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LIVE REVIEW: Jonathan Wilson | Lille Vega, Copenhagen, 19.08.2014

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Normally when visiting Lille Vega you’d think of it as a decent venue, not particularly small despite the name. But this day as Jonathan Wilson and his band stand on stage it seems strangely small, I’m not sure if they’re unusually tall any of them, or if it’s just their musical greatness that generates this contraction of the surroundings.

One thing is for sure, they are great musicians (tall or not) and it feels almost unnecessary to notice because they know it! Starting off with the opening track from Wilson’s second album ‘Fanfare’, including a long dramatic intro, everyone is faced against the stage. The spartanic lights allow Wilson to remain strange and incognito in the shade of his Stetson, but when the first lines gently slip off his tongue he is naked as ever: “Uh let me love you, it’s all that I can do, I’d like to touch you, Uh I’m in love with you”. Somehow this lyrical pathos makes the audience stop breathing for a while though it’s just on the tip of being too banal.

Like his lyrics Wilson’s music is just really classic. And American. He has not been afraid to step into a musical folk-country-blues- rock tradition alongside immortalised fellas like Dylan and Young whom to many are the only true rulers of the sacred American rock lands. But the gentle spirit (!) of Wilson adds new blood to these old fields and a sold out show in Copenhagen is a proof that spiritual and classic rock songs still have cultural relevance. For sure the bass player has not given up on the old days looking as if he just wandered out of Woodstock ’69 – the long hair on top of a tie dye t-shirt together with an electric bass really completed the look.

There’s not done a lot of talking between the songs, mostly guitar changing and tuning to get the sound right, which for the band has great importance – you can see they are perfectionists. The bringing of an monstrous lesley for the Hammond B3 tells the same story. And the sound is impeccable, every detail reaches the eardrums from the stroked cymbals to the twelve stringed guitar. However, the sound has to be perfect for a guitar virtuous like Jonathan Wilson who during every song reveals his magnificent guitar playing in long solos. The organ player shows off some pretty remarkable skills on the brown B3, and it’s not only a language for connoisseurs that’s spoken from the old wooden box, you can tell by the overwhelming applauses at the end of each solo. Especially ‘Angel’ comes off beautiful in an extended version spiced up with various crescendo solos.

Time flies by when you’re entertained and the set’s two hours duration doesn’t strike me as a long time at any point. The slow and riff based ‘Valley of the silver moon’ closes the evening as a manifestation of Jonathan Wilson and his band’s superiority. I am standing close to the stage, yes, but the final applause is the loudest I’ve heard at Lille Vega so far.

LIVE REVIEW: Mac DeMarco | Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, 18.08.2014

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”It’s impossible. People love him. It’s been sold out for months”. A friend texted me right before the show because he wouldn’t be able to make it. And he was completely right – people love Mac DeMarco. It couldn’t be said more accurate. The courtyard of Pumpehuset is filled with people an hour before the show and as Schultz & Forever take the stage a loyal crowd congregate to listen to a small set of songs before the main act.

Schultz and Forever (Photo by Tom Spray)

Schultz & Forever’s psychedelic pop tunes soothes the listener into a cool and dreamy universe where twangy guitar melodies and playful porno-synth intricate the characteristic voice of lead singer Jonathan Schultz. The five guys have their guitars hanging tight under their chins, but they play with a loose attitude without losing the grasp of performing well. An ideal choice of support.

Mac DeMarco (Photo by Tom Spray)
The entrance of Mac DeMarco and his bandmates suggests that we’re going to have a party – with armfuls of beer and the cap turned backwards on top of a grin DeMarco proclaims that this is a rock n roll show. Opening with a couple of newer songs and instantly kicking off a vibrating vibe in the crowd his words suddenly gain meaning (despite the actual musical gap between DeMarco and rock n roll in a generic sense). The joy of playing music is evident when looking at the band dancing around onstage while bursting out abrupt screams of joy.

Mac DeMarco (Photo by Tom Spray)

There is something very infantile about Mac DeMarco, both his music and his being – he maintains an unspoiled and somehow naive approach to being a musician, though his career is a professional one by now. However, it seems like it’s his kind of artistic credo to just have fun and so far it’s been enough for everyone.
The setlist consists both older songs and songs from the newest release Salad days. His tracks live are very similar to the record but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you just want to hear good songs played well. One of the older ones ‘Ode to Viceroy’ comes of as this night’s favorite with a reverb surf-guitar phrasing around the mantra of Viceroy cigarettes. But DeMarco is not an inresponsible young kid who glorifies the choice of smoking, he enlightens us about its sad consequenses just before lighting up a smoke. (No remarks!)

Mac DeMarco (Photo by Tom Spray)
Demarco’s show’s are known for being unpredictable and free spirited, so when a young guy is invited on stage to crowdsurf it doesn’t surprise me, neither does it when DeMarco does the same thing all the way to the bar and back again. But that he managed to bring a full pint to the stage while crowdsurfing is just magnificent.

As the audience yells for an encore and the band rejoins us undressed with sweaty torsos I don’t know exactly what to expect for an encore, but Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ surely wasn’t on my list. The band’s weird version of Bob Marley’s ‘Jammin” earlier in the show is nothing in comparison to these last fifteen minutes – guitarsolos en masse and Hetfield “yarling” coalesced in a noisy inferno. It is true what they say about Demarco’s shows; they are controversial and everything but conformal. I don’t know what more you could ask of rock concert on a Monday night, if anything maybe a little less guitar solos at the end!

Mac DeMarco (Photo by Tom Spray)

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: Wasn’t Born to Follow, Pumpehuset, 09.08.2014

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Perfect Pussy (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh / mortenkrogh.com)

Wasn’t Born to Follow, a celebration of all things progressively out-of-step in music, took over a day at Pumpehuset with a strangely diverse but suitable line-up. An earlier, free portion of the day included a set from the Garden, a duo consisting of drummer an bassist, invoking a goth image, playing stuttering punk, with the exception of a hip-hop interlude. The pair tumbled around the stage pulling ridiculous faces, often shouting absurd lyrics about rainbows. It’s intentionally ridiculous, but undeniably entertaining, if for the wrong reasons.

After a break for some rock ‘n’ roll bingo, the main portion of the event begins with Chelsea Wolfe. She walks on stage to a drone of bowed bass and viola, which immediately silences for her to perform a wordless vocal loop. She’s an enigmatic performer, a single muttering of “thanks” is her only audience interaction, but she’s still mesmerizing. There are minimalist moments when the noise breaks, when her guitar is prevalent, when keyboards provide atmosphere, but it slides back into droning for her departure from the stage. It’s also necessary to mention that her drummer is incredible. There are times when you’d swear it was a preprogrammed track if you weren’t watching him play. Even then, there’s a cognitive dissonance.

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Chelsea Wolfe (Photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

There’s a huge shift in pace to Big Ups, a New York hardcore punk band bringing a completely different kind of noise. In between songs their singer talks about how excited they are to be playing the show and makes self deprecating comments about the band’s technical skills. While they do embody certain DIY ethos, they are also more tuneful than an amateur hardcore band, and at least embrace dynamics between the singer’s quiet, half-talk singing style and his full on screaming. It’s youthful and angsty and satisfying in the way that sets that expend their performer’s energy are.

Compare that with the youthful energy of Canadian indie rockers Ought, who end up being the most pleasant surprise of the evening. They play bouncy, jangling pop music, delivered by a singer affecting Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes while he moon walks in his socked feet. While his bandmates serenely bob up and down, he’s flailing his arms around and breaking the strings on his guitar, and then on the guitar he kept in reserve in case he breaks any strings.

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Ought (photo: Morten Aagaard Krogh)

Alternating between the two stages at Pumpehuset, there are times when the main room feels too big, and other, such as when Lust For Youth play, that the smaller stage feels way too small. The space is packed for the Danish representatives of the evening, and there are a lot of familiar faces dancing along to their dreamy, New Wave-inspired set. Everyone is swaying into one another, and in the moment it feels like they should be in the other room. But everything runs to schedule with enough time in between to get a drink, so there isn’t much to complain about.

Back upstairs for Perfect Pussy, the room is mostly empty for the DC-inspired punk group. Singer Meredith Graves channels no one as much as Henry Rollins, straining her voice and her muscles, and posing a very real threat of a boot to the face to those down in front. Any of ideas of having seen energy or flailing limbs in the course of the evening are completely mistaken when compared to Grave’s wild kicks and lunges across the stage. The problem, however, is that for all of her straining, her voice cannot be heard over the crunch and drone of her bandmates. Even when she asks the sound man for more vocals, there’s no improvement. It’s a shame, but a technical problems aside, there is the feeling that those who skipped this set really missed out.

View the gallery here

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)

PHOTOS: Trailerpark Festival, Day 3, 02.08.2014

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Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Communions

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Indians

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Shiny Darkly (w/ Nils Nils Gröndahl)trailerpark_saturday-5726

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Giana Factory

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Trailerpak Festival ambience

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S!vas

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Gold Lip

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Christopher

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Thanks to Sony for giving us the opportunity to try their new Sony a7S camera

PHOTOS: Trailerpark Festival, Day 2, 01.08.2014

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Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Get Your Gun

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Hand Of Dust

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Sea Change

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Le1f

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Reptile Youth

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Emil Germ

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Sleep Party People

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Broke

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Ghost Venue

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Thanks to Sony for giving us the opportunity to try their new Sony a7S camera

PHOTOS: Trailerpark Festival, Day 1, 31.07.2014

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Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh

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Cody

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Ice Cream Cathedral

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Kill J

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Gäy

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 Baby In Vain

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Julias Moon

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Sekuoia

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Mont Oliver

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Trailerpark Festival ambience

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Thanks to Sony for giving us the opportunity to try their new Sony a7S camera

LIVE REVIEW: Television, Pumpehuset, 29.08.2014

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It’s understandable why bands have whole albums tours. Maybe it’s an anniversary, maybe those are the songs the crowds shout for at gigs anyway, or maybe, in the case of Television and Marquee Moon, it is a landmark work worth trotting across the globe decades later. Whatever the motivation, the formula makes sense.

But why do crowds go to whole album shows? Even if they saw the band when it originally toured around the release of that album, this is not the same effect. What in this nostalgic urge makes seeing the whole album performed live better than reminiscing at home with the record, knowing that other favorites only have the slightest chance of making it into the encore?

In the case of Television, it helps tremendously that they play Marquee Moon out of order, and thus makes the evening at least somewhat less predictable. They do begin with album opener “See No Evil,” and it’s not the strongest of starts. Tom Verlaine’s voice sounds shaky on the chorus, but as they recover from this, it becomes apparent that his voice is no longer able to hit the high notes.

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That’s hardly a death knell for the performance. Guitar solos are more integral to their sound, and it’s so easy to lose yourself in any of their ambling outros. There are a few surprises, such as the outro of “Torn Curtain” where Verlaine scratches his guitar strings and unexpectedly affects the sound of violins. It is no surprise, however, that “Marquee Moon” closes out the main set. It is the logical conclusion, and really, a ten-minute epic — stretched to 13 minutes on this occasion — would have been the logical conclusion to the recorded album.

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There is one thing making it difficult to enjoy the show, and that is the overwhelming heat. Though it’s breezy and cooler in Copenhagen than it’s been in a week, it is Seventh Circle of Hell hot in Pumpehuset. It’s sweat dripping down every inch of you even though you’re not moving hot. People are standing as far away from each other as possible, and the air is so thick and so still that there’s a breeze when a person walks past you. How much this contributes to the general low energy in the room is hard to say, because it’s kind of hard to breathe. But that’s hardly the fault of Television.

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Photos by Ronald Laurits Jensen

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