Live Review

Holy Ghost!, U Street Music Hall, Washington DC

The only problem? With only eight songs, the set felt far too short.

New York City electronic dance duo Holy Ghost! is most famous for their now-classic 2008 dance hit ‘Hold On’. The brains and brawn behind the operation, Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser, have been friends since they were kids, and Holy Ghost! has been around for a while, DJaying all over the place for years. But they’ve only just released their first EP, ‘Static on the Wire’, last month on DFA Records. The EP only contains four tracks, but they’re four very good tracks guaranteed to get you on the floor and dance. Just last month they played their first-ever live gig at New York’s Under 100 club, following the gig with a North American tour support slot for their mentor, DFA Records’s James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem, an experience Frankel has described as ‘amazing, amazing, amazing’.

Saturday was the act’s first appearance in the Nation’s Capital, at the relatively new, dance-specific venue the U Street Music Hall, just steps away from the historic Ben’s Chili Bowl. Oddly, they were scheduled to go on at 9, but their set’s start was delayed for over an hour, probably to allow for latecomers not expecting a headlining act to go onstage so early on a Saturday night. Millhiser, introduced with a smile by Frankel as ‘my other half’, held court on a fine set of drums stage right, never missing a beat on any song. His black t-shirt that read ‘J DILLA CHANGED MY LIFE’ (J Dilla referring to the famed Detroit producer who worked with Busta Rhymes, Common and De La Soul) caused the blokes next to us to hoot and holler to agree with the sentiment. As should be expected for a dance act, this show was heavy on the percussion and synths, with both Frankel and their touring guitarist adding additional firepower.

Frankel is a charismatic lead vocalist, looking less Gary Numan in front of his keyboards and more Justin Timberlake when he steps away from his equipment, posturing and using his expressive arms while singing. He even broke out his version of the moonwalk during the song ‘Slow Motion’. Of course ‘Hold On’ , being the most recognised song of the night, elicited a crazy crowd response. Quite possibly more passionate however was the reception for EP tracks ‘Say My Name’ and ‘I Will Come Back’, right corkers featuring emotional choruses reminiscent of great ’70s and ’80s dance anthems. Good indication that audiences unfamiliar with the duo’s past work will like the new material.

The only problem? With only eight songs, the set felt far too short. The crowd, waving their arms and pumping their fists in appreciation of their dance music heroes, could have gone on partying with the band for far longer. Keep an eye on these guys: when Holy Ghost!’s full-length debut album drops next year, they’ll be ones to watch.

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