DC9 is a small venue in the heart of Washington, D.C.’s U Street Corridor, an area known for its stretch of cool clubs, restaurants and shops. The club’s low stage, open on two sides, gives performances a very personal feel, and it was a treat to see two post-punk bands in such an intimate space.
TV Ghost walked out of the crowd and onto the stage, picking up their instruments which awaited their arrival, bathed in purple and blue light. The curly, 80s-inspired bangs sported by Tim Gick — lead singer and guitarist — immediately contrasted with the appearance of his four short-haired and mostly clean-cut bandmates.
Without a word, they attacked their instruments together, launching into a medley of their best songs. Live, their music is strongly defined by the heavy, liquid fire-hose of bass guitar that creates a deep blue pool through which the drumming can swim like a gigantic, lurking whale. Keyboards form shapes that dance ethereally and integrally, above and through. Energetic rhythm guitar creates a sonic framework around it, like a house made of jet engines, and dramatic vocals alternate with the band’s forays into multi-layered, hypnotic — sometimes almost atonal — noise.
TV Ghost has an uncanny knack for syncopating their arrangement among all the instruments in the band, slowly adding each piece by jenga-like piece to the overall composition, without any single contribution dominating, until the entire sonic spectrum is vibrating and shaking like a go go-dancer. This is a band that works very well as a team; they shift and move among rhythms and tempos, building it up, breaking it down, effortlessly moving from a swagger to a lope to gallop — and then back again.
Through the set they said very little to the audience. Leveraging their sinister and brooding sound to the max, the band moved from Sonic Youth-esque driving numbers such as “Elevator,” to excursions to the inside of the mind such as “A Maze of Death” and its stoner guitar solo. Among the many standout songs was their rendition of the psychedelic “Cloud Blue Moments,” which came off like a Beatles‘ song sung by Jim Morrison on a peyote trip.
Then, it was Holograms‘ turn. After setting up, and filling the small space with fog, they capped off their sound check with a few lusty “Oi, oi, oi’s!” The house lights went down and electric blue spotlights came up, silhouetting the Swedes in a dense fog.
They launched into “A Sacred State” from their new album, Forever, an electric energy immediately filling the room. The song drives forward insistently, building in power and tension before crashing and releasing like an ocean swell against the breakers of the repeating guitar figure and chorus. The audience was swept along, their heads and bodies moving with the rhythm section’s undeniable undertow, keyboards adding an extra layer of complexity that made the chorus especially epic.
They proceeded directly to “ABC City,” with its old school punk feel, infectious chorus and saucy keyboard riff. A disco ball added to the sense of fun, and the song had both boys and girls in the audience moshing and bobbing. “Oi oi oi!,” said the band.
“Meditations,” another standout track from Forever, was up next and also infused the room with immediate energy. A foreboding building of the verse, moving into a huge, ominous chorus carries the audience deep into the band’s dark and unholy inner world. The lighting shifted to a single strobe, pulsing like a distant railroad beacon through a foggy night. Its disorienting effect helped the band take the audience on a journey to a place where they might discover something about their own spirituality.
The unmistakeable guitar riff of “Flesh and Bone” followed. This song features expert drumming, multi-person vocals and chord changes reminiscent of Fugazi, cascading down a chorus that feels like a huge release. Live, it also featured moving spotlights casting shaped shadows through even denser fog, and even more Scandinavian intensity.
Several of their songs have a really striking Faith-era Cure vibe, partly because of the vocals, and partly because of the harmonic, melodic and instrumental choices. Like, the verse of “Attestupa;” it creates a feeling evoking the urgency of imminent danger. Other songs almost remind of Joy Division, with whimsically ironic keyboards and loads of reverb. Another show highlight was the slow burn of “Monolith,” which reaches finality with an intricate, energetic drum and bass jam.
They closed with “Lay Us Down,” a melodic ballad that felt like they were saying goodbye while simultaneously arriving for the first time. A classic anthem of days gone by, the band harmonized over thunderous rolling toms while a bell-like keyboard figure added a church-like ambience.
A hologram is a realistic 3-D depiction of something that is not real. In contrast, these Holograms were very much in 3-D and very, very real.
Photos | Holograms: Katherine Gaines
DC9, Washington, D.C.
Photos | TV Ghost: Katherine Gaines
DC9, Washington, D.C.