It’s raining on a Monday evening in September. Alice Boman is singing soft clichés into a half-empty room. On an other occasion, I might say her songs have a naïve fragility, but as I have already mentioned, it’s Monday, and I’m wet from the rain. The crowd needs warming.
Having listened to Big Inner, Matthew E. White’s debut album, early in the day, I’m expecting more low-key Americana, but from the opening riffs and wild steel guitar of “Big Love”, it is clear we are in for something quite different. Live, White and band are warm and intense. The rain is forgotten. By the second number, “Steady Pace”, the band have transformed the break after the second chorus into a drinking game, downing beers and performing coordinated dance routines. They are one of the most immediately likeable bands I’ve ever encountered.
The energy of the room amplifies the rhythmic elements of White’s songs, punctured by a precise, Afrobeat-style horn section. On paper, it should be very easy to describe the band’s sound, but in practice it feels ridiculous. You can throw names at it: Curtis Mayfield, Randy Newman, at times even Devendra Banhardt (a facile comparison, White is superior by far). The best analogy I can muster is the Band: instantly recognisable, but not tied down to a particular genre.
It turns out, however, that Randy Newman isn’t such a stupid comparison. White recounts a time when he tracked down Newman’s house in the Hollywood Hills, trying to hand him his record and contact details. He follows this story with a stripped-down cover of “Sail Away”. The song also showcases the half-whispered vocal style that is more familiar to listeners who have only heard White on headphones.
No matter how good White is on his own, it is obvious that he is most comfortable around his band. The classic R’n’B rhythm section is aided by steel guitar and a keyboardist who looks like Seth Rogen’s brother, adding a psychedelic edge to the evening. Joined by a local horn section, the band layer on top of each other, building up songs like “One of These Days” into explosive crescendos.
Having showcased two new songs, “Signature Move” and “Human Style”, White begins his encore with “Hot Toddies”, which provides the perfect metaphor for the evening: warming against the oncoming winter, sweet and inebriating. The whole of Vega is nodding along to the groove, Monday is redeemed.
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RUST is not a big venue. The concert tonight is sold out, and so the audience, many of whom are female, is crammed close. The crowd is very hip, but then again, so is the band. The Brooklyn pop duo have remixed MØ and have been remixed by CHVRCHES, were fallen for by the blogosphere, oh, and she has colourful hair. So far, so somewhat predictable.
However, as the concert begins, and singer Lizzie Plapinger releases the low, sultry tones of “Bones” upon the audience, I start to think there might be more to this band than comes across on their debut album, ‘Secondhand Rapture’.
Mid-way through the concert, Max Hershenow, Plapinger’s partner, producer and keyboard player, explains, “Lizzie and I started MS MR three years ago now, in my bedroom, or cupboard turned studio. I didn’t know I could produce and Lizzie didn’t know she could sing, so when we first started we thought it would be easier to do a cover.” The duo then performed Patrick Wolf’s “Time of My Life”, as they had done three years ago. Those comments come as a surprise upon hearing Plapinger’s voice, which has been on top form all night. It’s great on record, but a bit too girlie. Live, it’s more raw and real, underneath echoey vocal effects. They follow the Wolf cover with “Fantasy”, aptly chosen to co-ordinate with Plapinger declaring the Danes have “lived up to your stereotype” of being “so sexy!”
The most striking observation to make about the concert is how incredibly likeable the band are. Plapinger’s focused, but there’s an innocence and excitement that radiates from her onstage. By “Salty”, the third track of the night, she’s warmed up and confident, and has shaken off some of the awkward if charming nerves. Between songs, and sometimes during them, she cannot help but beam in disbelief. There are few seamless transitions; before “BTSK” for instance, Plapinger says “It’s really hot, I hope you’re well lubricated,” before screwing her face, giggling and adding “take that as you will.” But even the awkward stage banter and audience interaction is engaging. There’s something of the good girl trying to be rebellious as she climbs onto the drum set for “Head Is Not My Home” towards the end of the set. Of course, she’s been supported by Hershenow’s killer keyboard skills, which he’s on occasion employed to fill and complement the clunky gaps between songs. “We’ll all wait whilst you drink some water, Lizzie,” Max teases. It’s obvious that the chemistry between the two is at the heart of this band, from the dizzy sidelong looks to the samba dancing intervals.
Unsurprisingly, the final song is “Hurricane”. Plapinger’s voice is getting tired, she’s missing notes, and the focus is waning, but the enthusiasm and energy is infectious. As the curtain is drawn and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” fills RUST’s speakers, the audience continues to dance. The concert was not flawless, but it was the imperfections that made it great.
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I returned home bruised. Earlier that evening, from outside the venue, I can hear Communions beginning their set. The ground floor of Jazzhouse is all curtains and jazz, smells of citrus and evaporated alcohol. Below, the Copenhagen band is thrashing around a mix of surf-rock riffs and jangle with a hardcore rhythm section. The singer’s voice is already dead, the band have Beach Boys haircuts, it works. The crowd is all there, swaying and nodding. There are still two hours to go before the headline act.
People rush outside at the end of the 45 minute set, spilling onto the street. Two cigarettes later, some trickle back in for Femminielli. Possibly the revelation of the evening, the Montreal one-man band strolls on stage like a latino Zach Galifianakis. Leather jacket, black shirt, sunglasses, massive beard. He thanks us like he’s receiving an Oscar, hits the keyboard and turns into sweaty sex-beast. Drawn out, repetitive beats, slowly evolving, writhe under Spanish-language monologues. I catch something about love and vampires, then he calls us “putos”, but this is a crowd that welcomes that kind of thing. After the second song, someone shouts: “Vamos a la playa!” Femminielli smiles, “you don’t want to be on the same beach as me.”
Another break. Shorter, more impatient. I find a place by the stage, determined to report from the front. I’m a journalist, damn it, I go where the story is! As the rest begin to amass around me, I get stuck next to a Bostonian politics student who tries to convince me there is more to Massachusetts than the Modern Lovers and Mission of Burma. I remain unconvinced. He asks me if people mosh here. I look around the room: pretty hipster girls, guys with cameras, 30-something web designers with close-cropped hair and awful glasses. I tell him it’s unlikely. I am wrong, very wrong.
Let me be clear: if anyone remembers the full Iceage setlist, they were standing in the wrong place. As the band enter the stage, white shirts, black pants, drunken Jehova’s witnesses, the mood tenses. Elias, the singer, looks like Leonardo DiCaprio in The Basketball Diaries. They begin their set with songs from their sophomore album, You’re Nothing. On headphones, the album sounds more fleshed out than their urgent debut, New Brigade. But live, even a slow, thudding song like “Morals” is pushed to its limits, urging the crowd into a slow-motion mosh, incited by a speeded up chorus. The bass pops and chuggs, guitar cranked up to a tinny, black metal screech. Drums roll, elbows fly.
Between songs, I see the Boston kid getting up from the ground. He shows me his bloody hand, happy. During “Coalition”, the album highlight, I find myself elbowing Femminielli out of the way as Elias lunges at people with fist and microphone. He’s screaming: “Excess, excess”. All of a sudden I feel drained. They play “Ecstasy” – fast guitar, weird disco drum beats and Nick Cave-style vocals – , and then disappear. It seems stupid asking for a encore. Looking at the time as I leave the venue, I see that the whole Iceage set lasted less than an hour. Unsurprising, really, given that both their albums combined clock in at half an hour each. It has been both a long and a short evening. Iceage depart victorious, the audience leaves dazed.
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Before the show, the tranquil sound of birds chirping fill the hall while the audience find their seats. This is a seated concert, which makes up for the bad acoustics during The Smashing Pumpkins concert at the same venue last month. Moments before the band enter the stage, Byrne asks us ”not to experience the show with a gadget in front of your face.”
A somewhat didactic attitude, but nevertheless a very refreshing comment towards the iPhone addicts.
The concert opens with ‘Who’ – also the opening track on David Byrne & St. Vincent’s critically acclaimed album ‘Love This Giant’. A beautiful song that not only tell us that the sound tonight is impeccable, but also showcases St. Vincent’s attributes in the duo’s work: her magnificent vocals and distorted guitar. Her tip-toe dancing back and forth on the stage adds to the charm of her appearance. An appearance that fuses perfectly with Byrne’s. He wears a microphone headset, which allows him to move around on stage. And move around he sure does! From metronome-like moving back-and-forth with his upper body to physical antics, reminiscent of a mime artist. It’s equally comical and elegantly, and a fun thing to behold.
As showcased on the album, the band consists of many brass players and they do an excellent job in highlighting the concert’s masterful showmanship. The musicians twist around in choreographic movements in symbiosis with Byrne and St. Vincent. And it only makes the atmosphere more vibrant and the audience love it. People loudly show their appreciation and some can’t constrain themselves and start a little dance gathering to the left of the stage.
The interaction between David Byrne and St. Vincent is mesmerizing; their voices blend into one cohesive force on ‘Like Humans Do’ and their moves reach another high when they start attacking a theremin during ‘Northern Lights’ and sending the instrument’s extra-terrestrial sounds into the ecstastic crowd, During their solo material the two protagonists show their relevance on today’s artrock scene. On ‘Strange Overtones’ Byrne plays a rhythm guitar so funky it would make Nile Rodgers envious and St. Vincent’s ‘Marrow’ directs all attention towards her intense presence and performance.
Tellingly one of the final songs is the Talking Heads classic ‘Burning Down the House’ which is exactly what happens. This is the moment where the entire hall erupts in standing ovation and everybody’s on their feet cheering. A great finale on this Thursday evening where David Byrne & St. Vincent conquered Copenhagen with a fantastic show, on the top of their form and musically superior!
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Wasn’t Born to Follow saw Pumpehuset open it’s doors to independent and underground artists from Denmark and North America. Music fans enjoyed outdoor concerts all afternoon in the venue’s ‘byhave’, before moving indoors for a post-punk tinted evening of more traditional shows.
Danish band Nobody started the festivities, with a snazzy synth fest in the garden. Built around three keyboards and a soundboard, Nobody proceeded to experiment with the electronic sounds, and showed flashes of brilliant mixing from behind the sound desks. However, the band, which consists of different musicians from various Danish indie projects, and is led by popular Danish DJ Kim Las, appeared unprepared and unrehearsed, and it quickly seemed as though the group were just having fun messing about on the keyboards. That’s not so fun for the audience. [1/5]
EMMA ACS (DK)
The day started to look up when Danish red head Emma Acs, and her band, The Inbred Family, played their set. This was Acs’ first full concert in a while, and the singer was at moments hesitant. Nevertheless, Acs’ delivered her signature twee vocals with style and competency, and lived up to her reputation as a big Danish talent. Helping the artist to achieve her rich signature pop sound was the sitar player Atusa Zamani, who played the jangly riffs of “Green Stars and an Orange Sun” and “Fever” from 2011’s Champagne with artistry and confidence. Acs also debuted some new material from her second record, which she’s currently working on. [3/5]
“Hello Copenhagen, it’s really nice to see you all. It’s a beautiful day,” chimes a smiley Matt Monandile from the log cabin stage. Ducktails, playing the final outdoor show, banished the cold wind of Copenhagen with a warm, sympathetic and summery show. Popular chilled out tracks like “Killin’ the Vibe” matched the laid back atmosphere of Pumpehuset’s byhave perfectly, and towards the end of the show, the band played all new tracks. Ducktails proved that whatever the weather, if you’ve got a good vibe, you can generate a cosy atmosphere. Mind you, despite frontman Matt Monandile’s obvious eagerness and focus, I couldn’t help feeling that guitarist Alex Craig’s enthusiasm was really lacking, which distracted from the music, and, in a small way, broke the hypnotic effect this lo-fi group have on record. [4/5]
Some people have a problem with Merchandise. An indie pop group posing as a post-punk band, some feel. Maybe this is because charismatic frontman Carson Cox writes interesting yet attainable melodies, accompanied by beautiful, tortured, killer vocals; to some, a punk faux pas. Personally, I think the genre ambiguity is a plus.
If, however, punk is about energy, sweat, jumping offstage to collide with audience members and collecting a group of dedicated pogoing Danes at the front of your audience, rather than just being different for the sake of it, then Merchandise may as well have mohawks. After a lively rendition of “Anxiety’s Door” from 2013′s five track release Totale Night, Cox addressed the token couple of freestyling fans at the front: “Oh! We’ve got a couple of dancers now. Before I was worried you weren’t gonna dance.” “Become What You Are” closed the show, guided through by distortion and “1,2”s hummed into the microphone. Both Cox and guitarist David Vassalotti dropped to the floor to shred, for exactly the right length of time before it would have become annoying. He wrapped things up with a few push and shoves into some audience members, delivered in a quasi-affectionate manner, of course. “And that’s it!” he said, before shuffling offstage.
With a capitalist name like Merchandise for a post-punk band, there’s got to be some irony at work. [4/5]
DIRTY BEACHES (CAN)
The Dirty Beaches live show is a physical as well as musical workout. Whilst some artists may dabble with dancing onstage, Alex Zhang Hungtai, the mastermind behind Dirty Beaches, performs a full physical workout during his set. The show started by watching the warm up; Hungtai punching the air to feel the beat of the hazy synth laden soundscape created by his bandmates, starting small, and then with increased power. And so, he gets in the zone. Then we come to training. We hear a mixture of crooning and shouting through the effected microphone, pulling fists in, as well as pushing them out. He’s building the energy. And then suddenly, we’re at a boxing match, as Alex pulls out a mass of passion, strength and spirit for “I Dream in Neon” and “Casino Lisboa”, accompanied by a pair of big, black, austere leather gloves, and blue and red boxing lights. Hungtai’s not distracted by audience interaction, or cables, or prettiness, when he’s feeling his music. All together, a pretty amazing spectacle.
But one small nag. “Why is no one dancing? This place should be like a rave! He looks like he’s having fun, why is no one moving?” was my internal reaction. It’s strange watching someone exert themselves and pour so much energy into a live show of what was in many ways, dance music, and not dance yourself. I feel like Hungtai might have been cheated out of audience participation because it was a Sunday night. Or maybe the spectacle was just too hypnotic? One thing is for certain. On stage, Hungtai is an intense guy. [4/5]
It’s pretty clear from Lower’s gig, that the assumption that Copenhagen is the new home of punk music, is right. This proper, hardcore, rough and tough punk music is making the crowd proud to be Danish, and those who aren’t, like me, a bit jealous. The band are playing tracks from their Walk on Heads EP, full of crashing and painful sounds. On the back of Iceage’s success, Danish band Lower have made a name for themselves in Copenhagen’s community of post-punk fans. Surrounded by bowl haircuts, upturned drainpipe jeans, Joy Division t-shirts and Doc Martens in the crowd, I find the “just stepped out of the pub” look of Lower remarkably refreshing. They’re in running shoes, Jeremy Clarkson jeans and fleeces. The bassist even has a Newcastle scarf.
Pretty predictable, but seriously enjoyable gig; lively, lots of people throwing themselves about, purposefully rugged vocals, oh and a shout-out to Merchandise: “This next one’s for Merchandise.” Merchandise had declared “This next one’s for Lower”, during their set. Carson Cox was right at the front to join in the group of pogoers. [3/5]
MIKAL CRONIN (US)
Mikal Cronin ended the mini festival with his hard rock tinted pop music. It was a merry ending to the day, and the gig appeared especially popular with the younger audience members. From Cronin’s 2013 sophomore album MCII, he played the upbeat likes of “Shout it Out”, and “Situation” and “Apathy” from the self titled debut of 2011.
Wasn’t Born To Follow finally came to an end as Cronin delivered an encore performance of Wreckless Eric’s “Whole Wide World” to the Danish fans. With a good stage presence and audience rapport, the singer songwriter finished the day off with a head bang, and brought a positive vibe to the dark venue and end to a brilliant, diverse day of live music. [3/5]
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A sold out sign greets me at the door to Store Vega. The large hall is beautiful as always: a trip back in time to the fifties. Functionalism. Wooden panels. Concrete. I love it.
Time travel could be the theme of the night. Tame Impala spiraled out as a bedroom project of Perth, Australia back in the late 2000s with a psychedelic sixties sound that somehow seems to remind me of all the great music of that time without ever sounding like any of it. Their first album Innerspeaker got really good reviews and when the second, Lonerism, came out publications like Pitchfork and NME laid down flat in admiration.
So the question then goes: How does Tame Impala channel out those trippy tunes live? The backdrop: an oscillating green line that, when the band starts playing, evolves into a variation of colors and shapes that most likely would have caused great joy among the hippies back then and if not, then it at least makes me smile. The band goes through the first couple of songs without addressing the audience, and except for announcing the title of “Mind Mischief”, Tame Impala stays quiet between the songs until a good 20 minutes into the set when Kevin Parker suddenly exclaims “Hey, I am wearing new underpants today, everyone knows how good that feels!”. New as clean or new as just bought? An actual observation of the joys of personal hygiene or some meta-statement about the awkwardness of addressing a bunch a strangers from a stage?
Anyway, he seems playful and somewhere someone lit up a joint. Next to me a dude tries to crowd surf and fails. Something is happening. We are entering what to me is the peak of the concert. Songs like “Elephant” and “Half full” energetic early heavy feel leaves me bobbing my head and numbers on the liquid-crystal scale (the amount of smart-phones in the air) tells me that I am not the only one having a moment. Their sound is great. It is close to what you get on their albums, sometimes the vocals seem to float away in effects more than on the recordings, but apart from that they come through crisp.
The Lonerism opener “Be Above It” takes the set back to the more dreamy songs like “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” and “Apocalypse Dreams”. After a good long 2 minutes of cheering an the announcement of a 50 dollars pay rise to the light/visuals technician Tame Impala ends the concert with “Nothing that Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control”.
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As an ignorant European, my frame of reference delimits my first associations of San Fernando Valley to be that of its reputation as a place of eternal sunshine as well as the epicentre of the adult industry. However, tonight’s concert at Lille Vega, band of sisters Haim proved that there’s (much) more to it than just my inferior connotations.
Yet before Haim took to the stage, support act, with the assonantal name Ice Cream Cathedral, took on the job of priming the already enthusiastic crowd, delivering the shoegazed space pop that has become their trademark and earned them recognition from an array of critics as well as regulars to the Danish indie scene. However thankful the task, the Copenhagen trio made a respectable effort and surely gained even more followers this night with their original fusion of the ethereal Neo Italo that has scored many an art-house feature in recent years and the heritage of legends such as My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins.
Thus elevated the audience were more than ready to take on Haim. Making their way to the stage to the chorus of Jay-Z’s modern classic ’99 Problems’ (“If you’re having girl problems, I feel bad for you son/I’ve got 99 problems but a b**** ain’t one”), the sisters unpompously suggested that they weren’t too blame for any unfulfilled intentions to have a good night. One could have feared that it would actually have been the case, as rumour had it that two of the three sisters suffered from a cold and were prescribed to penicillin, yet it wasn’t to be seen – nor heard.
On the contrary, the sisters stroke the first chord with genetic accuracy and from there lead the listeners on to a tour de force into their musical versatility and charming personalities. Especially big sister Este proved to be of a talkative nature and had more than a few bantering inquiries for the audience – “Would anyone like to take me swimming in the morning?”. While she chatted her way into the hearts of the crowd, front vocalist Danielle barely spoke a word but won their respect through her gifted guitar play (that has earned her touring gigs with the likes of Julian Casablancas and Cee-Lo), and vocals comparable to Tracey Thorn (Everything But the Girl) or Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac), clearly shining through on tracks such as “Honey & I” and “Go Slow”.
Yet, their obvious links to those vocal bigwigs of yesteryear only accounts for a minor part of the girls’ portfolio. Throughout a relatively short but dense set of 40 minutes, courageously started off with Dirty Diana-esque track “Better Off”, they showcased their naturally moderate back catalogue with an unspoiled energy often unseen in more established acts, before intelligently closing down with their biggest hit to date, ‘Forever’, in a vigorous version representative of the sound of theirs and the night in general.
Witnessing such artistry easily leaves you out of breath, which however allowed me to bike home from the concert at a slower pace, consequently wondering whether the sound of fireworks was to be attributed to the nightly celebration of Eid ul-Fitr or the resonance of an indeed breath taking concert.
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“This is going to be the best concert in Denmark this year!” The audience in Falconer Salen is waiting for the gig to begin, and I’ve been accosted by a super-fan. He’s been seeing them since the nineties. I’m a Pumpkins’ concert virgin. A year after the release of ‘Oceania’, the band’s eighth studio album, Billy Corgan is back in Denmark, and as this faithful disciple demonstrated, expectations are high.
As Corgan took to the mic to give a rendition of ‘Quasar’, the line “God, right on!” suddenly made a lot more sense. He thinks he can provide approval to God because he thinks he is God. Standing at the front of the stage, staring intensely into the audience, a straight faced Corgan is living up to his reputation, but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so irritating. The band reached ‘Disarm’ after a no pause blend of opening songs, and I was hoping that the intensity that had accompanied the frontman’s stares would be channelled into this track. I was disappointed. It was a competent rendition, but by no means special. There was something lacking in his performance, and the same went for ‘Tonight, Tonight’ that followed.
Corgan didn’t speak in the first half, with the exception of telling his fans “you can cheer later.” Then, the silence was broken: “We were saying today that the American sense of humor is very ironic, but the Danes don’t get irony,” at which the frontman was booed. So began a long ramble by Corgan, who admitted “the reason I’m talking is because I’m sick and I’m trying to waste time.” That really made me feel special.
If one thing could be said for the rant, it’s that it got some more enthusiasm out of Corgan. However, as the highly self indulgent extended endings, and guitar solos set in (repeatedly), I sort of wished I could have Lacklustre Billy back. Some of us had Metro night buses to catch. In fact, I felt the highlight of the night came in the form of the first encore track, Billy and Nicole’s acoustic performance of ‘The Celestials’. Finally, I heard Corgan’s daemons.