EMA Entertains Mercury Lounge with New Material

April 28th, 2014

EMA – Mercury Lounge – April 25, 2014

EMA’s excellent new album, The Future’s Void, is loaded with lyrics exploring the alienation, dissociation and paranoia associated with our modern times, and what it means to be a human in this mysterious universe. At her sold-out show at Mercury Lounge on Friday night, EMA (also known as Erika M. Anderson) and her band led a journey into the void with the album’s opening track, “Satellites.” It began with the pretty, almost romantic sounds of electric violin before being abruptly jolted by a bass hum and heavy static. A beat kicked in and then EMA began to sing, her voice conveying urgency—an appeal.

While performing new songs like “3Jane,” “Cthulhu” and the ethereal “Solace,” along with older material like the Nirvana-esque “Anteroom” (from previous album Past Life Martyred Saints) and “Cherylee” (by one of her former bands, Gowns), EMA appeared intense and serious, giving the music her full attention. Putting down the guitar for songs like “California” and “Neuromancer,” she moved freely around the stage and addressed the crowd more directly, gesturing powerfully with her arms to emphasize her words. Looking right into the crowd during the latter song, EMA repeatedly asked, “Is it true?” with such conviction that it seemed more of an accusation than a question.

But for all the intensity she channeled during her performance, between songs, EMA was quick to flash a smile, joking easily with the crowd and her bandmates, and even poking fun at herself for spilling her wine not once, but twice. And despite the heavy subject matter of much of her material, EMA didn’t hide the fact that she relishes performing, and these two truths were able to coexist nicely onstage. —Alena Kastin