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Live Reviews - page 22

LIVE REVIEW: Iceland Airwaves Day 2, 31.10.2013

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Sometime: This Icelandic duo was formed in 2005 and has made two albums. The brain in the band is TheDanni, who writes, records, and produces their music. During the bands set he had a lot on his hands, maybe too much, and had some problems keeping up with the beat. He was playing beats from the computer while doing fills on the electronic drum pad.  Sometimes less is more in music and TheDanni should keep that in mind in the future. Supporting him on stage was Diva de la Rosa providing vocals with a powerful voice and confident stage performance. They had their ups and downs during the show but it was still a good effort. The hall wasn’t very crowded but everyone seemed to be having a good time — the band members as well. 2,5*/5*

Prins Póló

Prins Póló: For those who do not speak Icelandic, the Prins Póló shows are not as much fun to watch as for those who do. The lyrics are so important to their performance and if you don’t understand it you’ll probably be saying “WTF?” a couple of times during the show. Their pop punk style is just hilarious, creating an atmosphere similar to a stand up show. The front man of the band, Svavar, has a funny way of putting words together in his lyrics and people are constantly smiling when they see them perform. For example:  The last song they performed is about an 18-year-old boy which is in love with a 100-year-old woman. You get my point. But it’s not just the lyrics that make Prins Póló interesting, it’s also grooving, simple rhythms that the four group members provide that without the lyrics would be as much fun.  3*/5*

Jagwar Ma

Jagwar Ma: Making a big entrance, coming on stage with “What Love” and putting the volume up to eleven, the crowd went wild. This was obviously a band that many had been waiting to see perform. They released their debut album this summer which I really liked and I too was looking forward to the show. They defiantly have some good songs and gave all they had in their performance, but there was something off about them. The guitar didn’t fit the electronic house beats well enough and sometimes it felt like they were playing two songs at the same time. All their songs started up with a good beat and interesting melodies but when it comes to the point to break it up a bit, nothing happened and the show got monotonous. They peaked playing the song “Four,” which is a well suited live song. The singer, who looked and acted like Zoolander, needed a little more power added to his voice because of the loudness in the hall. Despite some flaws this was a solid performance from Jagwar Ma. 3*/5*

Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo: On paper they are the biggest act playing at Airwaves this year other than Kraftwerk, and because of that they got a full hall. People were streaming in in the beginning of the show, but as it went on the stream started to go the other way. The band played some of their slower songs to begin with, as expected. They were very active in changing instruments and mixing up the show but Ira Kaplan stayed on electric guitar most of the time. He went from playing with much sangfroid to suddenly changing the mood, swinging the guitar in the air and creating a fuss. It sometimes felt like Kaplan forgot that he was playing in front of audience; he just went on with an experimental jam, not even connecting with the other members of the band. Some parts of it sounded cool but most of it was far away from cool. There is no doubt about their musical talent but this show needed more excitement and passion.
Before the concert I was very excited, being a big fan of albums like I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One and And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-out. I even dragged my friends with me to the concert telling them that this would probably be the best one this weekend. They will probably not trust me to make a selection for the rest of the festival because I couldn’t have been more wrong. 2*/5*

Photos by Aníta Björk Jóhannsdóttir and Iceland Airwaves. 

LIVE REVIEW: Biffy Clyro, Den Grå Hal, 1.11.13

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Biffy Clyro by Jen Tse

When Biffy Clyro walk on stage to Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” all of them already stripped to the waist (barring their touring guitarist, branded an outsider by virtue of his shirt and tie), there is something a bit cheeky in their attitude. It only takes a few minutes, however, to realize that this seasoned touring band know how to keep things light, and know how to be prepared. Indeed, throughout the show, there is so much sweat dripping off of frontman Simon Neil that it’s a wonder he doesn’t miss any notes.

The Scots trio pride themselves on being a strong live band, and their sense of pride is well earned. Four men on a large stage in a large room have a lot of space to fill with just their presence. But the audience is ready to respond to them, ready to mirror their jumping, and there are times when the crowd looks like it will spill into a mosh pit — thought it never does.

Early in the show they give, according to Neil, the live premiere of “Accident Without Emergency,” and follow it up by each grabbing a strobe light to hoist over their heads (to which those in the audience not made motion sick by strobe lights showed tremendous enthusiasm). By the time the band kicks into “Bubbles,” several men in the audience have followed the band’s lead and taken off their own shirts, one of which eventually makes its way onto the stage.

Biffy Clyro by Jen Tse

Neil gets a chance to catch his breath with the obligatory slowdown of the set, in this case him alone on stage with his acoustic guitar. While his bandmates towel off backstage, he leads the audience in a singalong of “Folding Stars.” It’s a moment that probably should be intimate, but the space, the people, and the sweaty, shirtless, tattooed man on stage make for a somewhat odd spectacle.

What Biffy Clyro do well is keep their setlist varied, spanning their entire catalogue. But there is a notable difference in how they perform their earlier, crunchier songs — the ones that have them climbing monitors and jumping off the drum riser — and their more recent, more anthemic material. And having this broad spectrum traversed in just shy of two hours does leave one wondering how a once borderline hardcore band has ended up in musically tamer territory.

VIEW ALL THE PHOTOS BY JEN TSE HERE

 

LIVE REVIEW: Iceland Airwaves Day 1, 30.10.2013

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Leaves: A lot of changes have development in this band since they played their first gig at Airwaves 2001. They were so close to world-wide popularity when they released their first album, Breath, in 2002 but something was missing and maybe has been ever since. 

It was rather obvious that Leaves haven’t been performing a lot lately when they stepped on the stage. The members looked a bit stiff and stressed but still cool, and there is no doubt that these guys are professional performers.

I went to see Leaves play because of my love for Breath and also some of their stuff from The Angela Test and We Are Shadows. Most of the songs they performed were from their newest album, See You In the Afterglow, and for me that was a bummer and I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one in the hall with that opinion. Still they put on a good show and they performed the songs well. The singer, Arnar Guðjónsson, has a great high pitch voice and sounds a lot like Matthew Bellamy from Muse. The show was good but if they had just played two old classics and added a little bit of passion, it could have been so much better. Also, I have to add that having the keys on playback is not cool. 2,5*/5*

soley by  Magnús Elvar Jónsson

Sóley: It was really crowded and there was obviously a lot of excitement in the audience to see Sóley perform. Even though some were standing 100 meters from the stage when she performed the whole audience was brought close when she raised her sensitive voice. She flirted at the microphone and told silly jokes between songs, which made the show more fun to watch. All through her set she got complete silence from the audience and everyone’s attention was on her. As she pointed out during the show, it was obviously Wednesday. The show peaked in the last two songs when she performed “Pretty Face” and “I’ll Drown” with remarkable looping skills. Sóleys career as a solo artist is still rising and soon she will have a tighter set. When that happens, it will be even more interesting to see her perform. 3*/5*

Photo by Alexander Matukhno

Samaris: I was on my way to see Mammút play at Harpan when I heard the tripping heavy beats of Samaris coming from the next room.  I don’t regret sticking my head in to the hall to see if I was missing something good because I would have. There was no way I was leaving this concert after the first song. Their setup consists of the singer Jófríður sounding a lot like Björk, computer musician Þórður and clarinet player Áslaug, who had to be replaced during this show. This combination brings something special to the air and watching them perform is pure pleasure. Þórður provided dope, heavy electronic beats which fit Jófríðurs voice perfectly and her weird performance style makes it even more interesting. Songs that stood out were “Hljóma þú” and remixed version of the song “Viltu Vitrast”. Already having made a magnificent show they topped the performance with their well-known hit “Góða Tungl” which made the audiences obviously happy. 4*/5*

Retro Stefson

Retro Stefson: There is always so much energy in the air when this band goes on stage. This time they were supported by Hermigervill. Retro Stefson alone can provide some good grooves but with Hermigervill onboard the funky grooves they showed off were irresistible. They played the set on full speed almost without stopping and mixed the songs together making it even more fun to watch and listen. The singer of the band Unnsteinn made an entertaining performance directing the crowd and telling them to move left, right, up and down. His brother, Logi Pedro, meanwhile was slapping the bass like a maniac. The end of their gig was brilliant when they jammed between “Qween” and “She Said,” then ending it with “Glow” which made the crowd go wild. Suddenly it didn’t feel like Wednesday. 4*/5*

emiliana torrini by Rúnar Sigurður Sigurjónsson

Emilíana Torrini: She sometimes has a way of making her shows personal and touching. This show was one of them. She talked a lot about her new born baby boy and said that he had inspired her recent work. Emilíana brought six band members with her to back her up, but still she dominated the stage with her outstanding voice. She was always smiling and giggling during the gig and dedicating songs to her child and the audience. The beginning of her show was very powerful and set a good mood to the audience. As songs went by a little bit of power was missing but she made up for that when she got her encore and performed “Sunnyroad” and “Jungle Drum”. 3,5*/5*

All photos via Iceland Airwaves.

LIVE REVIEW: Chvrches, Lille Vega, 29.10.2013

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Let me premise this by saying that I began the evening by walking headfirst into a glass wall. That made me unhappy bunny in a crowd of smiling rodents. Nursing a red forehead, I look around and notice that half the audience seems to be made up of men with glasses and beards. Is this what the bearded listen to, Chvrches?

As the opening act begin to play I realise that Thumpers, sadly, are probably not one of the all time top ten bands named after Disney characters. The duo are joined by two keyboardist and a very enthusiastic backing vocalist and trumpeter, but I can’t help thinking that when they first formed, the drummer must have just said “I’m going to play the drum bits from Adam and the Ants songs, and you do whatever you like over it.”

As Chvrches’ lead singer Lauren Mayberry points out, this is the first headlining gig the band have played in Copenhagen since the release of their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe. Their warm reception here is unsurprising, given icy grip that synthpop has held over Scandinavia since Erik the Red first declared war on Mick Hucknall. The show is sold-out, and I can barely make out a giant LCD triangle on stage, and the bobbing head of some guy who has, for reasons unknown, decided this is the right place and decade to pogo.

It is uncanny when a live band manage to sound exactly like their records, and though this should be a compliment to Mayberry’s distinctively shrill vocals, I can’t help wondering what’s the point of aiming for that kind of perfection. But this is what Chvrches fans want to hear, and as Mayberry advises us to keep hydrated in the tropical climate of Lille Vega, I’m slightly ashamed at my cynicism and wonder if, on a day when I don’t career into transparent walls, I too could enjoy listening to a  hyper-faithful rendition of “Gun” or “The Mother We Share”. Well no, let’s be honest, that’s not going to happen.

LIVE REVIEW: Julianna Barwick, Jazzhouse, 20.10.2013

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There was a question looming of how Julianna Barwick’s atmospheric music would translate as a live performance. Her ethereal voice, largely wordless lyrics, and airy songs are so unobtrusive that it never seemed likely that Barwick would overwhelm a room with the force of her personality. And standing behind her keyboard, reaching across to twist knobs on her sampler and occasionally swaying behind her microphone, this is the case. Her accompanist for most of her set, guitarist Scott Bell, is equally benign.

It is interesting to watch Barwick build a track, looping layer upon layer of her own voice, and how effective her sporadic piano playing is. What is evident is her overwhelming vocal control, and the strength and clarity of her voice, which is necessary for her loops to work at all. But the fascination wears off before too long.

Julianna Barwick (Photo by Tom Spray)

It is not unreasonable to believe that her voice is compelling enough to make her live show worth seeing, in spite of her physically stagnant performance. What is achieved is a sort zen-like state, conducive to meditation — or truthfully, were the chairs more comfortable, to sleep. It’s very peaceful and very pretty, but there is a limit to how engaging it can be.

With this in mind, Barwick has video rolling on a screen behind her. The images — of a seagull, of waves crashing, of a woman (possibly Barwick herself) clad in a lace dress, floating in water, tangled up in tulle — though intriguing, are incidental. The footage keeps rolling even between songs, and begins to repeat itself three quarters of the way through her set.

Her set is brief, coming in under an hour, including the encore. But it’s sufficient. If you missed it, you’ll likely get just as much pleasure out of buying a copy of her latest album, and curling up at home with it, a cup of tea, and a good book.

VIEW THE FULL LIVE GALLERY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: Foals, Store Vega, 15.10.2013

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Foals are one of those bands that make sense live in a way they never could on their records. Not even on this year’s Mercury Prize-nominated Holy Fire, nor on 2010’s Mercury Prize-nominated Total Life Forever can this band be fully understood without seeing them perform.

A big part of it is the dimension of the music itself. Jimmy Smith’s spindly rhythm guitar weaves into Yannis Philippakis’ heavier leads with the same dynamic as on their albums, but any subtlety they strive for in the mixes on their recordings is lost to sheer power. The synths and backing vocals never fade into the background, the bass is more present than would be expected for a rock band, and Philippakis’ vocals regularly break into screams.

Foals (Photo by Tom Spray)

But mostly it’s the antics of their performance. It isn’t necessary to know their songs to enjoy yourself, because the human energy on and off stage is so easy to lose yourself in. Philippakis struts and pirouettes through every song, pouring water on his head between songs and flinging the remainder on the crowd. He’s matched by Smith’s relentless pogoing, and even drummer Jack Bevan can be seen standing triumphantly on top of his kit at any interval. And the crowd love it. They are dancing and jumping and willing to catch Philippakis on the multiple occasions that he crowd surfs. It’s telling that the band can bust out their single “My Number” early in the set instead of needing to build up to it in the encore.

Foals (Photo by Tom Spray)

But what they build up to is a finale of rock star antics that a man of lesser personality than Philippakis would struggle to pull off. Before “Electric Bloom” he passively suggests, “Let’s fuck this place up,” and then swaps his guitar for a floor tom, and unencumbered by an instrument or mic stand ricochets around the stage and audience. Back on stage for “Inhaler,” Philippakis’ intentions become clear when stares up agog at a stack of speakers. He restrains himself until the interlude of the final song, “Two Steps, Twice,” before scaling the stack, abandoning his guitar there, and then climbing up into the balcony. He takes the long route through the balcony to the other side of the stage, jumping down on to another stack of speakers and teasing the crowd before taking a final jump on stage. By the time he has his guitar back, a majority of the audience is crouched on their knees, ready to jump up as the final chorus comes in. It’s baffling and thrilling, and overwhelms in the best possible way.

Foals (Photo by Tom Spray)

VIEW THE FULL LIVE GALLERY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: Factory Floor, Lille Vega, 14.10.2013

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Factory Floor Lille Vega

Copenhagen, I love you, but you’re bringing me down.

In the best of all possible worlds, I wouldn’t have to write this review. The city would have crammed into the smaller of the Vega siblings, and I could simply write the words “Factory Floor” and “East India Youth” for people to knowingly nod their heads and synchronise their inner bpm.

As it is, only the select few, the knowing or the fortunate, stick to the walls as Will Doyle, or East India Youth, poured waves of synth into the room. It feels like a scene from a film or tv, like Durutti Column playing in 24 Hour Party People, or even Julee Cruise stuck in that red bar in Twin Peaks. His set is constantly shimmering from one song to the next, full of brilliant melancholy and brash crescendos. Dom and Gabe from Factory Floor are listening in the middle of the room. “Pretty good, eh?”

Statistically, few of you readers will have seen him, so go buy Hostel, his latest EP, which as well as being a great record, also distinguishes itself for having been released by a strange new animal known as The Quietus Phonographic Corporation.

The yellow and blue glitch projections, as well programmes scattered around the place, are evidence of another in a long line of Factory Floor’s collaborations with visual artists. Tonight Dan Tombs is providing the sights, as part of CPH:DOX, the International Documentary  Film Festival. In the middle of the oscillating images, the band begin the same way their record does, with “Turn It Up”, which in this case is a direct order to the sound man.

I often misuse the word hypnotic, applying more or less to anything vaguely repetitive or psychedelic, but Factory Floor definitely induce some sort of altered state. The volume is fantastic, and Dom’s short loops gain urgency as they slowly modulate, blending into Gabe’s drumming, which manages to add an afro-beat flavour to the post-punk and disco beats. Singer and guitarist Nik lays on heavily effected vocals, unintelligible words, and harsh guitar stabs. It sounds rather ridiculous when described, but the discord of a guitar hit with a drum stick is given some sort of structure by the bassline, so that I start to imagine chords where chords are impossible.

Though I’m able to recognise the main synth line or sample from most of the album tracks, we are hearing something entirely different. It’s not that song structures are substantially altered, or that the band is improvising on the themes, but rather that each song consists of certain elements that, when played live, are allowed the space to enter and exit as instinct dictates. This is a band that has spent years crafting these sounds, and is able to fit them together each night in a way that is always different, but always the same, to paraphrase John Peel. When I interviewed them, they talked about wanting to keep the human element in electronic music, and it is that mix of perfectionism and human error that creates a concert like no other.

So get on the next boat to Oslo and catch up with them, or pick up the album, but for god’s sake, do something.

LIVE REVIEW: Washed Out, Lille Vega, 09.10.2013

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I am always surprised at the way people seem to suddenly materialise at Danish concerts when I have my back turned. Are they all given a secret timetable? Five minutes after wondering where the hell everyone was, and as Sekuoia begin the evening in a moody fog, I turn round and see the room is already half full.

These were evidently those in the know, as Sekuoia is reveal to be a careful and compelling layering of drones, beats and samples. A minimalist project from producer Patrick Alexander Bech Madsen, Sekuoia snatches vocals samples, one-note guitar riffs, even the odd Dr Dre inspired keyboard line. It’s music to sway to, all high-end glitches and deep keyboards, but I keep expecting or wanting something to punch me from the mid-section. Someone suggests a grime artist. I’ve heard worse ideas.

Sekuoia - Photo by Tom Spray

The crowd thickens out, and I noticed one of the greatest concentrations of pretty girls at any concert I’ve been to. I’d imagined it more as a snotty indie boy affair. Well, who knew that Washed Out were a fun band? No matter how much hate was heaped onto the term “chillwave”, I’ve always had a soft spot for them and Small Black, but I thought of it as essentially 2011’s version of shoegaze. And no one has ever accused shoegaze of being fun. But behind the hazy vocals there is a frontman full of charm and enthusiasm.

Washed Out - Photo by Tom Spray (www.tom-spray.com)

Best known for the heavy synth layerings of Within and Without, it looks odd to see Ernest Green playing an acoustic guitar. Consider that the guitar is also decorated with a red flower on the head, and he is grinning like it’s his birthday, I can’t help but think of Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. Certainly, Washed Out’s newest album, Paracosm, dabbles heavily in psychedelia, and it is sometimes odd to hear new songs mixed with the old. The five-piece band are making all the right moves, and even the strange juxtapositions of songs are ironed over by a sense of general goodwill. There is even a cover, eerily precise, of Small Black’s “Despicable Dogs”.

Washed Out - Photo by Tom Spray (www.tom-spray.com)

The best thing about live music, and probably the only reason for going to see a gig in general, is to hear the recorded music transformed. If there was a noticeable difference between Washed Out’s previous albums and Paracosm, it is made completely obvious live. A song like “Don’t Give Up” might have sounded not too dissimilar to “Feel It All Around”, but to get any idea of their live direction, you have to go to “It All Feels Right”. The dreamy vocals are still there, but where the synths would be dominating, we find guitars. If there was something slightly icy about chillwave, it has been warmed up.

VIEW THE LIVE PHOTO GALLERY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: James Blake, Falconer Salen, Copenhagen, 06.10.2013

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It’s difficult to know what the right setting for James Blake would be. His show at Falconer Salen — bumped up from Store Vega because of demand — feels like it should have been shifted to a seated theatre rather than an open ballroom. Wouldn’t that be more suitable for Blake’s gentle, moody compositions?

But once the electronics of opening song “I Never Learnt to Share” kicked in, it’s immediately apparent that live, Blake’s music is less delicate than on his albums. Most notably, the beats are a lot bigger, and fill every inch of the room. Not that anyone is dancing; the audience mostly stands rapt, hanging on Blake’s every bobbing, slinking movement, but rarely moving their own feet.

James Blake (Photo by James Hjertholm)

The great appeal of Blake’s music is his voice, that smooth, silky falsetto that can melt hearts. And it’s there, and he hits every high note without effort, but it’s often drowned out by the volume of the electronics that surround him (literally and figuratively: he is hemmed in by his keyboards).

He is joined on stage by a guitarist/keyboardist and drummer, and with all due respect to his guitarist/keyboardist, it’s the drummer who is incredible. When the drummer has moments away from his electronic kit, his skill is displayed in furious lashes.

James Blake (Photo by James Hjertholm)

An hour into his set things break down into straight dance music, nothing delicate, just energetic. And the audience is responding by almost dancing. The energy would have dropped with any song that was any slower, except the next song he plays is his single “Retrograde,” and the room erupts in enthusiastic cheers when he hums the opening bars. He rolls this into downtempo set ender “The Wilhelm Scream.”

Coming back alone for his encore, he asks the crowd — which he admits has already been quiet and respectful — to be quieter still. He then sings the bulk of “Measurements” a cappella, looping his voice back with each subsequent verse, before tearing into his keyboards. In these last minutes of the show, he lays out his artistic and technical abilities so plainly, it would be difficult not to be moved. He leaves the stage quietly as his own voice continues looping. It’s a very impressive exit.

VIEW THE LIVE PHOTO GALLERY HERE

LIVE REVIEW: MGMT, Store Vega, 01.10.13

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Going on tour is hard work. There are long journeys, late nights, early mornings, sweaty clothes, cramped quarters, etc. On top of all that, you have to actually look like you’re enjoying yourself when you perform. How unreasonable. MGMT’s sold out performance on Tuesday night at Store Vega could have been an amazing concert, if they’d only bothered to smile and bob about a bit.

All the ingredients are ready before they go onstage for MGMT to put on a great show. The warm up band were popular, there’s a large white screen behind the stage hinting at a visual show, and they’ve only recently started the tour, so they should be full of beans. The audience are nicely pumped up, and the notoriously annoying fan base are not too bad. The lights dim and make way for an echoing robot voice cooing the band’s name over the speakers. This should be good.

MGMT (Photo by Jen Tse)

However, it does not take too long to realise that this is not going to be a five star review. The show starts with the minor chord psychedelic track “Mystery Disease” from the new, self-titled album, a song that could be full of anticipation and low rumbling energy, if it was delivered that way (which it’s not). A trippy visual of contact lens-like shapes flipping and exploding accompanies the song. Just as well really, because the band are not proving very interesting to watch. There’s no energy, no passion, no movement. The group of jumping and thrusting bros down the front seem to be enjoying MGMT’s music more than the band are.

As that chiming opening riff from “Time to Pretend” takes over from “Mystery Disease”, everyone in the venue, in a predictable fashion, bursts into energy and enjoyment, and there seems to be potential to salvage this concert. Everyone, that is, except MGMT, who continue to stand and play without smiling. Colourful videography decorates the back wall with amazing psychedelic visuals, including silhouettes and projections of the musicians themselves, moving and stopping, pixellating and smudging. The band are not matching their vibrant show.

Now don’t get me wrong. Musically, MGMT are performing brilliantly. Better than I had expected. The band range and rove over three albums, and every sound is refined and considered. The large number of performers in the live band skillfully recreate that rich, synthy signature sound. Store Vega is even graced with a giant cowbell player, “Be Aware” emblazoned on her instrument, for “Your Life is a Lie”. “Kids”, the hit track the band has tried to ditch from its live performances for a few years now, is played, and once again proves itself to have one of the best opening riffs of the 21st Century. It’s bigger and better having had a few years’ break, with a large instrumental section. MGMT should look so proud of this song, but they just continue to look remarkably bleak.

MGMT (Photo by Jen Tse)

I’ve been trying to work out frontman Andrew Vanwyngarden’s fuzzy, brown, polka dot trousers all evening. I decide that they’re really pyjamas, because he looks half asleep. If it hadn’t been for the graphics, it would have been more fun listening to the concert whilst looking at the wall. The band have only recently started their tour, and won’t stop until January. It’s a bit early to be looking tired, chaps.

VIEW THE FULL GALLERY HERE

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