Review | Indie artist Nick Hakim celebrates collaboration at sold-out D.C. show


A brisk winter night in a city ready to rest, where rain-slicked asphalt reflected the soft gleam of warm city lights, felt like a fitting backdrop to listen to soulful singer-songwriter Nick Hakim’s latest album, “Cometa,” a misty, reverent flight through vulnerable terrain.

During his sold-out Sunday night show at Union Stage, the D.C.-born, New York City-based Hakim delivered a texture-rich performance, showcasing his warm, amber vocals and heady jazz and R&B influences to beckon listeners toward intimate connections and loving collaborations.

Hakim, after all, is a frequent collaborator. His 2017 debut, the gorgeous and polished “Green Twins,” included a feature with jazz group Onyx Collective, with whom he’s worked frequently. Remixes from 2020’s “Will This Make Me Good” include clear-eyed visions from Pink Siifu, KeiyaA and BadBadNotGood. And, in 2021, Hakim teamed up with jazz composer and saxophonist Roy Nathanson for the poetic joint album “Small Things.”

Hakim’s two opening acts — prolific D.C. rapper WiFiGawd and New York City-based experimental-folk artist June McDoom — also nurtured musical partnerships withmagnetic performances. WiFiGawd also brought up his own guest, fellow savant NappyNappa. Hakim made his first appearance with McDoom, augmenting her scintillating vocals. He had been “a huge inspiration of mine for many years,” McDoom told the crowd when introducing him.

When he finally took the stage for his set, Hakim slowly unfurled with the simmering “Only One,” as the patient march of drums added to a lusher sprawl. He spun gossamer threads for “M1,” his higher vocal register glistening like a spiderweb jeweled with dew. A crackling guitar line and Hakim’s soaring voice transformed “Bet She Looks Like You” into a waltz.

For the next half of his set, he invited McDoom and her band back onstage for full-bodied arrangements with the sublime vocal harmonies of Hakim and McDoom taking center stage. “Happen” — which sounds wistful and lonely with just Hakim on the album version — bloomed into an encompassing, sensuous duet filled with the pinks and oranges of a long-awaited daybreak.

So, it was a big surprise when emerging from the underground venue to find the damp, cold night remained. Still, the rain had let up, if only for a moment.

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