Holy Ghost! proves it’s worth the wait at Slim’s

Pub date November 16, 2011

I’d been worried about making it to the Holy Ghost ! show at Slim’s on time, so it was a relief to see the singer of Jessica 6, the opening band, standing outside Slim’s having a
smoke. Black hair, black heels, black mini skirt, black leather jacket: Nomi Ruiz is recognizable. I wished her luck and went inside to find out just how early I was.

DJ Eli Escobarwas spinning, but the place is basically dead. A few people up in the loft having food, a few more at the bar, but little life to the place. It turned out to be a decent wait, and as Escobar continued to spin a mix of house and contemporary dance rock, I became anxious. A few people trickled in, but not at a fast enough rate to fill the place quickly.

One person, at least, was very excited. I know he was excited because when I came into the club he was outside screaming “I’m so excited!” to no one in particular, and inside he was standing next to me screaming, once again, “I’m so excited!” He explained in slurred words how he’d been trying to see Holy Ghost! for the longest time, but just happened “to always be on the wrong coast.” 

Luckily, Jessica 6 hit the stage, and it seemed to help with the restless energy. And for the first time in the night, other people were shouting, most clearly “We love you, Nomi!” Perhaps best known as one of the prominent singers in Hercules and Love Affair, Ruiz is at the forefront in her new project. Whereas Hercules struck a delicate balance of conflicted emotions and often achieved a certain morose euphoria, Jessica 6 has a more straight-forward club sound. Opening with “In The Heat” from the debut LP See The Light, Nomi sang, “Don’t you feel the beat?” and began to work the crowd. Less campy, more pop, there’s still a lot of love-torn feelings, but the general focus seems to be on seizing the night.

When Jessica 6’s set ended, the excited/drunk guy approached the edge of the stage and doubled over, face down on the stage. A minute later I had to stop paying attention to that impending disaster, because the roadies were setting up the equipment. As the pièce de résistance, a black tarp was pulled away to reveal a massive, multicolored console of analog synthesizer. The stage lights went dark and the rainbow of panels on the front started to glow as Holy Ghost! took the stage, launching into “Static on the Wire,” from its 2010 EP of the same name.

Although Holy Ghost! is just two guys, Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel, they enlisted a number of other musicians (including the drummer who played with Jessica 6) to bolster the live show, just as James Murphy did for live LCD Soundsystem performances. Frankel, sporting the second leather jacket of the night, was on vocal duties, while Millhiser was stationed on guitar behind a pair of floor toms. The bands took moves into familiar territory with “It’s Not Over,” not just because it’s one of its more recognizable songs, but because it has what I can only assume to be a deliberate lyrical reference to New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle.”

After the third song, “Say My Name,” I’d exhausted my photo op, and decided to make my way away from the stage. I had a friend inside the venue texting me for half an hour asking where I was. As soon as I started to move, I realized that I’d greatly underestimated the crowd. It was packed. Unfortunately, it also was a drunk crowd, not an E crowd, so hardly budging.

With a little more space, I took in the band again, and it’s was getting slower into “Slow Motion.” Among its tracks, it maybe does the least for the band, in part because it sounds a lot like a Chromeo song. Still, while Holy Ghost! isn’t always breaking new ground, it sticks to a formula that works. One of the best things about  LCD Soundsystem
shows was the way in which the band allowed James Murphy to basically do whatever he wanted. With Holy Ghost! (which, given its connection to DFA Records, seems an obvious hope to partially fill the LCD void), this was most noticeable with the big console in the back of the stage, and on a track like “Do It Again,” where the synth is even more prominent than on the record, allowing Millhiser and Frankel to add additional percussive accents on the toms or cowbells.

Holy Ghost! closed the night by playing “Jam for Jerry,” written in response to friend and drummer Jerry Fuchs’ sudden death from falling down an elevator shaft in 2009. The rare dance song that transcends the floor, it’s not just about dealing with one tragedy, but everything in life that ends before you’re ready. But like “It’s Not Over,” “I Know, I Hear” – which was played as an encore with Nomi Ruiz – refuses to accept this. When the band left the stage for good DJ Escobar took over once again, for those of us that weren’t quite ready to leave.