Holy Ghost! bring salvation to Hell

Live Review: Holy Ghost! on the Masquerade Hell Stage, 11/21/11

Brooklyn’s Holy Ghost! have been on a steady incline this past year, getting a thrust from their Static on the Wire EP release last year and especially their self-titled release this past spring. The New York duo of Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel have know each other since first grade, and been making music almost that long.

It all began with some bluesy covers, then the move into hip hop, and now they’ve created a sort of 21st century disco, for those who care to listen. Apparently, there are a lot who care to listen. Promoted on James Murphy’s DFA Records, Holy Ghost! have received rave reviews and have been hitting the pavement hard this past year. Still, the band is not a household name in America. (And yes, it’s that James Murphy, of the wonderful – and missed – LCD Soundsystem)

This was the third trip through Atlanta in 2011 for Holy Ghost! Back in March, they swept through, supporting the terrific Cut/Copy tour. Then in August, they were part of the electronic/DJ Identity Fest. Now, on a headlining tour, Millhiser and Frankel have proven to be ready for the challenge.

Playing nearly the entire album, as well as some tracks from 2010’s Static on the Wire, Holy Ghost! pleased their fans with some excellent late 70s/early 80s sounds that do not seem dated. It’s an update on that era, with a 2011 NYC spin. “Hold On,” “Do It Again,” “Wait & See” and “Hold My Breath” were just a few of the tunes performed.

Hold My Breath – Holy Ghost! from DFA Records on Vimeo.

Holding court on the Hell Stage of Atlanta’s Masquerade is no small task when the metal/hardcore Thrash and Burn tour is pounding away on the Heaven Stage (upstairs). The boys laughed it off and actually seemed to be using the thumping from above as a sort of programmed drum machine. Somehow, it worked.

So, with a little more exposure and a lot more touring, American may just be ready for a little salvation with Holy Ghost!

Identity Fest steamrolls through Atlanta

Live review: Identity Festival at Aaron’s Lakewood Amphitheatre in Atlanta, 8/23/11

The shaking ground you felt and that thumping you heard last Tuesday was not a result of the earthquake. It was a special collection of electronic artists and DJs cranking it up to 11 on the volume dial. Lakewood Amphitheatre was host to the Identity Festival, a loud and raging affair sponsored by Skullcandy. It was also hot. For those not in the covered seat area for the main stage, it was even hotter. The Advent Stage was located in the parking lot. And with Atlanta temps hitting the mid-90s, it was a cooker.

One of the early acts to hit the stage was Afrobeta. Hailing from Miami, the avant-dance duo are Cuci Amador and Tony Smurphio. Sadly, their set was scheduled a bit before the students and workers of Atlanta stormed Lakewood, so a smattering of fans were present. Their energy and enthusiasm were there, as well as some very danceable music. But it was early. “Hey Atlanta,” Cuci yelled, “Do you guys party? Maybe? After the valium wears off?” This comment could have resulted from frustration, but it was fair. Later, Cuci told the Atlanta Music Examiner, “No, we weren’t upset! We’re new and not many people have even heard of us. It’s great to be on this tour. I just like messing with people.”

The Afrobeta set was a spirited one, featuring the new addictive single, “Play House” from the forthcoming Under the Streets (Aug. 30 on Do IT). A true highlight of the set was their electronic and excellent cover of Nirvana’s “Lithium.” They should put this one on a record.

The New York collective Hercules and Love Affair offered listeners some wonderfully wild songs. Again, playing to a small audience can be challenging, but they performed as if to a crowd of 20,000. Touring in support of their impressive new release Blue Songs (Moshi Moshi Records), the group inspired much dancing, sounding at times like a modern day version of Erasure (but with tremendous vocals).

Holy Ghost! brought there electronica-meets-eighties sound to the festival. While still playing to a somewhat thin crowd, these New Yorkers showed us why they’re one of the hottest bands out there today. The band – headed up by Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel are out on the road with the Identity Fest playing terrific selections from their latest self-titled release (DFA Records) including “Do It Again,” “Static On The Wire,” “Hold On” and the terrific “Wait And See.”

They took the small crowd in stride and played through the oppressive heat. You can catch them later in the fall in Atlanta at the Masquerade, according to lead singer Alex Frankel.

The Crystal Method, headed up by birthday boy Scott Kirkland along with Ken Jordan are pretty much the granddaddies of this tour, having been around since the early nineties. But by contrast, these guys had more energy than many of the newer artists combined. By the time they took the stage, the largest crowd of the day had gathered and more approached in a zombie-like state once the Crystal Method started their noise.

This is when the festival became a full-on rave. It’s good to know that these fortysomethings can still cause high school heads to explode. It was a mad house, in a happy sort of way. One of the highlights had to be their very first single, “Keep Hope Alive” from 1994. Between inviting 20 people (mostly female) onto the stage to take part in a light saber battle and jamming while wearing a storm trooper mask, Kirkland definitely had a great birthday. “I wasn’t born in Atlanta, but I met my wife here,” Kirkland said, further bonding with his erratic fans. As far as they were concerned, he was a native.

Many more bands graced the stages of the first annual Identity Festival, including DJ Shadow, Steve Aoki and The Disco Biscuits. Hopefully, next time it’ll be on a weekend and the masses will come.

Cut/Copy transport Atlanta fans back to the 80s

Live review: Cut/Copy, Holy Ghost! at The Masquerade in Atlanta, 3/28/11

Australia’s Cut/Copy brought the eighties back to Atlanta on the kick-off to their world tour Monday night. It was all synth and hooks as near-riotous fans jumped and jammed to Cut/Copy’s reinvention of the New Wave decade. Obvious influences include Depeche Mode, New Order, and several other synthpop/new wave/post-punk bands you may remember from back then. Strangely enough, it works.

Touring in support of their third studio album Zonoscope (Modular Records), Cut/Copy are just out to make you dance. While selections were performed from their first two releases, Bright Like Neon Love (2004) and In Ghost Colours (2008), the night belonged to Zonoscope. The first single, “Need You Now,” is a pop song that no one can deny, as witnessed by the fanatical jumpers at the Masquerade that evening. The video is a mish-mash of athletes – in full uniforms and pads – playing every sport but their own, as the band plays their instruments in the midst of it all.

Leader and chief songwriter Dan Whitford (vocals, keyboard, guitar) has fashioned some musical gems and evolved beautifully over three studio albums. Remaining band members include Tim Hoey (guitar, sampler), Ben Browning (bass), and Mitchell Scott (drums). While they have honed their dance pop sound towards a more middle of the road dance pop sound, there is still that déjà vu for the eighties. Some may argue that Cut/Copy have simply copied the awesome sounds of that era, but it’s more of a 21st century eighties sound. Which is better. Besides, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

After playing the Ultra Music Festival in Miami two nights earlier, Cut/Copy traveled to Atlanta to officially kick off their tour. “How do you all feel about Miami?” Whitford asked the crowd. The response was a mix of boos and cheers. “Well, we just played there and they seem like phoneys. You guys in Atlanta are real. Our kind of people.” This, of course, brought roars of approval from the fans. Talk about telling us what we wanted to hear.

“Take Me Over,” also a new track, was played with the gusto of any live song you’ve ever heard. The sold out Masquerade was under fire and the floor of the place somehow survived, as did all of us lucky humans inside that cavernous place (on the second floor ironically called Heaven). It was a good show.

Openers Holy Ghost! from Brooklyn stole the show before the headliners even got near the stage. With their highly danceable, new disco sound, Holy Ghost! brought down the house with such great songs as “Wait And See,” “Do It Again,” and “I Will Come Back,” which may be reminiscent of something off a Naked Eyes album from 1983, but way better.

Touring in support of their new self-titled record, Holy Ghost! appear to be hitting their stride as an in-demand band. Alex Frankel repeatedly thanked the heaving audience and passed along his appreciation for the “great fans” of Atlanta. Backed by James Murphy’s DFA Records, this band is in good hands and will undoubtedly gain more positive exposure as the tour continues.