Holocene – Portland, OR – 2011 / November 9
Remix Artist Collective & Eli Escobar
The show’s bill was actually quiet impressive. RAC (Remix Artist Collective) and Eli Escobar DJ’d in between sets from Holy Ghost! and Jessica 6, another band who impressed an eager crowd. Both mixmasters have been staples of the electronic pop and turntable scene for quite some time, so even though their sets played second fiddle to the two live acts, it was great having them there. And if nothing else, they got people dancing.
Sandwiched between both DJs and before Holy Ghost!, Jessica 6 took their ferocious brand of Donna Summer-esque dance music to the stage. I use the Summer comparison in the sense that transgender lead singer Nomi Ruiz is a commanding sexual force on stage, upstaged only by her own vocals. Much like Holy Ghost!, Jessica 6, represented on stage as Nomie, a keyboardist, bassist, and drummer, also released their first album this year. As the crowd began to pour in from the street, all eyes descended upon Jessica 6 as they played an extended and satisfying set, touching on all of the high points from the album along with some brief but awesome freestyle work. Part of what makes Jessica 6 so successful live, and the same reason why Holy Ghost! thrive, is their ability to translate a mostly electronic sound on album to a beautiful and massive sound with live instruments. Sure, all eyes are on Nomi, but bassist Andrew Raposo deserves more credit for his unrelenting work. Same goes for the band’s touring drummer. When Nomi belted out the intro to their single “Fun Girl,” there were definitely some surprised faces in the audience, but it’s safe to say every person was pleasantly surprised with the opening act.
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There is just something about a live electronic performance that has always blown me away. It’s the same reason why people say seeing Soulwax live is a life-changing experience; when an electronic album comes to life, there’s a sense of astonishment and excitement that remains unmatched. And this sentiment reigns especially true for Holy Ghost! on their current tour, as they’ve taken to the road as a six-piece band for the first time. Complete with two massive analog synthesizer racks, keyboards, arpeggiators, a full drum kit, bass and electric guitars, the band’s setup took up most of the stage at the Holocene. The main room was at capacity before the set began, the crowd bursting into cheers as Holy Ghost!’s members, Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel, walked up the stage, surrounded by their beyond talented touring members. Outfitted with a ten foot wide panel of lights that were synced to the keyboards, the overhead lights were dim, only revealing the band at certain bursts. Frankel’s enthusiastic presence behind the mic had the crowd waving their hands in the air and singing along all night, capped off by his entrance into the crowd toward the end of the set.
Millhiser was the more reluctant member of the two, taking to a keyboard and mic tucked into the back corner of the stage. The biggest testament to the success of the band’s current tour is their ability to take some of the more lackluster tracks on the album and completely reinvigorate them on stage. Of course fans loved “Static on the Wire” or “Wait and See,” but Holy Ghost! gave life to rather stale tracks like “It’s Not Over” and “Slow Motion.” In their hour or so on stage, the band essentially played every track they recorded for the album, and in each case, they did it masterfully.