By Frances Michelle Lopez
The throngs of excited First Friday goers seemed to have been M.I.A at the Trunk Space Friday night for the One AM Radio, Former Ghosts, Knesset show. Having had a late start to my night, I wasn't able to catch much of the Los Angeles-based One AM Radio, which to be honest, doesn't make me the least bit disappointed: Their semi-generic indie croonings did little for me although seemingly delighted a couple of handfuls of real fans.
Former Ghosts were what I came for and they did not let me down. Comprised of Freddy Rupert (formerly of This Song is a Mess but so am I) and Jamie Stewart (of Xiu Xiu), Former Ghosts is a relatively young band featuring gloomy, electronic and bass-heavy songs about longing, loss, and despair. Easily comparable to bands like Joy Division and early Human League, with a hint of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Former Ghosts showed a small crowd of Trunk Spacers their own unique brand of 80s inspired electro-pop songs that were well-crafted, immensely melodic, and oh, so sad.
You can't help but want to dance or tap toes while trying to figure out the dynamic behind this band. Their approach is almost meant for people to get up and have fun to, yet Rupert's undeniable anguish resonate far beyond the surface and it's hard to tell whether you want to have a dance party or call and apologize to every boy whose heart you have broken. Stewart however, brings a calming balance to the stage with his super-controlled and precise demeanor. Decked in thick black eyeglasses, Stewart looked reminiscent of a clean-cut family man from the 60's (think the lead in the new Coen Brothers' flick A Serious Man) and for the most part, was very proper and calculated; only breaking from his role when occasionally providing screeching backing vocals or providing triumphant bursts of percussion during their many epic and intense pieces.
For a live show, Former Ghosts are not the type of band you should go see if you're looking to feel good afterward. They are definitely a cluster-bomb of raw emotions set to truly beautiful music; songs that start off like the intimate twinkling scores of Jon Brion then build up to a wall of sound, surrounding you in their sorrow. Still, Rupert's spastic energy is deceiving and warrant signs of true exuberance. His constant pacing and the shaking of an invisible egg shaker can be seen as a testament of his anxiety; fidgeting about the stage looking like he wants to escape. While dancing on stage is part of the performance, the veins-popping out of his head and the occasional tears streaming down his face is the real deal. With lyrics like "It's all my fault, I fell in love in the first place," you are instantly taken back to a time when you've been let down in relationship and you can't help but want to give the guy a huge hug.
Last Night: One AM Radio, Former Ghosts, and Knesset at the Trunk Space.
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Better Than: Driving around the Roosevelt area trying to find parking for an hour only to see that half the galleries closed at around 10p.m.
Personal Bias: I was already a huge fan of Stewart and Rupert's other projects and I couldn't see a better combination of the two.
Random Detail: Nika Rosa from Zola Jesus completes this power-trio but was unable to join them on the tour.
RIYL: Joy Division, Bauhaus, gothgothgoth, Air, Xiu Xiu, and Cold Cave