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Lille Vega

LIVE REVIEW: The Horrors, Lille Vega, 27.11.2017

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the horrors live lille vega copenhagen

You could be forgiven if the image conjured up by mention of the Horrors was one of too much hair spray and lanky moodiness. It’s an image they’ve sold for the last decade, from their initial emergence from the garage rock revival, never quite shed as they began to explore denser, dreamier arrangements, and supported yet again tonight at Lille Vega if by nothing else than the number of Unknown Pleasures t-shirts in the audience.

The band on stage, however, are not moody, loafing neo-goths, but a group of high energy stumbling and twisting their way around. Amidst a total onslaught of enveloping lights and dizzying strobes is singer Faris Badwan, glammed out in leather trousers and sequined shirt. He’s thrashing around from the word go, flanked by Rhys Webb and Joshua Hayward, who are more subdued in their dress and movements but test the limits of their energy and balance.

the horrors live lille vega copenhagen

The focus of their evening is the new album, V, and the set tacitly ignores their debut. Having cast off any garage rock associations, what is left is a lush wash of guitars and synths. The live arrangements have more focus on the rhythm section, and even if the albums don’t inspire you to dance there are people dancing now.

There’s a warmth and enthusiasm in the crowd, at one point inspiring a woman to shout, “I love you, Josh!” at Hayward, and prompting Badwan to demand, “And what about me?” Though Badwan has the pouting pose down pat, he spends most of the evening continuing to lunge about the stage and teetering on the monitors, at one point beckoning to a man in the crowd and then prodding him with a mic stand when he doesn’t respond. It seems like things could spill over at any moment, that Badwan could fling himself into the crowd while “Still Life” rolls on behind him, but it never gets that intense.

It’s all weirdly just fun.

LIVE REVIEW: Teenage Fanclub, Lille Vega, 10.02.2017

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There’s a strange air at gigs of bands who hit their commercial peak in the ‘90s but never broke up. It’s the oddity that always being around never created more demand, that their availability didn’t spark the imaginations of a younger generation who could only hypothesize what it would be like to see them play live, that the devoted are the same devoted of 25 years ago.

And with that in mind, the vibe at Teenage Fanclub’s Vega show is curiously energized. These are the same devoted of 25 years ago, middle-aged or closing in on it fast, but they aren’t stuck in the early ‘90s. These are people who know the words to the songs from 2016’s Here, who call repeatedly for “Baby Lee”  (which doesn’t get played), who erupt when the band plays “It’s All in My Mind.” They’re the sort of crowd who have seen this band many times before and know the earliest work is saved for the very end of the set and wait patiently to hear it.

Teenage Fanclub themselves hit on a signature sound somewhere around the release of Grand Prix, and their new songs blend seamlessly with the old. It helps that over the years they’ve all become stronger singers, stronger players, and have found a place for their keyboardist/third guitarist to add an extra, shimmering layer to every song. It’s not a flashy or visually stimulating set, but it’s technically solid and full of positivity. 

Norman Blake in particular looks incredibly happy with his lot in life. He’s not bothered by the middle-aged couple down front talking selfies with the band behind them, nor is he fussed by the woman in a red dress who jumps up on stage towards the end of the set. All of the band look perplexed, but the woman, dancing around the stage, isn’t being obnoxious, isn’t getting in the way, isn’t trying to assault the band, so everyone lets it slide. She dances with their guitar tech and when the song ends gives a courtly hand to Blake, who looks amused and charmed. It’s about the least embarrassing way that scenario could have played out.

The lead up to the end of the evening rolls back the clock through “The Concept” and “Star Sign” before landing on their debut single, “Everything Flows.” If you’ve listened to the album version of “Everything Flows,” it’s easy to appreciate how much more tuneful the live performance is, how they’ve learned to build on the foundations of what their music was then but retain the raw, ramshackle energy that made it exciting in the first place. It’s a little emotional to watch because even if you as an individual do not have that attachment, everyone around you does. The band does. And it’s a good moment.

 

LIVE REVIEW: Holly Golightly, Lille Vega, 01.11.2016

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Musician Holly Golightly live in Copenhagen

Lille Vega is a nice venue: It’s a comfortable size, the sound is decent, and the décor is at the least completely inoffensive. According to Holly Golightly, the venue is also quite “grown up.” It’s hard to say exactly what she means by that — perhaps she’s never outgrown her scrappy punk years with Thee Headcoatees — but it’s a term she comes back to again and again.

It’s a positivity that comes in handy when the room is only about a third full. And it’s reflected back from the crowd; though blues and country-inspired rock songs aren’t the most obvious songs to dance to, people are dancing (or “jigging around,” as Holly prefers). But because there are so few people in the room, there’s plenty of space for it, and it’s nice to see couples busting out the moves they learned in that one dance class they took together when they first started dating.

At times the evening has the feeling of an elaborate pub gig, not least because Holly has spent most of the last 15 years subtly shifting through different, adjacent genres. And through the evening her songs traverse predominantly blues tracks into Americana and, on the stripped down “My Love Is,” a bossa nova-flecked jazz. Though Holly has long since stepped away from her noisy, garage rock beginnings, there i still a girlish, cheeky quality to her vocals, and she is adept at choosing styles that suit her voice.

And given that these styles are less raucous than her earliest projects, it’s a bit surprising when, late in the evening, she once again cites the grown-up nature of Vega and says,“Usually people are throwing things by now.” It’s possible that Copenhageners are especially polite, or it could be that the fight doesn’t go out of a performer just because she turns the volume down.

LIVE REVIEW: Marissa Nadler, Lille Vega, 08.06.2016

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Marissa Nadler live at Vega

We’ve all been to the half-full show where the artist on stage begs everyone to come a little closer to the stage. If they’re very engaging, people come forward; if they’re not, the audience stays where they are and everyone feels awkward.

Marissa Nadler does not play these games. Instead she walks on stage at Lille Vega alone, picks up her guitar, and begins playing “Drive.” The audience immediately gravitates towards her.

There’s an uncommon amount of competition for musicians that night. Marissa’s audience have elected to see her instead of Muse or the Melvins who both have sold out shows nearby. This small crowd is dedicated; one person even corrects her about what album “Dying Breed” is on. It’s not surprising that they’re attention is rapt, nor to see them gently swaying as she sings. Even if you’re a newcomer to Marissa’s music, something about it makes you feel peaceful.

Her solo songs, all played on a semi-hollow electric — no acoustics, no 12 strings — highlight her voice more. To listen to her in this setting is to hear her voice as a separate entity from everything else happening. It floats not only over the music but over everyone else in the room. It’s the very evocation of “haunting.”

After a few songs she brings out her band, two of whom are openers Wrekmeister Harmonies (and highly recommended for lovers of vaguely droning rock songs and rich vocal harmonies). This portion of her set focuses on her new album, Strangers, released last month. Marisa’s voice melts into these arrangements, with guitar and viola or electric piano ready to swallow it up. It feels like a departure, and it’s only a small part of her set, but she proves that she can bring the same depth as when she’s on her own.

After this interlude she’s solo again, and focusing on older songs, because, as she said of Strangers, “a lot of you don’t know it yet, right?” She ends her main set with a cover of “Tecumseh Valley” by Townes van Zandt — which in her hands sounds as much a part of her catalogue as her own songs — and plays Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat” for her final song of the night because she “came all the way to Denmark for one show [and had] to make it worth it.” It was worth it.

If you don’t really know Strangers yet or missed out on Marissa, never fear, she’s got plans to return to Copenhagen this year. No matter what else is happening, you’ve no excuse to make other plans.

LIVE REVIEW: Kate Tempest, Lille Vega, 13.04.2015

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Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

It’s a strange mix of emotions that come out of Kate Tempest’s show. Most of her set at Lille Vega is taken from her Mercury Prize-nominated album, Everybody Down, which tells the story of disaffected working class youth trying and failing to make a better life for themselves. It doesn’t sound like fodder for an uplifting evening, but that sense of encouragement is precisely the feeling you walk away with after her show.

Tempest opened her set with “Marshall Law,” performing the first verse as spoken word to a silent room before bringing in her band of two drummers and a synth player.

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Having the live band instead of a majority of programming hugely contributes to the energy, with Tempest playing off of the other performers and, early in the evening, grabbing one drummer in a huge hug at the end of a song. But watching the interplay of the backing band on songs like “Good Place for a Bad Time” make you appreciate that the majority of her beats are live.
These are the details you can only really notice when Tempest herself isn’t at the mic. She’s engaging and difficult to look away from. Her rap of “Chicken” is at about double the speed of the album version, and the audience is almost unable to process her skill.

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So when Tempest ends the night talking about the need for empathy, for the power of pursuing your dreams, there’s something youthful and infectious in this idealism. But she’s old enough and has been through enough for us all to believe that maybe, just maybe, she knows what she’s talking about.

LIVE REVIEW: Cold Specks, Lille Vega, 21.01.2015

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Cold Specks | Vega, Copenhagen

Photos by James Hjertholm (jameshjertholm.com)

Cold Specks is an artist who has experience significant musical development in a very short period of time. She started out with solid songwriting ability, but with the release of her second album, Neuroplasticity, she capitalized on the ability to write more complex arrangements. Backed on stage at Vega by a full band including keys and woodwinds, it’s the new album and the new energy that she wants to put forward, that she wants to make people move.

Yet there are many quieter moments where her songs border on spirituals, especially the a cappella songs (and I’ll go on record saying that I’ll happily buy a record of Cold Specks lullabies, because when she sings a cappella you want her to sing everything a cappella) but there is also a great intimacy to her solo guitar performances. This involves delving into her first album, despite insisting that she rarely plays her older songs, and it’s her older songs that lend themselves more to this feeling, that are weightier lyrically and more minimal in arrangements.

Cold Specks | Vega, Copenhagen

But then she peppers her stage banter with off-handed obscenities and laments that playing guitar requires her to take off the intricate silver cuffs on her wrists, and this lifts some of the earnestness away. The mood in the room is largely positive, the crowd is respectful (which means they’re quiet enough to appreciate the solo songs), and she continues to open up as the set progresses.

There is a moment, however, when the air is sucked out of the room. Cold Specks has worked the protest refrains, “Hands up, don’t shoot, I can’t breathe” into different songs in recent months. Tonight it was in “Blank Maps,” and it’s heavy and heartbreaking because it’s so sadly perfect.

It feels like a turning point in the evening, because the response to “Blank Maps” is so positive, the applause extends noticeably, that from that point forward there is no longer an atmosphere simply of respect but of support. Not even a Nick Cave cover is received so enthusiastically. From then on, it’s clear that she could hit us with whatever she has.

Cold Specks | Vega, Copenhagen

LIVE REVIEW: Sharon Van Etten, Lille Vega, 18.11.2014

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Sharon Van Etten

However confessional her music is, Sharon Van Etten isn’t a minimalist singer-songwriter. Her live performance, though uncluttered, isn’t minimalist either. Switching between different guitars and omnichord on each song, she is rarely still for very long, always occupied with tuning or adjusting levels as much as she is with singing. Most of her set is taken from her latest album, this year’s Are We There, with non-album tracks “I Don’t Want to Let You Down” and “Tell Me,” plus an unrecorded Karen Dalton cover from a forth-coming compilation thrown in for good measure.

What is perhaps the best aspect of Van Etten’s live show is that she preserves the vocal harmonies that are so carefully crafted on her albums with the help of her bandmates’ backing vox. Songs like “Break Me,” with its interwoven lyrics, shine through because of it. But because Van Etten is so egalitarian about the harmonies, it isn’t until she is on her own with just her guitar that the true, overwhelming depth of her voice is apparent. On her own, it’s her voice that fills the room, that whispers and warbles and could knock anyone flat with its strength.

Sharon Van Etten

It’s not surprising that Van Etten is a formidable performer, but the way she talks to her audience is. There is a seriousness to her recordings that leads the listener to imagine the delivery with a straight face and maybe a raised eyebrow, whether she’s making reference to a relationship or defecation. But there is an affable goofiness that comes out between songs. The longer she’s on stage, the more rambling her chatter becomes. It’s the increasingly relaxed demeanor that has her talking about which songs her parents like best, giving reviews of local restaurants, and admitting that people call her “ADDSVE.” It’s a different kind of emotion from Van Etten, and it’s endearing. And really, who among us couldn’t use a recommendation for a good Italian restaurant?

Sharon Van Etten

 

LIVE REVIEW: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Lille Vega, 29.01.2014

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The demographic of the crowd for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at Lille Vega is striking: the overwhelmingly male crowd seems to be evenly divided between those who have been following Malkmus since the ‘90s, and those who look just old enough to have discovered Pavement on their 2010 reunion. Amusingly, many men of all ages have Malkmus’ haircut.

Malkmus is still the archetypal indie rock guy, lanky, hunched over when he sings, and he comes on stage chewing gum, which he manages to keep up through the entirety of opening song “Tigers” before spitting it onto his setlist.

Yet somehow there is an ease to the evening. Having stacked several of his shorter tunes early in the set, the band seems to speed through songs, as evidenced by a 22 song set list (further bolstered by a medley of covers in the encore). This balances things nicely when Malkmus does indulge in guitar solos, including the ridiculous rock star move of playing his guitar behind his back for the outro of “Senator.”

Stephen Malkmus (Photo by Ivan Boll)

The vocals could stand to be a little louder, they sometimes get lost under the guitars and keyboards, but the band is tight. Between songs, when Malkmus makes sometimes awkward banter (or at least when his question about whether anyone in the audience has ever accidentally appeared in the background of Borgen falls on deaf ears), his bandmates take jibes at him that he readily deflects back them.

While a chunk of the show was devoted to the band’s latest album, Wig Out at Jagbags,  the Pavement songs “Harness Your Hopes” and “Summer Babe” still creep in at the end. Of course, these are the songs that garner the most enthusiastic responses of the evening. Malkmus is still the archetypal indie rock guy, clearly comfortable with what he’s doing now. But obviously most of his audience arrived at what he’s doing now via what he did 20 years ago.

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INTERVIEW: Cut Copy

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The dreariness of a Copenhagen winter is easily combatted by the shiny electronica of Australia’s Cut Copy. Their fourth full length album, Free Your Mind, sees the quartet expanding on the synth pop of its predecessor, Zonoscope, while exploring more experimental territory.

“Probably everything we do is pop to some degree,” says frontman Dan Whitford. “Even when we think we’re doing something crazy, it still sounds a bit poppy.”

Whitfrod sat down with us backstage at Lille Vega ahead of the final show of Cut Copy’s tour to talk about Free Your Mind, touring, recording, and why he’s afraid of concept albums.

Cut Copy (Photo by Tom Spray)

Today’s the last day of the tour?

Last show. We fly back tomorrow. I think we’ve got most of the day here, and then we fly out in the evening. It’s crazy. The start of this tour just seemed like a never-ending run of shows. We have a backstage pass with all the shows on it, and we completed a whole US tour and it wasn’t even a quarter of the way through! We were like, “What the hell is going on? It’s going to go forever.” But we somehow got there. It’s been a really fun tour, actually, so that certainly hasn’t been a problem. But I think just being away from home, and missing being in Australian summer for two months is a bit of a thing for us. We’re keen to get back and put some shorts on and go to the beach.

Had the new songs been road tested before?

No, this was our first tour for the record. It came out when we’d already started this tour, so this was the first chance to play these songs to our fans. But it’s been cool.

Is there a learning curve to playing them live?

Yeah, we do figure it out but until you actually go on stage sometimes you don’t actually know what’s going to work properly or whether the songs come across properly to crowds. I guess just because the way we write music is very much that when we’re in a studio, we’re not thinking about performing live, we’re just like, “well, we can add this and add this and all sorts of crazy shit.” But then when it actually gets to playing it, we can’t have 30 different instruments on stage. We each play our parts, so sometimes it’s a weird translation from the record to a live context. I think you have to adapt a bit as you go. But thankfully the songs from this record seem to have worked really well from the beginning. I haven’t felt like we’ve had to change much, it’s just been like, “Yes, that’s how it should sound.”

Cut Copy (Photo by Tom Spray)

Any songs in particular working well?

I really enjoy playing, “Let Me Show You Love.” I guess it’s a more deep song, maybe not quite as much of a pop song as some of the other tracks on the record. It seemed like maybe that was something that wouldn’t necessarily win over crowds. I mean, it was fun for us to play, but it’s actually worked really well in the context of the live set, and people really seem to get into it, so it’s a nice surprise that people are enjoying the track that we actually enjoy playing the most.

Do you prefer recording or touring?

It goes in phases. Certainly, by the end of making this record, I just wanted to go and play some shows. We’d been at home for a year and a half, we’d been working on the record writing, and then all these stages of recording, and then mixing. I think after a while you can’t even get in front of an audience, because you almost forget when you’re in a studio for too long that people are going to actually hear it. Because you think, after a while, it’s only the people in the band that have been listening to it, and that’s all that matters. But in actual fact, you just need other people to hear it. Sometimes you’re like, “What were we worrying about? It works!”

We’re still really enjoying playing live at the moment, but usually by the end of touring a particular record you’re pretty keen to get back in the studio, because I think as exciting as touring and traveling is, eventually you get to a point where you want to get some sort of creative stimulation again. You’ve been playing those songs so many times over and over that you want to find something new. It goes in cycles. It balances out. You can’t have one without the other, and they’re equally fun in their own way.

Do you ever write on the road?

It’s sort of difficult, because making electronic music in particular, it’s so reliant on the instruments and different synthesizers and equipment that you have on hand, you’re experimenting with all these different things, and using so many different things at once, that it’s kind of hard when you’re away touring. You don’t have access to all that. I’ve done remixing and that sort of thing while touring in the past, but not so much writing songs from scratch. I think probably also because half the time you’re on tour you’re feeling a bit hung over and sorry for yourself, so it’s not really the right mindset for being creative.

Cut Copy (Photo by Tom Spray)

Would you describe “Free Your Mind” as a theme for the album?

I guess it does. I think it emerged, but we didn’t set out to do that. We really set out to not think about the end result. When we were making the record, as almost a technique to not get stuck, we decided that we’re just going to be totally positive about any suggestion that anyone made. We’d just try it, no matter how stupid it sounded, and then we can always come back later, and we can decide then if it’s good or not. To avoid having a stalemate where you’re just not sure whether you should do something or not and then have an argument, let’s just do it. You can always decide later. We didn’t really go back and listen to any of the songs that we were writing or recording until much later, particularly as a group. It wasn’t until maybe six months or more into the process that we actually listened to all of the ideas that we’d been working on. That’s when we discovered that there might be some sort of thread that runs through some of these songs. Once we discovered that, we tried to draw that out a little bit. I guess maybe the concept emerged, but I’m always scared to say “concept album” because it sounds self indulgent.

Are there other lyrical themes?

I guess so. Not all the songs seem to fit into that same box. The thing that sets this record apart to me is that previous records have been a lot more personal or introverted. The first record feels like a weird, lonely, solitary record. This one feels like almost an open invitation to anyone and everyone to be involved in what the record is about. Almost like a call to arms in a way for people who are listening to it to let go and enjoy themselves and do whatever they need to do for that to happen. For me, it feels like that probably is the thing that sets it apart from other records that we’ve done.

Where did the dialogue samples come from?

All sorts of different places. Some of them are from old mini disc recordings that I made when I was a teenager, recording all these different things from television and radio and weird places. A large number of them are from field recordings. Ben, our bass player, moved to Washington DC, and went around with this portable recorder, and just recorded people. Just asking them about their weirdest experiences and the strangest things that had happened to them and got some pretty funny results. A lot of those have ended up on the record as well.

Cut Copy (Photo by Tom Spray)

What is your recording process like? As the main producer for the album, is it difficult to balance producing with recording?

At some point there needs to be someone that makes the final decision. I think we try to keep it as a group process up to a certain point. If no one can decide, I’m just like, “Well, I’m the producer, this is what we’re doing.” I put my foot down every now and then. But I think, inevitably, if you’re making electronic music you’re always producing your own music on some level. Even if you have an outside producer — like our second record, we worked with Tim Goldsworthy as a producer — but still, even just making the synthesizer sounds or deciding to use particular instruments, that’s basically doing the job of a producer. It’s not like we’re a rock band, we each have our instrument and that’s what happens. We switch around so much that it feels like we’re always producing our own records, even if we’re working with someone else. But it’s been cool, the last two records we’ve done in a very DIY way, where just found a cool space and set up our own studio, brought in all our own gear. It feels like a modern way of doing things as well, because you don’t need a big recording studio these days to make a record. You can bring in your computer and some good equipment and all your instruments, and there’s no reason you can’t make an awesome-sounding record.

Have you set up a permanent studio?

No, we’ve had two different ones. They were both warehouses. The first one, the one we used for Zonoscope, was a very rustic: Holes in the ceiling, no heating or anything like that. It was incredibly cold, because we were recording in winter, so we had these big coats on, and had one little bar heater that we huddled around, and if someone had to go and record something, they’d have to run up to the other end of the room, get cold as they were recording their instruments, and run back again. This time around we found a much better space that had actual acoustic treatment because bands were rehearsing there sometimes. And it had heating. We learned from the Zonoscope experience that some comfort is probably good.

Cut Copy (Photo by Tom Spray)

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LIVE REVIEW: Sam Amidon, Lille Vega, 24.11.2013

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For a solo artist, little additions can make worlds of difference. As a folk singer with a belter of a voice, he could easily carry himself through a set alone. He proves this quickly when he swaps his guitar for a violin on the outro of “Short Life,” and when he manages to lead the audience in a sing along on “Way Go Lily” (whereas opener Rebecca Collins failed to get people to join her on a cover of “My Favorite Things”) — and these are only his opening two songs.

But Amidon isn’t alone. He has drums, bass, and assorted noise provided by Chris Vatalaro, and these additions do make a difference, sometimes by just filling in the bottom and sometimes by making a startling racket. And it allows for a sense of preservation of what — besides Amidon’s somewhat solemn delivery — is so alluring about the music in the first place.

Sam Amidon

Aside from being a talented singer-songwriter, aside from him having that clear, crisp voice (with or without the countrified warble), much of Amidon’s performance hinges on an unexpected humor. There’s chatter about his latest album being inspired by Jimi Hendrix contacting him from the grave and telling him to make round music (what that means Jimi never qualified — which Amidon considers to be “an asshole move”). There’s a digression about Chet Baker’s “Do It the Hard Way” that turns into a further digression of scat. There’s a story about taking a nap and dreaming about using a tiny, fuzzy donkey as a pillow that lasts several minutes.

The humor is in the music, too: “My Old Friend” ends in a shrill scat following the Chet Baker musings. A jig played on the violin devolves into the sort of choked scratching any parent with a child learning to play the violin has heard a hundred times over — but Amidon is making eye contact with a laughing crowd as if wondering for how long he can get away with it. And it’s in a perfectly earnest cover of R. Kelly’s “Relief,” in which he leads another success sing along, but still finds time to mention that he is thankful that R. Kelly has “written a song with a shifting relationship to reality.” Much like Amidon doesn’t need Vatalaro assisting him with the music, he doesn’t really need this bizarre humor either. But his performance is certainly more special for both of these features.

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