TVD Live: Holy Ghost! with Jessica 6 and
Eli Escobar at the 9:30 Club, 11/23

“I got possessed by sound, and I didn’t want to be exorcised.”—Deanna, concert-goer.

The night before Thanksgiving, Holy Ghost! ensured that everyone would be thankful that they caught them at the 9:30 Club on one of the very last nights of their North American tour.

The Brooklyn-based DFA electropop duo of Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel has filled out into a proper six-piece touring band complete with two DJs behind a candy-striped booth, a guitarist, the drummer from opener Jessica 6 (Jim Orso), Millhiser on bass/synth, and Frankel on vocals. I was thinking about naming this review “Holy Ghost! Fangirl Edition” because of all the wonderful people I met and ran into at the show, all of whom were ecstatic to have been there. Some were just seeing them live for the first time, some had been enamored by their opening set for Cut Copy last spring, and the devoted had been following them for years.

Unfortunately, I missed Midnight Magic, which tends to happen when there are three opening bands—my regrets that I couldn’t make it in time. However, as a Hercules and Love Affair fan, I wanted to make sure that I was there for Jessica 6—they met while collaborating on Hercules and Love Affair—and that was an unholy way to kick off Dranksgiving weekend. From the minute that Nomi Ruiz stepped onto the stage in her fuck-me stilettos, lace-up red and black lace and lycra dress, and resplendent boa, “aural sex” was all that I could think. In fact, if I had to boil the night down to just two words, those would be them.

The four-piece, also Brooklyn-based, had no guitarist, opting instead for bass, keys, vocals, and drums, and the emphasis on percussion was primal rather than detracting. I was grateful that I had nabbed the spot by the stage in front of Orso for the night, and I felt every tap of the high-hat. Please, electro bands—always have live drums. Between this, the projections of Ruiz’s even more scantily clad doppelgänger behind the stage, and her diva-esque disco contortions, it was all a bit surreal. Goddamn, that skinny bitch can sing, can hit the highs and stroke the lows. She asked us before launching into “White Horse,” “Are y’all ready to ride?” Indeed, we certainly were, and as she sang “Let me see you dance,” we certainly did.

In between sets, in his black skull cap, Eli Escobar threw down massive beats to get the now rather packed crowd excited, including some old school crowd favorites—who doesn’t like a little Stardust? The music does always sounds better with you.

In contrast to the feminine sex goddess that is Nomi Ruiz, the all-male Holy Ghost! crew marched on stage and brought a forceful masculine power to the night. I was informed by überfan Caitlin (who has seen them four times now—“I was one of the ten people here for them during Cut Copy!”) that this was the first tour that Nick Millhiser had been on bass/synth instead of drums. As one of the original dynamic duo, he kept a rather low, brooding (but sexy nonetheless, of course), profile during the performance, while front man Alex Frankel led the crowd in several singalongs, especially during the second song, “It’s Not Over.”

At first, Frankel’s vocals are a bit weak, but by the latter songs, including “Hold My Breath,” “Say My Name,” “Slow Motion,” “Hold On,” and “Wait and See,” they fill out; perhaps he gained energy and momentum as he beat the standing drums that he would visit throughout the night. Indeed, the set was very heavy on tunes from this year’s self-titled debut full-length, which Yvette, another fan I meet during the night, agrees is one of the best of the year.

We’re all strangers at the beginning of the night, all dancing together by the end in an ’80s-inspired, sweaty, synthy, disco fête. Appropriately, during the encore, all of the bands come out on stage, and they all sing along together for one of the very last times, with accompanying horns, drums, synths, diva sex goddesses, adorably nerdy glasses-wearing DJs (hi there!), and brooding halves of electropop duos, all as one. Outside the club afterward, I see my friend Deanna, whose quote is at the top of this post, and she says, “This is a transient city, but people showed the fuck up.” Of course we did, despite the holiday madness. It’s our last chance to see Holy Ghost! for a while, and we are so thankful that we were given the opportunity.

Photos by Idit Knaan

Jessica 6:

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