Ramona Gonzalez’s project as Nite Jewel would make a fascinating Doctoral thesis. Like many independent musicians, her initial works flew under the radar, but her breakthrough came with 2012’s One Second of Love, which saw the LA-based artist go from lo-fi to ’80s dance clubs. The album was positively received (the album remains a personal favorite), and Gonzalez became a sought-after artist much like Grimes at the time. But then something unexpected happened. Gonzalez went under ground despite signing with Secretly Canadian. In a chat with Artist Direct Interviews, she explained how “creative differences”, particularly on what “pop” was, resulted in the separation.

“They were making the process feel toxic because they were putting too much pressure on me to create something that, I didn’t really even know what they wanted me to do, because their version of pop is so unusually different than mine.”

Four years later, she returned to her roots by once again becoming a fully independent artist and releasing an album in Liquid Cool that was darker, lo-fi, and filled with attitude. Like the chameleon she has become, she released another energizing, early ’90s-inspired, electro-pop LP with Real High.The record reflected an artist who was free to do what she wants and share her inspirations. An album that made everyone who listens to it smile. And that’s what Gonzalez and her husband and bandmate Cole (M. Greif-Neill) took the Wellington audience on Wednesday night.

Devilishly dressed, Gonzalez and Cole turned Meow into a dance club. From the gyrating “Over the Weekend” to her sultry cover of Janet Jackson’s “Let’s Wait Awhile”, Nite Jewel made us all feel we were out on a Friday night. Unsurprisingly, the production and synth work from the couple was exquisite, but until you see an artist perform live you never know how strong her vocals are. Gonzalez’s was the biggest surprise, as on her recorded stuff they are soft and delicate. Live, they are full and rich, often overpowering Cole’s instrumentation. We were left wondering, “What if Gonzalez went full-blown pop or diva, would she become a superstar?” Probably, but she’ll be doing it her way.

The photos are from Stella Gardiner and words from Ben Yung. More photos are provided in the slider below.

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