Online music magazine based in Copenhagen, Denmark

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May 2016

LIVE REVIEW: John Carpenter, DR Koncerthus, 30.05.16

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John Carpenter performing live at DR Koncerthuset

Photos by James Hjertholm (jameshjertholm.com)

People really love John Carpenter. From those of us huddled high up in the gods (or as Americans call them, the nosebleed seats) to the chosen few with a front-row view, there is a buzz of real anticipation. The lights go down, a band walks on, and the applause begins. Not for the band, though. The applause is for Assault on Precinct 13, The Thing, Escape from New York, Halloween, They Live. I bet a few nostalgics were even applauding The Fog (sorry, not I: even 12 year old me thought that enchanted mist appearing on radar was dumb, no matter how many zombie pirates lurked within it).

And at the center of it, the man himself: the trademark mustache, long white hair, black clothes and playful grin. Not many directors get to bask in such direct, wordless admiration as they revisit what amounts to almost their entire working life. Nor does he shy away it. You get the sense that John Carpenter is sharing his films and music with the enthusiasm of a fan rather than a creator. There is much impish fun to be had in horror, as he demonstrates when the entire band dons matching black sunglasses during their rendition of the theme to They Live.

There is a fundamental question lurking around the concert hall this evening: does the music stand up on its own? The large screen that acts as a backdrop for Carpenter and the band gives you something of a hint: the music is accompanied by clips from his films, but rather than functioning simply as support for the music, the visuals end up dominating attention. During songs from his Lost Themes albums, the screen remains blank, reinforcing the feeling that something is missing.

John Carpenter

Is that such a scathing criticism of Carpenter’s musical output? Or is it instead a testament to how well his music combined with his movies? My own problem with the Lost Themes is that they fundamentally misunderstand the appeal of his soundtracks. Yes, the trademark synth sounds are there, but at least in the live setting, the guitars and drums detract from the alien, inhuman quality that we admire in his earlier work. And when you do add guitar and drums to John Carpenter, you can either sound like Mogwai (great) or like, well, a John Carpenter cover band.

Perhaps the problem is exactly that his music has been so influential. We have seen it transmuted over the years in a variety of interesting ways, to the point that there isn’t much that he himself can add. But at the end of the night, despite some irritation with the guitar playing and the drum levels, the main thought in my head was that I need to watch a lot more of JC’s films.

LIVE REVIEW: Fat White Family, Loppen, 24.05.16

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Fat White Family performing live at Loppen (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

Photos: Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

My ears are still ringing. I am, like most people who go to gigs regularly, terrified by the possibility of chronic tinnitus, but I will say this: if anyone is going to force me to perpetually hear an irritating, high-pitched whine, it might as well be the Fat White Family.

The Family’s fortunes have risen considerably over the past couple of years, with two albums, several collaborations, endless tour dates and a substantial body count of managers and musicians in their wake. It is no secret that they have had more than their fair share of turmoil, but what the music press relishes in depicting as their excess and scandalous behaviour, can be more accurately described as sheer dedication. In spite of injury, anger, arguments and exhaustion, the Family plows mercilessly on.

Fat White Family

From the first menacing bass riff of their latest single, Tinfoil Deathstar, the band appear at home in Loppen. The venue’s size is a great leveler, forcing any act that plays there to stand or fall on their ability to merge with the audience. Frontman Lias Saudi is always up for some sweaty merging, and it isn’t long before the whole band is topless and spitting pieces of their torn lungs into the microphones. Some have observed that their latest album, Songs for Our Mothers, is less sonically abrasive than its predecessor. You’d never have guessed it.

For a band that thrives on unhinged energy, it is the quieter moments that show Fat White Family at their most confrontational. Garden of the Numb sees Saudi and Saul Adamczewski duet a dirge-like country hate anthem. Lines like “You sycophantic weasel-minded whores / You would sell your mother’s cunt to open doors” work all the better because they are quietly growled rather than screamed. Ice-cold hatred is infinitely more terrifying than hot anger.

But the Family isn’t going to end on a downer. No, nothing ends a show like the rockabilly madness of “Bomb Disneyland”. And as Saudi incites the crowd into the sweatiest, filthiest mosh pit, you can’t help but grin at the appropriateness of being in Denmark when a band screams “dirty-bomb Legoland” at you.

PHOTOS: Fat White Family, Loppen, 24.05.2016

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Fat White Family

Photos: Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

Fat White Family performing live at Loppen (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

Fat White Family performing live at Loppen (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

-2300HOFat White Family performing live at Loppen (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

Fat White Family performing live at Loppen (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

LIVE REVIEW: Kevin Morby, Jazzhouse, 10.05.2016

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kevin morby live in copenhagen

It’s not surprising that a musician who has released nine albums in seven years is an energetic guy. Kevin Morby, once of Woods and the Babies, tells the sold out crowd at Jazzhouse that he had a long drive from Berlin and only slept half an hour the previous night, but that doesn’t stop him from spending most of his set bouncing on his toes and shaking his curly hair back and forth. The main room is very hot, but while his backing band condescend to roll up their sleeves, Morby is committed to his gray suit and seems unencumbered by his sartorial choices.

Morby primarily plays songs from his latest album, Singing Saw, familiar enough to the audience now for “Dorothy” to be greeted with cheers from the opening chords. He treats the audience to a track written since the album, which bears resemblance to the more energetic songs on Singing Saw, as well as older songs such as the title track from his solo debut, Harlem River.

Jazzhouse is the perfect setting in terms of acoustics for Morby and his band. And his band is truly special. The grouping of two guitars, bass, and drums mean that some of the trimmings from the albums are stripped back. Where there were string arrangements or keyboards, now it’s just guitars doing their best impersonations, which brings out the bluesy aspects of the songs. The bass is very present but never intrusive, clear without registering a thud in your intestines. Morby’s guitarist and backing vocalist is very understated in her performance, drawing little attention to her fancy fretwork. By contrast, his drummer looks like he’s going to burst apart every time the tempo picks up. And it’s more apparent live than in his recordings how much Morby’s songs rely on these shifts; the subtlety of the album is a jolt of energy live. And while his band emphasizes this, it’s clear when Morby plays “Black Flowers” solo that he is capable of relating the same effect on his own.

A lot of that ability to relate in his music come from the ease Morby projects on stage. He is comfortable with his audience and even a little goofy, at one point requesting the house lights be brought up so he can take photos. It’s easy to reconcile that man with the man who bounces around the stage. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the whole package.

LIVE REVIEW: Sarah Neufeld, Loppen, 08.05.2016

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sarah neufeld live in copenhagen

Expectations are high for any solo violinist. When the stage she appears on is Loppen, there’s some dissonance between the instrument and the setting. Sarah Neufeld showed, however, that the musician herself was in exactly the right place.

The Arcade Fire violinist’s songs hint at a Celtic, traditional influence, but her arrangements are adventurous and abstract. This becomes clear when she’s joined by her drummer, whose nuanced and creative playing transports Neufeld’s songs beyond their atmospheric recordings to something unexpectedly energetic and intense. At times, he comes close to upstaging Neufeld and her circular song structures with samplers, shakers taped to drum sticks, and subtle electronic inflections.

The energy stands in complete contrast to the fact that a large chunk of the small audience remains seated for the whole of the performance. In absence of seats, many people directly on the floor in good view of the stage. But this audience, however small, knows Neufeld and her work and is held rapt by her performance. Noise travels very easily in Loppen, and the vibe would have been incredibly different if the audience hadn’t been completely silent, if the more muted notes were muffled by talking, if fingers tapping on a snare couldn’t be heard.

But the energy is in Neufeld’s style of performing itself, which is obviously influenced by years of being in a band versus an orchestra. She never stands still and often swings her legs around when she moves. There is strength and muscle to in her playing, regardless of how rapid and slight her movements.

The standout movement of the evening was an extended pizzicato solo that swept Neufeld away as much as any guitar solo could have. But again it was her accompanist that rooted the song in something too abstract to be rock’n’roll, and so much more divine because of it.

LIVE REVIEW: PAWS, Stengade, 06.05.2016

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paws live at stengade copenhagen

Glaswegian trio PAWS are a no nonsense, no frills indie rock band. They play crunchy songs with catchy hooks, and they’re the kind of band that’s buzzy in their native UK. But so far they’re flying under the radar in Copenhagen, and their show at Stengade marks only their second visit to Denmark.

Amidst the fuzz of their existing catalogue, PAWS introduce their new single, “No Grace,” the recording of which is produced by Mark Hoppus. Perhaps it’s just the mention of his name, but the song instantly takes on a Blink-182 vibe that the other tracks don’t have. This is magnified as their vocals live have less reverb than on their recordings. Their new album is out next month, so it will be interesting to see how much of an influence the pop punk frontman has had on their sound.

To give them credit, PAWS had the unenviable position of following a band of locals whose fans/friends came out in droves but did not stick around. This could explain why, amongst their generally pleasant chatter, the band ask repeatedly if the audience are dead or alive — it does eventually produce the results of getting a small group to dance in front of the stage.

And they give back what they ask for. PAWS’s bass player, in particular, doesn’t hold still for a second, and bops across the stage and back again, throws himself forward and back in spasming motions, and somehow doesn’t break a sweat. And that’s really what you’re looking for from bands like PAWS; yes, there are plenty of other indie rock bands with solid tunes out there, but when you can get swept up in their energy, it feels unique and special every time.

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