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.