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Roskilde Festival: Day 1

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Bob Hund - Roskilde Festival 2015 (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)

Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

The day has finally arrived: the gates to the main festival grounds have opened, the sun is out, Roskilde has begun. The previous days of dolce far niente are replaced with a flurry of questions: which stage to run to, what food to eat (Korean Bulgogi is the official Here Today Food of the Week), how much alcohol do you have to consume before the prices stop feeling like stab wounds?

Off! - Roskilde Festival 2015 (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Off! – Roskilde Festival 2015 (Photo by Morten Krogh)

Off! — Avalon

After sixty years on the planet and founding not one but two legendary hardcore acts (Black Flag and Circle Jerks), frontman Keith Morris shows no signs of mellowing down. Eyes bulging, veins popping up in unexpected places, Morris stalks the stage in a defiant mood. His younger bandmates bounce along with him, though in their case the wild movements have the studied air of a re-enactment rather than the real thing. The songs themselves, rattled out in blasts of four or five, are one minute playful variations on the theme of fuck you.

While Off! might not be contributing anything new to a genre now almost forty years old, they can at least project some of the vitality of the original movement.

Bob Hund - Roskilde Festival 2015
Bob Hund (Photo by Morten Krogh)

Bob Hund — Avalon

When earlier in the day we interviewed Thomas Öberg, frontman of seminal Swedish indie band Bob Hund, it was clear that there is something very intensely considered and thought out amid the manic energy and comedy of their live performances. Obsessed with making every performance unique, two years ago the band made a leap in the dark and sold all their instruments and equipment, choosing to rely on the generosity of friends and fans to supply them with odd assortments of guitars, vintage organs, microphones, maracas…

For their Roskilde set the equipment was provided by a music school in southern Sweden and Copenhagen surf-rockers The Tremolo Beer Gut. The old Fender Jazzmasters serve them well for the surfy pop vibe of “Tralala Lilla Molntuss”, but it is clear that Thomas was right when he told us “whatever the instruments, we still sound like Bob Hund”. The crowd’s enthusiasm is mirrored in the pure, joyous, Buster Keaton-esque energy of Thomas’s performance. He calls Roskilde “the capital of Scandinavia”, and indeed there is something utopian about hearing a crowd of Danes signing along in a Swedish dialect.

The War On Drugs - Roskilde Festival 2015  (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
The War On Drugs (Photo by Morten Krogh)

The War on Drugs — Arena

Sadly today we only have one reporter on the scene, who can only glimpse the likes of Communions, Young Fathers and Electric Eye as he tramps around from stage to stage like the errant monk of rock journalism that he clearly is. After the sun has finally lowered its burning rays, we settle down at Arena stage for our final gig of the evening, Philadelphia dad-rockers The War on Drugs.

Adam Granduciel is an aloof frontman, bent over his guitar and myriads of effects pedals in intense concentration. His music is all about tonal nuance, but in a live setting this often comes at the cost of dynamism. Other than the enthusiastic baritone saxophonist (an evident attempt to out-Springsteen the Boss himself) the rest of the band is skilled but sedate, rolling through the songs with more professionalism than passion. Even during crowdpleasers like “Under the Pressure” and “Red Eyes” the initial euphoria slowly dissipates into almost monotony. But in after these moments it is thanks to Granduciel’s mastery of guitar tone that a short busting guitar solo can rekindle the fire.

Photo by Tom Spray
The War On Drugs (Photo by Tom Spray)
Photo by Tom Spray
Pharrell Williams (Photo by Tom Spray)

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LIVE REVIEW: Moon Duo, Stengade, 22.04.2015

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Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

The West-coast psychedelia of Moon Duo, full of prehistoric riffs and driving rhythms, has packed Stengade on a Wednesday night. The former duo, now a trio with the addition of a drummer, are riding the waves of glowing reviews for their latest album, Shadow of the Sun, a work which adds real meat to the band’s sound.

Certainly the inclusion of John Jeffries on drums adds heft and urgency to the live sound, relentlessly propelling the band forward. Tonight his presence is heard rather than seen, as his drum kit is completely obscured by a thick screen of smoke. But no matter, the audience at least has the satisfaction of being able to see Ripley Johnson’s Rasputin-esque beard and the effortless intricacies of the wonderful Sanae Yamada on keyboards.

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The band begin with album-opener “Wilding”, a fast, twitchy psychedelic pop song, something like a sped-up Suicide track. Skilled though the band clearly is, their strength is in their simplicity, the devotion to three-chord rock’n’roll riffs, and more importantly, to the perfectly sculpted sounds of organ and guitar. It’s music that sounds familiar, yet completely current and urgent. Their latest single, “Animal”, perversely has their drummer imitating a drum machine, over which they layer a chugging horror-theme of a riff.

The room is packed, hot and filled with smoke. Sweat trickles down as heads bang and girls do that thing where they shake their hair from side to side (have you noticed this seemingly gendered pattern, boys nodding and girls shaking their heads?). Hardly a second to breathe between each song, the set flashes and burns out after just 50 minutes, concluding our travels in the murky magical land of Moon Duo.

LIVE REVIEW: Purity Ring, Lille Vega, 19.04.2015

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Canadian synth-pop duo Purity Ring have packed Lille Vega this Sunday evening, treating their audience to a visual show of impressive proportions. Two months after the release of their second album, Another Eternity, the band seem comfortable in their reputation for pretty, shimmery electronic pop.

Though Purity Ring are known for the care and thought they put into their stage appearance, in person the effect is magnified. The stage is dressed like a Disney winter wonderland, draped with hundreds of balls of light, dominated by Corin Rodderick’s outlandish instrumental set up, essentially a sampler triggered by hitting bizarre illuminated diamond-shaped cocoons. It’s only a step away from Spinal Tap’s alien pods, but it certainly adds an interesting visual element to what is normally a rather dull-looking instrument. All the while singer Megan James is using her mirrored gloves to throw beams of light across the room.

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Understandably, the set leans heavily towards material from the latest album, a mixture of harsh beats and bass with sweet effected vocals. Songs like “Push Pull” and “Dust Hymn”, already anthemic, are pushed even more towards bombast by the visual accompaniment. At one point Megan climbs onto the podium and begins beating a gong, which, of course, lights up when struck. Eyes and ears are not allowed to relax for a second.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that all this audiovisual stimulation is a way for compensating for Megan James’ slightly awkward and shy stage presence, and indeed when she pauses to thank the audience her nervous laughter is noticeable. But it might also be a little ridiculous to expect even more from a band that has clearly spent so much time and effort into making their live concerts memorable. And as the evening comes to a close with “Bodyache”, the band’s latest single, it is clear that the audience definitely got what they came for.

LIVE REVIEW: East India Youth, Jazzhouse, 17.04.2015

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Photos by Amanda Farah

Last time we saw East India Youth in Copenhagen, he was opening for Factory Floor at a more or less deserted gig at Vega. Already a year and a half ago, when all Will Doyle had to his moniker was the Hostel EP, we recognized an artist on an undeniable ascent. Now, after two albums and a nomination for the Mercury Prize, East India Youth is the main act.

As a live act, East India Youth is a testament to passion and virtuousity. Doyle stands alone on stage, surrounded by keyboards, laptops and drum machines, a bass guitar around his neck and drum sticks in his hand, like a sharply dressed Wizard of Oz, controlling his fantastical universe from the shadows. The set begins with “The Juddering”, a glitchy instrumental that slowly emerges from static into lush synth orchestrations, before transitioning into “Turn Away”, his latest single. Doyle’s voice soars above the background, reminiscent of the Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant, clear like a choirboy.

east india youth 1

East India Youth shifts between the angelic and energetic, electronic and analogue, experimental and anthemic. There is a restlessness at the heart of his music, though that has evolved from Total Strife Forever‘s austerity into the warm colours of Culture of Volume. That transition is reflected in the live renditions of older songs like “Heaven, How Long”, which effervesce with random modulations.

It’s unfortunate that at the height of “Hinterland”, which has the whole room nodding and twitching, the sound suddenly cuts out. After a few minutes of jumbling around with wires, a chance for the audience to catch its breath, Doyle is back online, launching back into the track with even more abandon than before.

The set draws to a close after less than an hour, not nearly enough to do justice to the amount of material produced in the last 18 months. I am a little disappointed not to have heard “End Result”, my favourite track from the last album, or the wonderfully cheesy “Beaming White”, but that’s just an excuse to catch another East India Youth gig as soon as possible.

LIVE REVIEW: Retox, Jazzhouse, 16.04.2015

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San Diego’s Retox, an off-shoot of hardcore oddballers The Locus, are a slightly surreal presence in Copenhagen’s Jazzhouse. People swill cocktails and politely nod along as the band tears through their set with violent precision. The stage is dominated by Justin Pearson sweating and spitting in his little leather jacket, looking like Adam Levine’s slightly troubled younger brother. That is probably why Asia Argento, nodding along in the front row, chose him to play a part in her new film, Incompresa. 

The band’s last album, Beneath California, combines the speed and violence of hardcore with meticulous precision and off-kilter riffs. Some of the subtleties of those tracks are lost when played live, or are at least undetectable under the force of sheer volume and speed. Song titles like “Die in Your Own Cathedral” and “Death Will Change Your Life” might lead you to conclude this is a rather angsty teen band, but there is an underlying humour behind them. Consider that Justin is almost 40 and has a song called “Disappointing Grade”.

The highlight of the evening is the encore. The guitarist comes back on stage and starts creating ominous textures with guitar feedback (a skill he has been exercising throughout the set), before being joined by the whole band for a single beat, a final guitar stab, cymbal crash and scream, ending the ‘song’. It’s both a parody of their brevity, but also the logical, satisfying conclusion to it. But I can’t help thinking it’s also a reference to the fictional band Crash and the Boyz from Scott Pilgrim Vs the World, and had to stop myself from yelling “It’s not a race, guys!”

LIVE REVIEW: White Hills, Loppen, 14.04.2015

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Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

My first visual experience of White Hills, probably shared with a majority of the audience at Loppen, was their appearance on the Jim Jarmusch vampire flick, Only Lovers Left Alive. In a scene towards the middle of the movie, the leather-clad vampires are being serenaded by the band in a grungy venue in Detroit. When the set ends, someone asks Tom Hiddleston’s character if he wants to meet the band, and is answered with an emphatic negative. The reason is evident enough: the band looks fictional–bassist Ego Sensation sporting a tight, ruby red outfit and see-through bass, and frontman Dave Weinberg writhing around in a 70s polkadot shirt, the spitting image of Alice Cooper–, cannot sustain itself under the harsh scrutiny of the daylight world.

But this evening’s encounter on the borders of reality is worth it. White Hills’ latest LP, Walks for Motorists, quite apart from having a fantastic title, is also a satisfying evolution in the band’s explorations of dark psychedelic rock. As if to acknowledge Jarmusch’s endorsement, Ego and Dave have added elements of goth and no-wave into the mix.

WHITE HILLS-8852
Spirit of the space age, Ego Sensation

Perhaps the most obvious of these influences can be witnessed on album and set opener, “No Will”. Its riff is lifted wholesale from legendary goth-rockers Bauhaus’s single, “Dark Entries”, and the chant of “No will!” matches perfectly the “Dark entries!” chorus. But in spite of these musical appropriations, the tone of many of these tracks, particularly evident in Dave’s vocals, is more akin to Killing Joke, full of sexual aggression. All these elements are reconfigured to fit the long-form space-rock of White Hills, resulting in something I’ve been referring to as stoner-goth.

In a gig setting, songs from different albums tend to approach uniformity, particularly within this genre. I could try enumerating the songs in sequence, but to do so appears a little fraudulent. There are of course exceptions, like the aforementioned “No Will” and the Swans-esque “Wanderlust”, but to experience a band like White Hills is to abandon a sense of time for the duration of the gig. Instead of listening to a song as a series of discreet sounds in sequence, one tends to perceive the music as a series of shifting and modulating textures.

By the end of the set I am elated that the band has not collapsed in front of me in a dust of rock and roll archetypes. We have climbed up White Hills, and have returned safely. My only regret is not bringing sunglasses to the gig.

WHITE HILLS-8610

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LIVE REVIEW: Dean Blunt, Jazzhouse, 20.03.2015

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Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

 

The first thing you need to know about going to see Dean Blunt live is that you are not going to see much of old Blunters himself. Shrouded in a heavy swirl of dry ice, the London producer’s presence is only intuited though his downbeat vocals and a baseball cap emerging from the cloud. It is only through the magic of our photographer’s x-ray camera that I find out, a day later, that there was someone standing behind Dean Blunt.

This air of mystery and intensity is at odds with the mood of the opening band, Danish r’n’b act Liss, consisting of Søren Holm, Villads Tyrrestrup, Vilhelm Strange and Tobias Laust. Their sound draws on everything from the Police to R. Kelly, 90s UK garage, 80s funk, though judging by their appearance they are far too young to have experienced any of those artists at first hand. Boasting an impressive rhythm section and good vocalist, the band look to be the Scandinavian answer to the colourful nostalgia of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars.

Dean Blunt Jazzhouse-7564

If you came to Copenhagen’s Jazzhouse in the hope of spending some time in the often lush eccentricities of Dean Blunt’s critically-acclaimed Black Metal, then you were woefully ill-prepared for this gig. Blunt and his ghostly gang begin with the first couple of tracks from the album, “Lush” and “50 cent”, beset by technical problems (something to do with the microphone cable by the sound of it), which added a tense quality to his chanted vocals. Most of the sounds are produced by a sampler, but these sound oddly compressed. The effect is less cinematic than the album, but also more surreal.

The glint of metal from a saxophone is briefly visible on stage before the lights all go off and the group launches into “Grade”, which mutates into a ten-minute soundscape of explosions and tortured sax squeals. It is roughly at this point that I remember having seen two odd shapes at the front of the stage while the crew was setting up. They are revealed to be strobe lights, directed directly into the audience’s eyes, unleashed on us for the last 20 or so minutes of the set. To be perfectly honest I spent most of that time trying to decipher the alien messages hidden in the strobe sequences, and therefore found it hard to concentrate on what songs were being played. I do recall a girl standing behind me singing the bass-line to “Punk” with both hands covering her eyes.

Though the above description sounds rather too much like a form of psychological torture, it’s undeniable that Dean Blunt takes the live experience seriously. His presence/absence on stage, the confrontational lighting, can be seen as dedication to providing his audience with a dramatic experience, though not an easy one to explain.

LIVE REVIEW: Pond, Pumpehuset, 10.03.2015

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The cover of Pond’s latest LP, Man It Feels Like Space Again, does a good job of evoking the mood of the band: colourful, messy, childlike, brilliantly ridiculous. Though less well-known than their sister band, Tame Impala, the Perth fourtet have received significant critical acclaim.  Justifiably so, as this set proves.

The evening kicks off with Froth, a shoegaze-y indie band from L.A., who make up for a slight lack of imagination by looking cute and earnest in their Pavement t-shirts. They are playing on the smaller stage, on the first floor of Pumpehuset, a suitably snug environment. The audience is enthusiastic but rather small, depleted, no doubt, by the Ariel Pink gig that’s happening elsewhere in town.

(Photo by James Hjertholm)
(Photo by James Hjertholm)

I’d like to think I have vaguely sophisticated tastes when it comes to music, but truthfully, all I want from a live band is a bunch of wackos happy to make fools of themselves, playing psychedelic garage odes to nothing in particular. Pond provide this in spades, bouncing through the first two tracks of their latest album, “Waiting Around for Grace” and “Elvis’ Flaming Star” (bad sub-editing there, guys, Elvis is singular, and merits an ‘s’ after the apostrophe), intermittently collapsing into the odd jam.

“This song is called ‘Heroic Shart’, which is a ridiculous name for a song.” Frontman Nick Allbrook, like his bandmates, revels in underlining their absurdist side. The sound of opening beer cans is incorporated into songs, awful dance moves are attempted. Mid-way through the set Nick and Joe muse about the baldness and possible whereabouts of Brian Eno, before covering “Baby’s On Fire” from the 1974 album Here Come The Warm Jets.

The fun comes to an end after only an hour on stage, surprising for a band with six albums under their belts. A final encore, and my new favourite Aussies disappear into a clear night in Copenhagen.

 

LIVE REVIEW: Yung + Total Heels, Stengade, 4.03.2015

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Total Heels | Stengade | Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

It’s easy to become completely Copenhagen-centric when you live here. The rest of Denmark seems to be just where people’s parents live. It’s refreshing, therefore, to see an act like Yung, injecting some Aarhus-bred punk into the Copenhagen scene. Fresh from the release of their Alter EP and a gig supporting Metz in London, the band has drawn a significant crowd at Stengade.

Total Heels | Stengade | Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

The opening act, Total Heels, are a band I make it my business to see live whenever possible. Their manic brand of organ-lead garage rock, full of fat riffs and prehistoric drum beats, is pushed into overdrive by the energy and wit of their frontman, New-Yorker Jason Orlovich. Their self-titled album incorporates everything from the Stooges to the vocal weirdness of the B-52s, but at its heart Total Heels is a live band, all sweat and spit.

Yung | Stengade | Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

Yung are often, out of laziness, lumped in with the rest of the ‘Danish punk’ scene, whatever that might be. Yet both their sound and attitude is markedly different from their Copenhagen colleagues. Sure, there are post-punk references there in the guitar riffs and basslines, but the approach is less dark and diffident. What you get with songs like “Don’t Cry” are the emotional swings between melancholy and raucousness of American proto-emo bands, even the jagged pop-punk of the likes of Jawbreaker. Mikkel Silkjær’s vocals tend towards a high-pitched chanting and raspy shouting, a marked contrast with the disaffected drones of some of our local bands.

Both bands are models of onstage commitment, fortunate enough to have a small international audience without taking anything for granted. And in a climate where international interest in ‘Danish punk’ is bound to fade soon, that level of energy and humility will be key.

LIVE REVIEW: Iceage, Jazzhouse, 26.02.2015

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Iceage, Hand of Dust and Less Win should be no strangers to our readers or Danish music fans in general, yet it is still impressive that the former should be able to sell out a venue like Jazzhouse two nights in a row. Only 16 months ago, for my very first review at Here Today, I saw Iceage showcase their sophomore album, You´re Nothing, to a crowd half the size.

Iceage (Photo by Tom Spray)
Iceage (Photo by Tom Spray)

The intervening time saw the release of Plowing into the Field of Love, perhaps the bands most critically acclaimed album. However, the band that I hear on that record, and see tonight, is not the buzzing hive of originality their fans like to present. Though talented in their own ways, and certainly possessing remarkable and abstruse tastes, Iceage appear to suffer from a desire to live up to their own images. Tracks like “The Lord´s Favorite” are admirable imitations of the likes of Nick Cave and the Gun Club, but no amount of stumbling around on the stage is going to transform them into their idols.

While the rest of the Copenhagen punk scene is under the spell of gothy Americana, Less Win combine the best elements of British post-punk in the Bunnymen tradition, with fast and technical American post-hardcore. Their energy is way above most of their peers, steamrolling through their set.

Iceage (Photo by Tom Spray)
Iceage (Photo by Tom Spray)

Unfortunately Iceage spent a large part of the first half of their set trying to fix technical difficulties with the guitar. It´s a revealing moment, as the band hug each other, whisper, and generally do their best to ignore the audience. I can´t blame their diffidence towards an audience whose first rows are barely pre-pubescent. Despite being disappointed by the lack of commitment on the part of the band, I am convinced Iceage still have the potential to ignore the adulation and use their tastes and talents in a more creative way.

 

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