For a minute, it looked like Holograms were totally fucked. The four young Swedes held several pow-wows onstage while their suddenly and inexplicably defunct Korg keyboard stood on the periphery like the proverbial elephant in the room. “Yeah, it’s going to be a bad show,” guitarist and vocalist Anton Spetz said to synth player and brother Filip, who gamely stood in the audience while the rest of his band played on. “This thing doesn’t work, so we’re going to play without it,” he told the audience in a much more audible aside. And, remarkably, play they did.
Swedish proto-punkers and recent CoSign Holograms headlined a late show at New York’s Mercury Lounge last night, their stone-cold riffs and dead voices a perfect fit and foil for a humid, gloomy night literally pissing rain. Brooklyn quartet Eraas (pronounced “eras”) opened, and their timeless, tribal synth-punk encapsulated their name. They took the stage in various cuts of black—dress, tank top, crew neck, and collared shirt—and between one and a half drum kits banged out dual-syncopated rhythms conducive enough to the idea of moshing. Everyone perked up when the drum machines kicked in and Eraas really started to sound like Cold Cave, embracing a facet that until then had taken a backseat to the uncannily Liars-like setup.
After aforementioned technical difficulties, Holograms took the stage only about 15 minutes later than they were supposed to. Setz looked like he was going to kill himself for the majority of the set, which I suppose suits the band’s ethos. It got to the point where bassist and vocalist Andreas Lagerstrom said, as much to convince his bandmate as the audience (who couldn’t have cared less as they head-banged away), “It’s really weird playing without a synthesizer. Sounds okay. Let’s go.” He even walked over at one point, one-arm hugged Setz, and ruffled his hair.
Band drama aside, Holograms doesn’t seem to need their keyboard. “Monolith” rang true and stark without the added padding, just the four cornerstones of vox, bass, guitar, and drums. Even “Chasing My Mind” sounded solid without its opening salvo of trumpeting synths. In surprising contrast to their record, which thumps sometimes too loudly with the kick drum, their set was well-mixed.
It was just on the right side of too loud, and if you closed your eyes you could just barely discern the difference between Setz and Lagerstrom’s verses. ”ABC City” was especially anthemic this close to Avenue A, and ”You Are Ancient (Sweden’s Pride)” was a string-wrenching closer, hopefully reminding Setz that Swedes are an ancient, proud people. Or, you know: “It won’t be dark forever.” Since they didn’t really stick to the setlist verbatim, Holograms didn’t play an encore. Perhaps, in this case, it was better to go out with a bang than another potential technical whimper.