LIVE: Holding Absence / Yours Truly / As Everything Unfolds @ Electric Ballroom, London

By Yasmin Brown

If you take a second to consider the most exciting alternative bands in 2021, Holding Absence will undoubtedly be at (or at least near) the top of your list. This is a band that have taken every curveball thrown at them and turned them into opportunities, never once faltering. Whether it be the departure of band members or that little thing we like to call a global pandemic, Holding Absence have overcome it all and come out even stronger on the other side. 

Tonight is a fine example of that as they take on Camden’s iconic Electric Ballroom, hitting their loyal and fierce fans with a setlist full of songs they “write when [they] feel alone as people”. There’s one main reason that we’re all here this evening, and it’s that at some point these songs borne out of loneliness have resonated with us and, in desperate need of catharsis, we’re here to scream them back at their creators. 

The band’s sophomore album ‘The Greatest Mistake of My Life’ has many incredible moments, but none quite as fantastic as the first two words yelled by front man Lucas Woodland – “I’m alive”. These two words, so simple in their construction, will make for the perfect opening moment of any Holding Absence show for years to come, but none more so than those we’re currently experiencing – those that still feel a little surreal given the last two years of our lives. 

It only takes these two words from the band’s ‘Celebration Song’ to see the whole crowd fully immersed in tonight’s spectacle. Moshing begins, tears stream down faces, arms reach desperately into the air and voices are surely already hoarse. If you’ve lived through a Holding Absence show before, welcome back, if this is your first time, my God do we envy you.

While in reality this venue is perfectly suited to Holding Absence’s current size, and the intimacy suits the band / fan relationship down to the ground, it somehow feels too small to carry all of the emotion – the ferocity, the pain, the relief, the joy – that is exploding out of everyone within its confines this evening. Performances of the band’s latest hit ‘Beyond Belief’ and old fan fave, ‘Monochrome’ only add to the night’s intensity before the epic ‘nomoreroses’ is brought wondrously to life, acting as a mid-set climax that leaves you in the enviable position usually reserved for the end of the evening; a position of wanting more and having it handed straight to you. 

Tonight is the last date of this short tour and Woodland shows no sign of hesitation as he boldly labels it the best tour of their careers and as the first notes of 2020’s ‘Birdcage’ ring loudly in our ears, and crowd surfers take this as their cue, you’d be a fool to disagree. It’s this performance that highlights the level of passion this band’s fans have built up inside them, as the song sits on neither an EP or an album, instead being released in the midst of the shitshow, desperately clung onto by fans as though it were the only available buoyancy that might help them weather the storm. Until the album was released, of course.

And that’s really why we’re here tonight – to celebrate ‘The Greatest Mistake of My Life’ for the very first time, and Goddamn are we celebrating. From the surprise appearance of Yours Truly’s Mikaila Delgado during ‘Die Alone (In Your Lover’s Arms)’ to Ash Green’s indescribable drum solo with lighting that matches his rapid fire beats, euphoria is now not just a feeling but the very fabric of your being. It’s a sensation that’s mirrored by the musicians on stage and while it’s Woodland that claims this is the best crowd they’ve ever played to, you can see this exact thought reflected in the grin plastered on the face of the guitarist. These songs are often so painful and yet somehow in this moment, the only emotions we can express are those of joy and love, and just as Holding Absence have forged a genuine connection with their tour mates Yours Truly and As Everything Unfolds, tonight the connection with their fans is just as powerful. Just as unbreakable. 

As if we needed any further proof of this, ‘In Circles’ sees lighters (or phone torches) set the room ablaze as the band takes a break while the crowd carries the song alone. “This is us and you”, Woodland states simply, and while we’ve always known it, the magnitude of this reality hits in this moment. Holding Absence could be playing to 90,000 people right now and each one of them would still feel an individual connection with the band in front of them. It’s a truly special moment for everyone in the room and once again, Woodland puts it perfectly when he says, “I don’t know what will happen but I know I’ll never forget this”. We’re almost certain we never will either.

The evening closes with another song to which the fans have given a whole new meaning, ‘Wilt’. At nearly seven minutes, it’s a song that is truly devastating, and yet it’s the only way we would want Holding Absence to close out a show. This isn’t an opportunity to jump up and down and scream, instead it’s a time for reflection – to take in what we’ve just experienced and lean into any lingering pain so that when we leave, it stays behind. Friends clamber on each other’s shoulders, and strangers forge connections as they do the same, and whether you’re six feet in the air or have your feet planted firmly on the ground, we’re all brought together by one very important commonality: in this moment we all vehemently believe Holding Absence are the greatest band in the world. And this has been the best night of our lives.