, including the rebellious Fee Lion, who sang ballads to rock songs and the lackluster Edamame, whose absence of energy and forgettable beats failed to hype up Koenig’s show.

Hot Sugar made a lasting impression on the crowd, however, which swayed side to side with eyes closed to feel the soft, electronic sounds fueling the movement of their bodies.

Koenig wore a white T-shirt with an elevated globe of the Earth on it and fitted black jeans. He stood alone on the stage, accompanied only by his transparent electric guitar, synthesizer and laptop, which he played throughout his 50-minute set.

Koenig’s set included tracks from his latest album, Seductive Nightmares 2, as well as others from his discography. “Leverage,” a track from his 2012 EP MiDi Murder, became a crowd favorite when remixed as an electronic instrumental track.

Fueled with aurally pleasing, high-pitched background noises and a classic EDM bass drop that kept the midsize venue thumping, his rendition of “Leverage” had the crowd feeling lively.

Koenig also threw it back to his 2014 EP, Seductive Nightmares, by playing the 4-minute track “Your Nails Look So Pretty,” which merged classical sounds like a piano melody with slow, melancholy beats and airy, almost inaudible vocals.

Inspired by the venue’s intimate size and the mood of the crowd, Koenig improvised and created a contemporary love ballad on the spot using his synthesizer.

“This is a very small, intimate, romantic crowd, so I want to do something special for you guys,” he said.

He also joked when he played the slow-jam tune, “The Girl Who Stole My Tamagotchi.” 

“This is a song I don’t usually play in front of anyone, but tonight I might,” Koenig said. 

The song has more than 580,000 streams on Spotify, and fans regard it as one of his most beautiful songs.

Victor Kipnis, a fan of Hot Sugar’s for years, admires the artist’s authentic and organic sounds.

“He’s untrained and can do anything to create real, associative music,” Kipnis said.