Boundary-defying multimedia band Must Be The Holy Ghost graced the stage with local electronic performer Tide Eyes at Greensboro’s own Revolution Mill on Thursday. The performance came one day before the official kick-off of the 17 Days Greensboro Arts and Culture Festival, an annual celebration of some of the South’s most talented artistic acts. Natty Greene’s Brewing Co. also joined the celebration, offering their unique blend of local beers to all interested patrons.
Must Be The Holy Ghost is the brainchild of Winston Salem native and musician Jared Draughon, as well as California-based artist Evan Hawkins. The duo combines audio and visual elements to create haunting, spectral synth-rock that provides viewers with an immersive musical and artistic experience.
Launched in 2012, after the failure of two of Draughon’s previous bands, Classic Case and Telescreen, the group focuses on creating intricately looped improvisational sounds that closely mirror the process of professionally mixing and recording music in the studio. In an interview with online publication Arena Music, Draughon said he “enjoys using any sound I can create if I can make it mesh.” This amalgamation of musical themes and beats is clearly observable in the entirety of Must Be The Holy Ghost’s discography.
The band’s first album, “Get Off,” released in 2014, deals with an intense breakup experienced by Draughon. The music video for their most popular single, “Immoral Support,” features dark visuals and an overly despondent, moody vibe. Hawkins’ extraordinary art is displayed throughout the work, projected onto actors and backgrounds with a green screen. “We wanted to loosely tell a story of a couple changing in their relationship over time, so we had an actress perform as four different characters to display an evolution as the song builds and intensifies,” Draughon told Arena Music.
On the night of the show, the gloominess of much of Must Be The Holy Ghost’s work closely mirrored the gloominess of the weather – due to unexpected rainfall, the performance was moved inside to the WAMREV Gallery at Building 1250, a fitting venue for such a whirlwind of lights and sound. Painted geometric shapes in shades of bright green and blue covered the walls, and exposed wooden beams dotted the room, contributing to the welcoming openness of the space.
The performance setup was a small one – a makeshift stage was created on the front side of the room with only a projector screen, a few small speakers and amps and a single microphone stand. This would prove to be no issue for the artists, who utilized only themselves and a couple of instruments at any given time during the show.
Up first was electronica outfit Tide Eyes, consisting of multi-instrumentalist Pat Brown, several synthesizers and some tasteful autotune. Their songs are a unique blend of funk, new wave, psychedelia and 80s disco-pop that touch on universal themes of death, family dynamics and the complexities of labor all while maintaining cheery, upbeat undertones. Each piece displayed an overwhelmingly catchy beat, focusing on synthesized sounds, layered harmonies and repetition to produce a groovy sound.
To close out the night, Must Be The Holy Ghost appeared to serenade the audience with songs from their latest album, “Overflow,” released in 2016. Draughon stood in the middle of the stage, clutching tightly to his guitar, his feet on a variety of loop pedals that would contribute so broadly to each instrumental work.
Pulsating amoeba-esque visuals were projected onto the screen behind him, partially obscuring his face in shadow before revealing his silhouette in sudden flashes of intense light. Each artistic masterpiece was meticulously created by Hawkins on site, with nothing but a few eyedroppers of multicolored ink, a glass bowl filled with water and a projector. The audience could watch in awe as each heavily-pigmented globule was lowered into the bowl, creating swirling patterns that bubbled fluidly against the projector wall. Viewers gushed and gasped over the projections, with one woman audibly stating “This is incredible – I am absolutely obsessed!”
The night glided by with every smooth guitar lick, every crooning vocal, every aqueous movement of Hawkins’ projections. As the crowd filed out into the chill of the stormy night, there was a feeling of revitalization in the air – one that only the unforgettably original work of a band like Must Be The Holy Ghost could create.