Milwaukee singer-songwriter Buffalo Nichols draws on a wide range of inspiration, as we heard when he guest DJed with Kristen Kurtis on the Friday Morning Mixtape, playing guitar virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen, minimalist electronic artist Loraine James, and singer-songwriter Neko Case in a single fluid set.

Seeing Nichols play live at NON-COMM for today’s Free at Noon concert, we saw how all those influences do fold together; the four songs he played were tied together with free-form slide guitar atmospheres in the vein of Pink Floyd and Daniel Lanois; his stomp-box beat gave the set a simmering electronic pulse; his gritty yet melodic vocals landed somewhere between Otis Rush and Tom Waits, delivering emotive truths about love and life and the struggles within both. “I know I’m not a heartless man,” he sang on “How To Love.” “But some things I hardly understand.”

Nichols was named a WXPN Artist to Watch in February, and this captivating set made it easy to see why. Heading into “Sick Bed Blues,” the guitar excursions moved away from the slide technique used earlier, and towards the tapped triplets popularized by Malmsteen; after the gutting song that followed, Nichols put down his steel guitar and picked up a hollowbody electric for the folky closer “Life Goes On,” showing how much of a shredder he is sans effects.

Buffalo Nichols’ self-titled debut album is out now on Fat Possum Records, and he plays XPoNential Music Festival on September 18th. Tickets and more information can be found at the festival website; listen to Nichols’ performance and see photos below.

Buffalo Nichols – NON-COMM 2022
Buffalo Nichols: "Lost & Lonesome" (NON-COMM 2022)
Buffalo Nichols: "How To Love" (NON-COMM 2022)
Buffalo Nichols
  • Playing For Change
  • How To Love
  • Sick Bed Blues
  • Life Goes On