Exclusive Review: Holy Ghost! Live In Boston 1.16.2015
Have you ever just known deep down that you made the right choice about something? An unshakable confidence in your decision that no variable could alter? That’s what it’s like eating at In & Out Burger, or seeing Holy Ghost! spin live. Except the music is even better than an Animal Style cheeseburger. Last weekend they played their first stretch of DJ sets in almost a year, and in the process gave Boston the most proper Friday night they’ve had in who knows how long. (No offense Boston, your promoters just don’t book enough acts.) With this duo riding out the success of their live band over the last few years, it’s become a rare and special thing to see them tour on the decks. After last Friday’s experience at the Sinclair, however, I’m glad to know that one truth remains after all these years: There’s nothing like a Holy Ghost! DJ set ladies and gentlemen.
Once a production duo known for their classy disco parties, and now a live synth-pop band, I was curious to see how Nick and Alex [Holy Ghost!] would stack up after four years of writing and performing songs for a group format. The sound they have as a group versus the sound they had when they were DJing are vastly different. They’re both exceptional, just vastly different. With the departure of LCD Soundsystem in 2011, the limelight had nowhere else to shine except on the newly formed Holy Ghost! live band, and shine they did. Two albums, and a handful of tours and headlining articles later, the DJing dimension of their sonic persona became secondary. It makes sense. If New Order books you to open for their entire US tour, you’re probably doing something right. At least these two still succumb to their original guilty pleasures once in a while. I knew they were more than capable of getting on stage and whipping up something decent for the crowd to gobble down. Could they capture the magic from their pre-live band days though? I know it’s a lot to ask for an old-school disco-house party when you first walk into a venue, and that’s why I’m eternally grateful that one took place.
I can’t continue without giving credit to opener Charles Mazzola, who went beyond the requirements of a opening DJ. He did a much better job of buttering that crowd up than some headliners I’ve seen. Todd Terje’s “Inspector Norse” and Juan MacLean’s “Happy House” are enough to get any club moving. Once Nick and Alex took over though, the energy in the room exploded. With a crowd ready to blast off, and little need for run-of the-mill DJing narratives, Holy Ghost! skipped the foreplay and got right down to business. Right at the start they took my curiosity, tied it to their 2007 remix of “Climbing On Board” by Flight Facilities, and slapped me in the face with it. It quickly became clear that we were in the beginning stages of a certified DFA throw-down. I didn’t have red shoes, but dance I did. Their set covered an essential range of nu-bangers and vintage classics, including The Magician’s roof-incinerating “Twist”, and Juan MacLean’s “You’re My Destiny”. Hearing Nancy Whang’s voice at a disco-house show is like going home for the first time in months. It was the good old days all over again, only I found that they never really got that old.
One could argue and say they’re just playing the same songs we’ve heard tons of other Disco artists drop on the dancefloor. Why should they get any credit for playing “On A Train” when it was a chart-topper in 2010? Well, they’d be right…sort of. Do those DJ’s have the same reputation for autheticity and professionalism as the musicians in their tracklist? Nick Milhiser and Alex Frankel do. And think back, why are these songs so popular? Because artists like Holy Ghost! were on top in that era, and they played them then like they are now. Those songs are popular in the first place because DJs like Holy Ghost! have been shining light on them. Then I wondered, on the same note- who says? Did I just decide that? Maybe you didn’t know about this duo when those hitting the charts. Maybe you heard them through other means. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether or not I’m experiencing the same thing as the world around me. Can I really assume that the girl next to me loved “Hold On” as much as I did 8 years ago? No, not without being delusionally self-centered. If she starts waving her hair back and forth and lip-syncing every verse, then I could safely conclude the nostalgic ecstasy I’m feeling is mutual. And she did, so it was official. We were all in a time machine destined for past and future unknowns. So I thought again- if you didn’t share a similar relationship with HG! to me, you probably wouldn’t be attending one of their very seldom DJ performances.
It’s more important now than ever that some things never change. Music is moving forward and not everyone will be tagging along for the ride. When it comes to live DJing, every branch of electronic music has it’s own representing veterans to call legendary. Deep House has artists like Move D and Theo Parrish to keep the torch burning true. Psytrance once had Infected Mushroom, but they turned into this Powerman 5000/ Nickleback on LSD sort of hybrid, and people outside of music festivals eventually stopped caring. Detroit Music has Richie Hawtin and Seth Troxler, and it always will. Modern Techno has Sasha or Joris Voorn to fuel it’s spread across the globe. Disco had Larry Levan back in the day, then Greg Wilson to keep it moving through it’s alleged “death” to the present. Now it has Holy Ghost!, who will be inevtiably canonized as Disco Hall-of-Famers. I realize the audacity it requires to compare two kids from Brooklyn to the edit-king GW, but so far it’s been the truth. When it comes to trend-proof disco beats, DFA Records is a go-to for the studio and the stage any day. More specifically, this duo has proven time and time again they’re not fooling around. The experience is fun by nature, but there is a noticeable level of seriousness involved in their performances. It’s funk with sincerity.
There is a victory is being able to count on an artist for so many years. We need to know that no matter what happens, there will still be some continuity to guide us through change. Last weekend showed me that Friday night could still be Friday night, time and time again. Once again they’ve proved to a time-honored staple of DFA Records. This duo is moving forward yes, but they’re never far from their roots. In the end, there is nothing like a Holy Ghost! DJ set to get your spirits bouncing. I’m happy I can still say that after all of these years.
Posted on January 23, 2015, in Show Reviews, Spotlight and tagged alex frankel, charles mazzola, DFA, greg wilson, holy ghost, infected mushroom, joris voorn, lcd soundsystem, move d, new order, nick millhiser, peter & the magician, richie hawtin, sasha, seth troxler, The Juan MacLean, the magician, theo parrish, todd terje. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.