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LIVE REVIEW: Deafheaven, BETA 11.08.2014

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It is appropriate to the band playing tonight that the audience arriving at Beta are greeted by a food stall, a children’s blow-up pool and a dj booth playing a mix of Sonic Youth and metal tunes. Deafheaven is one of those bands that reviewers and music journalists love to adorn with baroque epithets (“blackgaze”, “post-black-metal-shoegaze”, bla bla), but one thing we can state with certainty is that the band’s diversity of influences has brought them appeal that spans far wider than any other contemporary American metal band.

To say that the venue is sold-out is a little misleading, given Beta’s limited dimensions, but the small size brings with it a select and dedicated audience, ready to bliss out or rock hard, whatever the evening requires. Different reactions to the music give a good idea of the mindset of the listener: the obvious metalheads headbang in time with the black metal-inspired double kick drum, whereas those of us with leanings towards shoegaze and post-rock tend to nod along at half-time, focusing more on the waves of alternately distorted and reverb-laden guitars.

Deafheaven (Photo by Tom Spray)

Coming at the end of a long summer tour, there is a touch of uncharacteristic tiredness to the band, and frontman George Clarke’s wide-eyed intensity comes off as a little contrived. But this criticism is limited: one has to remember that Deafheaven do not have thick layers of corpse-paint to hide behind. For all its elegant album covers and posters, the band does not indulge in myth-making outside of its music, and even in the cramped conditions of Beta, and muffled by much-needed earplugs, the long form majesty of it is undeniable. Standing so close to the band, I am mesmerized by Daniel Tracy’s impeccable drumming. Even in the hectic intensity of a song like “The Pecan Tree”, it manages to flow with a paradoxically light precision. And that is not something you will ever get at a traditional shoegaze concert.

Deafheaven (Photo by Tom Spray)

The only moment of doubt comes with new track “From the Kettle Onto the Coil”, which for my tastes engages too much in the clichés of metal rather than subverting them (the breakdown in the middle being a particularly flagrant example of this), before essentially morphing into a cover of Slowdive’s “Alison”. The song sounds like a parody of Deafheaven, an attempt to replicate their music by a band who has only heard of them through clunky music press prose (“like a cross between Mayhem and Chapterhouse.” That one, thankfully, is made up). If anything, though, it serves to prove how, in Sunbather, Deafheaven are normally able to transcend the awkward juxtapositions of genre.

The set is short both in terms of time (just under an hour) and number of songs (five), but the decision to keep things brief, given the length of the actual songs, is a good one. No band can maintain this kind of mood for much longer without watering it down. And given the strange territories that other black-metal-influenced bands in the US are venturing into (Wolves in the Throne Room’s Celestite being a prime example), we must hope Deafheaven never go down the road to dilution.

Deafheaven (Photo by Tom Spray)

LIVE REVIEW: Neutral Milk Hotel, Store Vega, Copenhagen 07.08.2014

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Instruments sans players, Neutral Milk Hotel, Store Vega. Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh

Having long been confused and surprised by the concerts that Copenhageners seem to completely ignore, there is some satisfaction in finally coming across one that people have come in droves to see. It is cult 90s folk-rockers Neutral Milk Hotel, favourite band of Parks and Recreation’s April Ludgate, that drive an already frenzied audience to distraction by revisiting their tiny, if influential, discography.

There are no two ways about this, this is a reunion tour, but it is not exactly a nostalgia-fest. The material focuses very heavily on songs from In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, but it is a testament to the quality of the material that nothing sounds remotely dated. Which is not to say that this reviewer was instantly taken in by this set. The posters banning photographs are both welcome (countless gigs have been ruined by a sea of screen occluding the actual band) and at the same time worryingly earnest and serious. It turns out that this ban is extended to professional photographers, which explains the absence of pictures accompanying this review.

As frontman Jeff Magnum takes the stage alone and opens with “The King of Carrot Flowers Part 1” the atmosphere of erupting anticipation is infectious. Justifiably so, since the band’s 15 year hiatus means that for the younger members of the audience this is the first time they have ever had the opportunity to see them live. This is a concert that to some extent cannot possibly go wrong: the material is so familiar to even the casual listener, and the band is made up of musicians who have all had their separate prolific careers. And for the most part it is indeed a complete success, though the man at the sound desk managed to completely fudge up the mix on “Holland, 1945”, which should earn him 13 life-time’s worth of bad luck.

Even in their recordings, Neutral Milk Hotel have always had a ramshackle quality, teetering on the edge between disaster and brilliance. Though time has not mellowed them, the sense of risk is not quite as evident. Instead the drones of brass instruments, distorted acoustic guitar, and the bowed banjo and musical saw of the pixie-like Julian Koster, all merge and swirl wonderfully with Magnum’s nasal singing. This is, effectively, acoustic noise-pop. From this perspective, even moments of solo acoustic guitar share in this tone, driven by Magnum’s voice and the slow chord changes. No matter how revered their recordings are, they are a poor substitute for the band in their living, panting presence.

Though there is almost no talk between songs, except for a couple of brief thank-yous from Koster, the sense of engagement with the audience and the music is undeniable. Whenever Scott Spillane isn’t busting his lungs into one of a myriad of different horn instruments he is chanting along, vigorously though inaudibly, and Koster himself spends entire songs jumping clockwise like a whirling Dervish. From Magnum we only get a few bows, but in the absence of anything else, they feel genuine enough.

Trailerpark Festival report

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Arriving early at a concert in Copenhagen is tremendously unfashionable, and at a festival doubly so. The benefit of being at Trailerpark in the afternoon is being able to explore the various tents, trailers and assorted installations before they are covered under a mass of pretty people. The festival focuses as much on constructing creative and comfortable spaces as it does on the music, and this year is no exception. As well as the eponymous trailers—one made up to look like a Lynchian crime scene, complete with smoke machine and eerie music, another a Tinder-sponsored shag-shack—there are swings made of recycled pallets, surrealist plush sculptures, rum cabañas and a tent devoted to what can only be described as audio-visual terrorism.

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The Tinder-trailer during a quite moment.

Fans of poor decision-making are welcome to try a spot of tattoo roulette—quite literally spinning a wheel to decide what image will be indelibly etched onto your skin—and in the wilder hours of Friday even an over-cautious curmudgeon like yours truly has to exercise a significant amount of self-restraint to avoid it. Those in search of less permanent damage can get a lopsided haircut and a single leg shaved by a bunch of clowns in bondage gear. Pretty standard fare, really.

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There is perhaps no better place than here to take stock of the quality and diversity of the Danish scene, the line-up consisting almost entirely of homegrown talent. This, however, is the only constant. One can wander away from a hip hop act at Royal stage and suddenly come across an emissary of the Mayhem/Posh Isolation scene at Outdoor stage. Throughout, DJs and smaller electronic acts are blasting away in the intimate enclave of Rebel stage.

Thursday

The day starts relatively peacefully with Alice Boman’s wistful folk pop, which transitions neatly into the music of CODY, Copenhagen’s post-folk collective and arguably one of the most talented groups of musicians in the city. Drawing primarily on material from Windshield, their latest album, the six-piece (but depending on the day there could just as easily be eight people on stage, or even just the one) manage to work their wealth of instruments into a beautifully simple whole.

The rest of the day is devoted mainly to electronic acts. Among the most promising newer artists are Mont Oliver, who add a touch of Madchester swagger to their performance (seriously, the guy at the keyboards is even wearing one of those floppy 90s fishing hats). Later on, Ice Cream Cathedral filled Outdoor stage with their pop pyschedelia, followed by a mesmeric Sekuoia.

Ice Cream Cathedral
Ice Cream Cathedral
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Cody

Baby In Vain did their best to convert the crowd to Satan, before Julias Moon could do is darndest to become the Danish equivalent of Michael Jackson.

Friday

Though every day at Trailerpark has its moments, Friday is the one that does its best to physically and mentally destroy festival-goers. In the most positive sense of the phrase, naturally. Hand Of Dust and Get Your Gun bring a dark and twisted version of Americana to town, though their early slots mean that only a handful of the most dedicated are able to witness any of it.

The tone for the rest of the evening is set by New York rapper Le1f. Preceded by a brief display from an acrobat in bondage gear (a phrase I don’t get to use enough), Khalif Diouf exudes equal parts sexuality (consider that barely an hour later will see a DJ set from someone called DJ Cockwhore) and flighty exuberance.  Cutting songs short when he gets tired of them, Le1f makes it clear that he is here to have as much fun as the audience.

Le1f
Le1f

Though Sleep Party People’s mix of lullabies and post-rock is both a visually and aurally captivating experience, the true energy of the evening is found with two bands:  Reptile Youth and Broke. Though the former is considerably more famous, the two share similarities in sound and attitude, guitar-led dance music and physicality. I can personally attest to having had Reptile Youth’s frontman Mads Damsgaard Kristiansen land on my head twice during improperly announced stage dives, and Broke’s frontman developed a liking for humping one of the central tent poles of Outdoor stage.

Reptile Youth
Reptile Youth

All this can only be topped by the utter perfection (in the eyes and ears of this reviewer at least) of The Felines, who bring wide smiles and awkward attempts at the twist to the 4am crowd.

Saturday

Fans of Danish “pop sensations” and hip hop acts must forgive me, but the real stars of the final day of Trailerpark are all at Outdoor stage. First Hate are possibly the dorkiest duo I have ever seen, which automatically makes them cooler than anyone in this tremendously well-dressed audience. It helps that they almost flawlessly channel Speak and Spell-era Depeche Mode, down to the Dave Gahan-esque vocals and dance moves. It’s pure and unabashed synth-pop, and it instantly converts all those present.

If prizes were being awarded, one would have to go to Communions, who have transformed into a much more mature band in the intervening months since our last encounter with them. The punk attitude is still there, but it no longer has a stranglehold over their sound, and finally they devote themselves to the wiry jangle-pop that was always lurking underneath the discordant tone and shambolic compositions. Those of us who spent the bike-ride to Enghave listening exclusively to Felt (or is that just me?) are in for a very pleasant surprise.

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Communions

As people gather to watch Shiny Darkly, it is evident that they are precisely the same hand-picked audience that attended First Hate and Communions. Apparently I have become a stereotype, though what that might be is unclear. Though perhaps the most obviously post-punk oriented of all the acts at Trailerpark, Shiny Darkly do not simply emulate their elders and betters. The raw riffs and chanted vocals are driven by a spartan and effective rhythm section, and on occasion even joined by a violinist or a trumpet player. The extra instruments are used with an ear for noise and harmonics as much as they add an extra layer of melody to the songs. At any rate they bespeak a level of ambition that is the mark of a healthy music scene. The likes of S!vas and Christopher might bring in the punters, but visitors looking for the true energy of the city should follow the leather jackets.

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Shiny Darkly

 View  the galleries from Trailerpark Festival here:

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

All days

Thanks to Sony for letting us try the new Sony a7S camera.

All photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

LIVE REVIEW: Ratking, Ideal Bar, 17.05.2014

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Photos by Tom Spray

If Ideal Bar is feeling a little too chill and empty for a gig on a Saturday evening, Ratking make it their business to get the room working for them. The New York hip hop-trio—MCs Wiki and Hak, and producer Sporting Life (which, until proven wrong, I insist is a Gershwin reference)—are touring Europe, promoting their debut album, So It Goes. On record they sound punchy and fresh, full of strange samples and clever wordplay, and feature guest-spots from the likes of King Krule.

This being an often tricky genre to pull off live, and with contemporaneous gigs going on in both Vega’s larger venues, it’s impressive to see Wiki and Hak scrap together a good crowd out of the initially scattered audience. Right from the beginning you can observe their dynamics, the way Hak will gentle coerce people at the back to stand up, while Wiki positively vibrates at the other side of the stage, tensed for the hook to hit. Ratking work by feeding off each other’s differences: Wiki’s exuberance and aggression, Hak’s laid-back reserve, Sporting Life’s obvious intensity and focus. The scruffiness of the sound ends up making them more endearing, three punky kids elated to be playing around the world.

Ratking (Photo by Tom Spray)

Tracks like “Snow Beach” are great to pick apart, layers upon layers of tropicalia, shoegaze wash and cheap drum samples. It almost sounds like an Animal Collective remix, until a saxophone appears from nowhere. And the lyrics are grounded, explorations of New York, utterly devoid of obnoxious posturing. The sound is that of a thoroughly internet-immersed generation (the names Wiki and Hak should make that clear enough), for whom genres are nothing more than tags on last.fm, rather than the rigid, tribal boundaries they once were.

It’s a short set, the length you might expect from a hardcore act, but Ratking release us back into the streets of Copenhagen vibrating at a slightly higher pitch, somehow a little less cynical.

VIEW THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: Nine Inch Nails, Forum, 13.05.2014

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Photo by Tom Spray

As Tom and I remark again on the oddity that Nine Inch Nails, one of the biggest names in rock music of any description, somehow can’t fill up Forum in Copenhagen (seriously guys, the main guy on the poster outside the venue is Cliff Richard), we are greeted by the anachronism that is Cold Cave. I sense a common feeling of nostalgia towards the bombastic and cheap-sounding synths, the Robert Smith-inspired vocals, the leather jacked, black shades and shitty hair. If you squint your eyes, and find a way of doing something similar to your ears, you might just be transported back to the not so distant past when everyone on the deathrock.com message board collectively lost their shit over Crystal Castles. But squinting is annoying, and in the end, so are Cold Cave.

By the time Nine Inch Nails are about to begin their set, the venue’s insistence on not opening up the back section means we’re all squeezed together like cockroaches. The screen that spans the entire stage has obscured most of the tech set up, so it’s almost a surprise when the lights suddenly cut out and ‘The Eater of Dreams” starts playing over the PA. The band arrive on stage with little fanfare, apart from the roar greeting Trent Reznor, whose intensity has certainly not diminished in time. Initially the stage looks very minimalist, with nothing but three keyboards and a low-hanging lighting rig. It fits perfectly with opener “Copy of a”, from the band’s latest effort, Hesitation Marks. This is classic NIN dark but danceable minimalism, all drum machines and fast synth arpeggios.

NIN (Photo by Tom Spray)

But Trent and co. have fooled us: as “The Beginning of the End” starts up, with its prehistoric drum-beat, a gigantic black curtain falls to the ground, revealing one drum kit, and one giant lighting rig. The rig, together with the projections that from time to time appear on a ascending and descending screen, are by far the best visual show I have witnessed at a concert in a very long time. They are intense, but never bombastic or silly, a perfectly constructed accompaniment to the music.

Tonight NIN are showing off their fastest, heaviest side, and predominantly dipping into their earlier records: “March of the Pigs” rips through neural connections, knocking you off balance with its completely out-of-the-blue switch to major chords on the piano for a chorus. It’s like punching someone repeatedly in the face and then giving them a hug. Scary as hell. It seems like all the time spent on scoring films such as The Social Network and the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, together with the How to Destroy Angels side-project, have not only reinvigorated Trent, but also pushed him to rediscover his more guitar-orientated side.

NIN (Photo by Tom Spray)

The only negative thing to say about the gig is that it simply didn’t last long enough. An hour and a half for a band that has been around for a quarter of a century is just not enough, and I for one would not have minded hearing some more songs from Hesitation Marks, particularly oddities like the funky “All Time Low” and freakishly uplifting “Everything”. Reznor instead gives us the classics, closing with “Closer” and “Hurt”, which are nothing if not crowd-pleasers. Not great songs to be singing along to on the train home, though.

VIEW THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: GOBLIN + JOZEF VAN WISSEM, Amager Bio, 14.04.2014

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A year ago I could not have predicted that my favourite concert of April, 2014, would involve a Dutch lute player. Though it is a disservice to Jozef Van Wissem to summarise him in those three words, they are inevitable. It certainly can’t be said that we are experiencing a deluge of post-modern arrangements of Baroque music from the Low Countries. And yet any serious music or film fan would have been hard-pressed to ignore him this year. As well has having released his second collaborative album with Jim Jarmusch (out of more than a dozen previous solo records), Jozef Van Wissem collaborated on the soundtrack to Jarmusch’s latest movie, Only Lovers Left Alive.

The soundtrack is what CPH PIX must have had in mind when they coupled Van Wissem with Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin, pioneers of 70s prog-rock horror soundtracks. Stylistically very different, the pair draw a mix of film-buffs and metal fans (for it must be said that for some reason most people can only appreciate Renaissance music in close proximity to chains and black leather), and if Amager Bio is not exactly packed, nor is the crowd thin around the stage.

As Van Wissem sits himself down under cover of darkness and begins to play, I am disappointed to find that his lute (a black mutation of a traditional one, having sprouted countless more strings) is mic-ed up. The venue isn’t huge, and his playing is compelling enough to command utter silence. But as he moves from earlier work to songs from the Jarmusch soundtrack, it is clear that Van Wissem is making good use of those microphones, altering the distance from the instrument in order to create hints of feedback and weird resonances. At one point he circles around the microphone, so that the audience can hear the lute unamplified. All his music is based on repetitions, and at first seems rather ponderous and alienating. Closer inspection (literally and metaphorically) reveals hidden complexities in the pieces, and the differing dynamics can completely alter the mood of a riff.

The transition, from this to the (regrettably) beefed up prog-rock of Goblin, is less than smooth. Claudio Simonetti is the only original member of the band, the other three being members of a Goblin cover band. What they lack in authenticity (beige-metal guitar sounds and bowling shirts all round), Simonetti makes up for in charm. With a wide grin he asks the audience: “Do you like zombies?” The answer naturally being yes, he reveals that by good fortune he happened to have written the soundtrack to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and is willing to play it for us now. For the next hour or so the band play along to prejections of clips from horror classics by Romero and Dario Argento, interspersed with jokes about the guitarist’s fly farm (a reference to Phenomena) and some vocoder problems during their rendition of Tenebrae (familiar for having being sampled by Justice in the song “Phantom“).

The highlight of the second part of the evening isthe theme to “Profondo Rosso”, which manages to out-do Mike Oldfield in terms of “Tubular Bells”-style eeriness. It is a song I obsessed about long before I was old enough to actually watch a Dario Argento movie, and it is odd that I had to travel all the way to Copenhagen in order to hear it live for the first time.

LIVE REVIEW: King Krule, Pumpehuset, 11.04.2014

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The hype around last year’s release of 6 Feet Beneath the Moon has ensured that Pumpehuset is packed with all sorts of vaguely fashionable types. Quite why Copenhagen’s twentysomethings are so interested in a 19-year-old from South London who sings about Tesco sandwiches past their sell-by dates, that is too large a question to get into. The point is that people are here, and there is a palpable atmosphere of anticipation as people cluster around the front or perch on ledges around the room.

The opening act, Kill J, despite having an obviously talented singer, manage to like more or less anything that was vaguely hip in the last few years: a bit of The Knife, a dash of M.I.A., sprinklings of whatever else you can think of. At one point she even starts to do an imitation of Die Antwoord’s Yolandi, complete with an incongruous South African accent.

A few teenage screams erupt as Archy Marshall joins his band on stage. It’s an interesting moment, a weird cognitive dissonance between this gawky, enthusiastic kid and an audience intent on deifying him. He bounces around during instrumental parts, but his distinctive style of singing anchors him down, as veins bulge around his neck.

Though his songs translate well enough in their live renditions, the sound is rather flattened out. Without some of the samples from the record, the set starts to sound rather samey and repetitive after half an hour. It is clear that to really get into King Krule, you need to subscribe to the myth. Otherwise you are essentially listening to an indie band playing lounge songs.

Though I’m less than evangelic about King Krule, it is undeniable that Archy has very interesting music tastes, and an ability to fit the most disparate influences into a unified sound. “A Lizard State”, despite its jazz references, could only come from the mind of someone who has grown up when the Libertines were at their peak. The attempts at street-smart realism and everyday references are still rather clumsy, and most tracks feel more like sketches than real songs, but the sketches are certainly promising.

Of course, most people are here for the penultimate song, “Easy Easy”. And it is the simplicity of the song, the sparse guitar and vocals, that give it punch, not to mention a passing resemblance to New Order’s “Ceremony”. Probably not the references to sandwiches, though.

LIVE REVIEW: Mogwai, DR Koncerthus, 25.03.2014

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Even after eight studio albums and three soundtrack albums, the love and enthusiasm Mogwai engender from their audience is surprising. The idea that an instrumental band could ever become quite as big as this would be thought of as ridiculous outside of the odd 1960s novelty tune. But Mogwai are very much the lads of post-rock, who have made a career of giving songs ridiculous titles (reading the tracklist of any Mogwai album is a pleasure all in itself), wearing the same jeans and trainer combo, and concluding every live song with “Thanks, cheers, thanks a lot.” Having released both the soundtrack to French horror-series, Les Revenants, and a studio album, Rave Tapes, in just one year, anticipation is high.

The main concert hall at DR Koncerthus, with its asymmetric juxtapositions of balconies, as if several ships had collided around the stage, provides Mogwai with a suitably concentrated, if off-kilter, space. The seats are certainly welcome during Pye Corner Audio’s set, which consists of long-form electronic pieces. Though some of his last tracks contain rather more keyboard noodling than I’m comfortable with, some of his first songs have a wonderful eeriness, like having a slow panic attack on a bus, on a rainy Friday night.

The stage features the double-eye and purple hexagons from the cover of Rave Tapes, looking halfway between a set from a 60s sci-fi flick and an Illuminati convention.

Opening with “Heard About You Last Night”, one of Rave Tapes more ‘classic’ sounding tracks, Mogwai steer a course that gives equal time to tracks from their latest LP as well as older material. It is testament to the sheer breadth and size of their back catalogue that they can have a song as majestic as “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m dead” as their second song. Throughout, the five-piece swap instruments, are handed an endless series of guitars, and are periodically joined by long-time collaborator, the novelist and multi-instrumentalist Luke Sutherland.

No concessions are made to this being a venue designed for classical music. Mogwai are loud, tinnitus-inducing, Glaswegian audio-saboteurs, who entice you with delicate guitar lines before kicking the living shit out of your eardrums. “Rano Pano” sees the band battle with each other’s distorted guitar drones, kept in line by a strict drumbeat, while the solo to “How to be a Werewolf” bursts joyfully through the other guitar layers.

In these moments it seems almost a pity that we are sat down. Around me are pockets of metalheads awkwardly headbanging while leaning forwards in their seats. But much like Godspeed You! Black Emperor at Tivoli, the seating arrangement means that the audience can more readily accept longer and quieter songs. It’s certainly one way to make sure no-one irritates you by being too tall or attached to their phone. God bless seats. Now I feel old.

VIEW THE FULL LIVE GALLERY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: Anna Calvi, Amager Bio, 20.03.2014

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Anna Calvi often elicits hyperbolic pronouncements. Brian Eno referred to her as the “biggest thing since Patti Smith”, and certainly her self-titled Mercury Prize-nominated debut had journalists scrambling for musical references. But it is always something of a disservice to focus too much on the comparison game, and Calvi’s second release, One Breath, confirms that her musical identity is much more than an aggregate of classical rock and post-punk tropes.

No opener is more likely to contrast with the headline act than Alice Boman, the Swedish singer-songwriter who has been making a name for herself in Copenhagen opening shows for the likes of Matthew E. White. Everything is low-key, from the keyboards to the shy little vocals. The most intense part of her set was when someone carrying her kick-drum bashed me in the knee.

Amager Bio fills up to a comfortable level, and it is gratifying to be surrounded by people who are genuine fans of the act, as opposed to those who go to gigs out of some sense of cultural duty. The stage background is a huge blow-up of a desert vista, which in the case of Anna Calvi could as easily refer to Spain as to the American West. Accompanying Calvi tonight are a drummer, a keyboardist, and a woman who the singer describes as playing “all those instruments”, including a harmonium, bass, and assorted percussions.

Anna Calvi (Photo by James Hjertholm)

The presence of the percussionist should be revealing in itself. Anna Calvi has cultivated a meticulous and mesmerising live sound, with a guitar tone that her records simply cannot do justice to.

Opening with “Suzanne and I”, it takes a minute or so for her voice to warm up, but when the song really requires it, she slips into gear and belts out the chorus. From this point Calvi breezes through most of her two albums with a passion and control that are hard to reconcile with each other.

“Rider To the Sea” is vastly extended, and slowly abandons its cold façade as Calvi lets rip. I can honestly say I haven’t been this taken with a guitarist since I was a twelve year old pretending to be Jimmy Page. The flamenco flourishes and Hendrix flashes are genuinely exhilarating, and Calvi achieves this effect completely unaccompanied.

Anna Calvi (Photo by James Hjertholm)

Though there are moments where Anna Calvi’s sense of the dramatic places her squarely as one of Roy Orbison’s few genuine descendents, there is nothing strictly “retro” about her. Songs like “Piece by Piece” showcase her canny sense of composition and use of incidental sounds over a sparse keyboard riff. The fast guitar riffs are so delicate that they end up melting with the keyboards, until they are displaced by overdriven guitar lines.

While it is true that for the most part the audience is in love with Calvi’s voice and guitar playing, rather than her song writing, the latter is a skill she is fast developing, and which will certainly come into its own on her next release. But it is no exaggeration to say the audience is in love. The enthusiasm in Amager Bio is undeniable, the applause heartfelt. Calvi, who says very little in between songs, seems truly affected by this, and finally exits the stage in a shy glow.

VIEW THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: The Men, Loppen, 18.03.2014

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The Men: the generic name is revealing in itself. Initially labelled as a post-punk band, possibly due to the connection with Sacred Bones Records (home to Savages), the band’s last albums have steadily encompassed almost every genre of guitar-centric music, from psychedelia to hardcore. Their latest release, Tomorrow’s Hits, move back even further in time, with references to soul and Bruce Springsteen, albeit reinterpreted and speeded up to fit The Men at their most manic.

Loppen fills up with a varied contingent of long-haired dudes in black t-shirts, the usual entourage of shirt-buttoned-to-the-top teens, and assorted older hipsters. First on stage, Communions have become so familiar to me, and one presumes the readers of Here Today, that describing their set seems rather futile. Check our reviews of Traams or Iceage, or wait for their session with this website.

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Communions

Having fallen behind schedule, Total Heels are determined not to waste a second of their set. “We are Total Heels, we’re from here” exclaims a frantic frontman, assuring us they will only play twenty minutes. He looks determined to punch a clock until the minute hand thinks better of this whole moving forward business. Like a beefed-up Question Mark and the Mysterians, the four-piece have an energy that is rare in these cynical times. They should also be commended for filling the press photo section of their website with pictures of puppies and promo shots of Vampire Weekend.

Finally the Men arrive at midnight, and in the spirits of the previous bands, waste no time with stage banter, ploughing through songs at a ridiculous volume. Though they have the loudness and unmistakeable bass-tone of a hardcore band, the Men are more focused on instrumental jamming, sharing vocal duties in intermittent bursts. No matter how disparate their influences on each song, there is a surprising continuity between the new material and that from previous albums.

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The Men

Live renditions of brass-driven tracks like “Another Night” tend to veer away from their E-Street Band associations, with the odd Allman Brothers guitar lick substituting for a saxophone stab. Mark Perro’s keyboards only really make sense in the new songs, but they never seem out of place, in spite of the cheesy reputation that keyboards usually have in punk. And though for the most part the Men rely on their older aesthetic when playing live, it is their newest single “Pearly Gates” that gets the most enthusiastic reaction.

Loppen is the perfect location for this brand of bar-rock, unpretentious and unapologetic. No one is pretending it’s the seventies or eighties, but then again I don’t think anyone gives a damn that it’s 2014 either.

VIEW THE FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE

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