South Dakota’s EMA( Erika M. Anderson) has unquestionably released one of THE albums of 2014 in the shape of ‘The Future’s Void’, a darkly humorous, challenging and artistically bold body of work. It’s an album in part inspired by the retro-future noir cyberpunk novels of authors such as William Gibson ( who coined the term “cyberspace” and predicted the influence of the World Wide Web) and examines amongst other things, her and by extension our, relationship with technology, celebrity and fame. (Review HERE ) Having caught her a few years back in Liverpool supporting Zola Jesus and being totally blown away by her performance, we were delighted that her whistle-stop tour of the UK took in a city that was in easy reach.
The good news for us was that from Liverpool to Manchester’s Ruby Lounge is but a forty minute drive up the M53, the bad news was that another native from the city who we’d never met before and hope never to encounter again had also decided to embark on the same journey. And sadly he seemed unwavering in his ignoble quest to confirm all the worst stereotypes of the inebriated Liverpudlian. More on that later.
Support came from the excellent Colleen Green whose recently released album ‘Sock It To Me’ had been on heavy rotation at VP towers of late. She arrived on stage at The Ruby Lounge armed with just an electric guitar and a drum machine and to describe her stripped back pop punk as a “one girl Ramones” does not quite encapsulate her sound completely. Sure she mixes garage and fuzzed up buzzsaw pop which you could quite easily imagine Joey Ramone singing along to on tracks such as the joyous ‘Only One’ ‘You’re So Cool’ and ‘Number One’ but there’s also evidence of other influences at play. For example ‘Close To You’ sounds not unlike The Cure with its lolloping bass line and sinister synths, whilst ‘Heavy Shit’ has a guitar sound reminiscent of early Psychedelic Furs and perhaps is an indication of the direction Colleen may take in the future.
Alas the curse of overly loud talking at gigs reared it’s ugly head and despite Colleen’s fuzzed up guitar thrash being satisfyingly loud, the previously mentioned Liverpudlian oaf decided to chat over the latter part of her set, at which point she very calmly and very politely asked if he could perhaps turn the volume down a tad. I mean WHY THE FUCK COME TO A GIG AND CHAT WHEN THE ARTIST IS ON STAGE ?????
A sinister electronic violin heralded the arrival of EMA, dressed from head to toe in black as she emerged through the smoke replete with black shades to kick off her set with the superb dystopian surveillance paranoia of ‘Satellites.’ The throaty grunge roar of ‘So Blonde’ sounded perhaps less visceral than on record, but the reported sound issues of the previous gig in London were certainly not in evidence here. In fact the sound was so good that the majority of the songs sounded infinitely more potent live than on record!
EMA’s ability as a singer is often overshadowed by the raw honesty of her lyrics and weighty themes she seeks to address, but she does have that rare gift of being able to emotionally connect with her audience. The spine tingling beauty of ‘3Jane’ the driving tribal fury of ‘Neuromancer’ wonderful versions of ‘Marked’ and ‘California’ from her previous album ‘Past Life Martyred Saints’ plus the sparse splendour of ‘Cherrylee’ (recorded with her former band Gowns) are all massive highlights. As was EMA’s response to the inebriated oaf who once again decided he’d quite like to be the centre of attention.
Thankfully there was no chat during EMA’s songs, but in between when she sought to address the audience he started bellowing complete utter fucking nonsense and it became apparent his remaining brain cells were absent without leave, missing presumed dead. At this stage an artist has to make a decision on how to deal with this sort of miscreant and EMA initially shared a joke with him, perhaps to get his measure and gauge what to do next should the need arise.
Alas his inane “banter” continued apace as he now appeared to be labouring under the delusion his wit was sharper than Oscar Wilde’s quill dipped in lemon juice. “Who the fuck brought this guy” asked EMA, before finally to much cheering from the audience she slowly emptied a full bottle of water over his head advising he needed to “cool the fuck down” . A moment that perhaps could only have been bettered had she sang “ You’ve gotta stay there underwater/ ’till you get yourself clean.” An object lesson in how to handle somebody determined to act like a weapons grade nobhead.
Those assembled probably all fell in love with EMA just a little bit more after this incident, and by the time she was sitting on the stage barrier, eyeball to eyeball with the audience serenading us with the desolately beautiful ‘Dead Celebrity’ it was game set and match to Erika. A masterful performance from an artist who continues to impress on every level. She recently tweeted “A gig without struggle or triumph has no narrative” … this was undoubtedly a triumph. Let’s hope she’s back here soon.
Gig Photo Slide Show