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LIVE REVIEW: She Wants Revenge, Loppen, 22.08.2019

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She Wants Revenge live at Loppen, Copenhagen

She Wants Revenge have never played in Copenhagen before. The newly-ish reformed duo have managed to pull a small but dedicated crowd to Loppen, despite having only released two singles in the last seven years. But everyone dances like they’ve been dancing to these songs with abandon for the last decade plus, waiting for the moment when it was the band themselves playing the songs instead of a DJ.

For a band that established themselves as a duo with a drum machine, She Wants Revenge works very well as a fully-fleshed out rock band. Justin Warfield is a compelling frontman: He has a flare for the dramatic, a voice whose character makes up for a lack of range, and the commitment of a performer who is used to adapting to any room. 

They are also a band that, like so many other Joy Division copycats of the early ‘00s, got better as they moved away from the pastiche. Their live drummer, Jason Payne, is one of those machine-like drummers that, when given the opportunity to cut loose, is really extraordinary to watch. And after so many years of people going crazy for bassists who can play like Peter Hook, more due should be given to drummers who can play like Stephen Morris.

It’s a delight to add any band to the growing masses resisting phoney encores. Warfield makes it clear that when they walk off the stage, they’re done. Their final song, “Tear You Apart,” is another song that benefits from their live arrangement, the added textures of a second guitar and the furious live drumming make the song so much less sterile than the album version. And it’s their their biggest hit; what could they follow it with? But there was an appeal to bring them back, and that the audience bring a friend, so there may be more than those two singles somewhere on the horizon.

LIVE REVIEW: Sudan Archives, Loppen, 10.07.2019

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Sudan Archives live at Loppen for Copenhagen Jazz Festival

Sudan Archives has sold out Loppen. This is impressive on its own terms, and even more so for an artist from outside of Denmark with only two EPs to her name. But there isn’t a second of her set that makes you doubt how she got to this point. Brittney Denise Parks is a performer

The set is, rather confusingly, part of Copenhagen Jazz Festival. Though Parks has cited a range of influences for Sudan Archives — hip-hop, West African rhythms, R&B — jazz isn’t an immediately obvious one. The violin isn’t generally associated with jazz, but it is central to Sudan Archives. And what she does with the instrument challenges the ideas of what it is meant to do. Aided by pre-programmed beats, Parks loops her instrument in an endless fashion, sometimes bowing it, sometime giving a solid thump, and sometimes strumming it in a way more akin to finger-picking a guitar than the traditional pizzicato. 

Parks works every angle of the stage, whether singing or playing violin, strutting in dangerously high flatform boots and getting the crowd moving in a hot, sweaty mass. Her vocals blur in such a way that it’s hard to tell what’s a backing track (like the beats) and what’s been looped, but her delivery is dynamic. She can be half-spoken and direct as on “Nont for Sale,” but she can also flatten everyone in her path by belting out a note. 

As we’ve all seen many phoney encores, a genuine one can take everyone by surprise, including the artist. Parks has left the stage following her planned (and, admittedly, appropriate) encore, but the audience is still cheering, then stomping, then chanting for her. It takes her a moment to return; again, she only has two EPs, what is there left to play? But she does treat us to a new, beat-driven song. While it doesn’t have the impact of her planned final song, “Come Meh Way,” the thrill of the collective excitement is enough to carry us all home.

LIVE REVIEW: Priests, Loppen, 28.05.2019

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The band Priests live at Loppen, Copenhagen

Priests have always been an excellent specimen of where they come from: A D.C. punk band with a strong DIY ethos, political bent, and high energy live set. Their latest album, The Seduction of Kansas, shows more focused lyric writing and smoother production than their previous efforts, but thank goodness they’re still embracing the unpredictability of the unpolished live show.

While the set leans very heavily towards songs from their recently-released new album, they choose an early point in the set to introduce a cover of “Mother” by Danzig (forthcoming as a single). This is really the first moment when Katie Alice Greer’s vocal ability comes through. She really is a powerhouse, a fact that is easily downplayed on the recordings or when the reverb makes everything a little softer. 

Priests’ ability to roll with the punches also underscores their hard-won punk-professionalism. “I’m Clean” gets a stripped back performance after their drum machine breaks. It leaves drummer Daniele Daniele singing while Greer plays the drums with maracas, looking uncertain for the first and only time of the set. But there is something very authentic about saying, “our equipment is broken, but fuck it, we’re going to try anyway, but heads up it might not work” (paraphrasing, but that was the gist). And when you have a band that delivers an otherwise fully committed set, there is a strong appeal in seeing a little bit of vulnerability.

The stage lights are only working intermittently by the time they close out the set. So before the final tune, “Jesus’ Son,” Greer asks everyone to take out their phones and shine the lights at the stage. Red stage lights flash in an out, alternating between Loppen’s familiarity and a basement show feeling. Seeing the band embrace this quality, and seeing the community of the audience joining in, is just about the most punk experience there is.

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh.

LIVE REVIEW: BC Camplight, Loppen, 03.02.2019

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BC Camplight live at Loppen Copenhagen

“It only took us about 20 hours to get here, so we’re not leaving until the cops come,” said BC Camplight’s Brian Christinzio as he took the stage at Loppen with his backing band. It might have been overstating things a smidge; the set is only an hour. But there is a joyous abandon to it. 

As a recording artist who builds his songs around dreamy, retro textures, BC Camplight’s live performance is an interesting mix of recreating that warmth and gauze and poking through it with occasionally jarring clarity. It takes different forms. On “You Should Have Gone to School,” Francesca Pidgeon’s backing vocals add more heft coming from a strong female singer than the thin falsetto of the recording could. Christinzio’s solo performance of the sentimental “When I Think of My Dog” (actually about his dog Frankie) is an unexpected display of his accomplishments as a pianist. These flourishes at the piano are matched by the odd growl or skip along scales in a much lower vocal range than he normally sings. It’s as if he’s simultaneously reminding us that his performance is not some flawlessly mixed record, but also that, if he wanted, he could be a very different kind of singer.

Most of the songs from the evening come from BC Camplight’s most recent album, Deportation Blues. People are dancing to the existential crisis of “I’m in a Weird Place Now,” the more relevant-than-ever ode to Theresa May, “Fire in England,” and the scorching, repetitive chime of “I’m Desperate.” Christinzio has confined himself to the space behind his piano, flanked on either side by synth rigs. There are many times throughout the evening where he hints at the kind of dynamism he would have if he were on a physically larger stage, but instead we have to content ourselves with his energy, his witticisms, and his constant removing and replacing of his sunglasses. He reveals that a new album is on the docket. Four albums and 14 years on from his debut, he makes us believe that there still is a lot more to look forward to.

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh.

LIVE REVIEW: Protomartyr and Metz, Loppen, 07.11.2017

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metz live at loppen copenhagen

On paper, Protomartyr and Metz sharing a bill seemed absolutely brilliant. And before we get any further, we’ll confirm that their co-headlined show at Loppen — evenly split with an hour for each band — was, in fact, brilliant. What we didn’t quite anticipate was how strange those two bands are when placed side by side.

Part of the discrepancy is that Protomartyr is not a band you immediately associate with being laid back. The brashness of their albums translates as more of a nonchalance live, not least because vocalist Joe Casey’s performance style is more voice actor than singer. His dry delivery is the defining characteristic of the band, and even though his physical presence is often stock still and a bit hunched, he is devastatingly effective.

“Sorry for spitting on the people in the front row,” he says in a rare bit of between song chat. “It’s what I do.” Casey can toss out throwaway lines with deadpan humor, but when he chants, “everything’s fine,” it’s disconcerting.

Protomartyr live at loppen copenhagen

But what really makes Protomartyr seem relaxed is when Metz take the stage and the opposite approach to performing in every way: Everything is louder, the band’s movements are more violent, and the half-spoken vocals are replaced with screaming.

The shift in energy is somewhere between deranged and comical. The next hour is filled with loud guitars alternating between clanging and vibrato. Drummer Hayden Menzies plays in a fashion that suggests he would smash anything set in front of him to pieces (though the layered effect on one cymbal that makes it sound like he’s hitting the lid of a trashcan is a nice effect). Frontman Alex Edkins is a relentless screaming mess, likely restraining himself from leaping across the stage only because Loppen has a low ceiling.

It’s on that thrashing note that the evening comes to a close, but even if the line up is a little strange, on the whole it is adeptly paced. It leaves you drained with no eardrums left to speak of, but absolutely satisfied.

Photos by Morten Aargaard Krogh

PHOTOS: Gnod, Loppen, 01.06.2017

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Gnod live at Loppen Copenhagen

Gnod live at Loppen Copenhagen

 Gnod live at Loppen Copenhagen

Gnod live at Loppen Copenhagen

Gnod live at Loppen Copenhagen

Gnod live at Loppen Copenhagen

LIVE REVIEW: Le Butcherettes, Loppen, 25.09.2016

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le butcherettes live loppen copenhagen

There are so many references at play in Le Butcherettes’ set at Loppen. There’s an immediate shock of glam with glittery red fabric draped over the synth stands and every guitar shining with silver foil. There’s a militant punk jolt when frontwoman Teri Gender Bender struts out in front of the stage, yelling and thumping before jumping behind a synth, dressed in a fatigue-style jumpsuit with a red band painted across her eyes. There are moments of disco and camp and heavy hits and rock rage.

Le Butcherette’s set is a pageant, pure performance from beginning to end. It’s theatrical and fun, mostly led by Teri’s dizzying energy. She’s undeterred by little things like not having a mic when it will do just as well to bellow into the crowd, or the face paint that runs with sweat and gets smeared along the sides of her hands. No, she’s too busy bouncing around the stage, belting her heart out, stripping off her jumpsuit to reveal a sparkly red dress during — what else? — “Take My Dress Off.”

Teri’s what make the show, for sure, but she’s backed by a smart and sturdy band who can match her vibe. And when there’s scarcely a pause between songs, one suspects that they must match her energy as well, even if in more understated ways.

The set ends with Teri climbing off the stage the same way she came on. The end of the performance is fuzzy as she begins hugging audience members, slowly making her way to the back of the crowd. The room is still dark, the house music comes up, but it’s not until she makes it to the merch table that it becomes clear that the show is over.

LIVE REVIEW: Sarah Neufeld, Loppen, 08.05.2016

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sarah neufeld live in copenhagen

Expectations are high for any solo violinist. When the stage she appears on is Loppen, there’s some dissonance between the instrument and the setting. Sarah Neufeld showed, however, that the musician herself was in exactly the right place.

The Arcade Fire violinist’s songs hint at a Celtic, traditional influence, but her arrangements are adventurous and abstract. This becomes clear when she’s joined by her drummer, whose nuanced and creative playing transports Neufeld’s songs beyond their atmospheric recordings to something unexpectedly energetic and intense. At times, he comes close to upstaging Neufeld and her circular song structures with samplers, shakers taped to drum sticks, and subtle electronic inflections.

The energy stands in complete contrast to the fact that a large chunk of the small audience remains seated for the whole of the performance. In absence of seats, many people directly on the floor in good view of the stage. But this audience, however small, knows Neufeld and her work and is held rapt by her performance. Noise travels very easily in Loppen, and the vibe would have been incredibly different if the audience hadn’t been completely silent, if the more muted notes were muffled by talking, if fingers tapping on a snare couldn’t be heard.

But the energy is in Neufeld’s style of performing itself, which is obviously influenced by years of being in a band versus an orchestra. She never stands still and often swings her legs around when she moves. There is strength and muscle to in her playing, regardless of how rapid and slight her movements.

The standout movement of the evening was an extended pizzicato solo that swept Neufeld away as much as any guitar solo could have. But again it was her accompanist that rooted the song in something too abstract to be rock’n’roll, and so much more divine because of it.

LIVE REVIEW: Elder, Loppen, 25.04.2016

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Elder

Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

What could be better on a cold, wet Monday evening than a bit of stoner rock at Loppen? A great deal of Copenhageners would have understandably replied “staying warm and dry at home,” but Elder, the headlining act this evening, certainly have their fair share of hardcore fans.

“Stoner rock” tends to denote a particular mentality rather than a well-defined genre. Of the three bands playing tonight, what unites them is a love for Black Sabbath, vintage equipment, and the endorsement (implied or otherwise) of the ‘erb. Openers Carousel tend towards the more traditional hard-rock end of the spectrum, but this is perhaps not the right crowd for that.

Elder

The Oakland-based, follicularly-gifted quintet Mondo Drag are another case entirely. Drawing from esoteric 70s prog, in the vein of Goblin, King Crimson and Camel, the band’s extended jams resonate much more with the audience. The Ozzy-esque vocals are there, as with basically every other band in the stoner category, but the band is at its best when they focus on keyboard-led instrumentals.

Elder

But as soon as Elder begin tearing through “Compendium”, the opening track of their 2015 LP Lore, you get an idea of how the genre can become more than an enjoyable romp through Black Sabbath’s major works. The influences are still there in the chugging bass riffs, but frontman Nick DiSalvo’s guitar can suddenly become ornate and melodic, riding the drums and bass like the foam on a rough sea.

Describing this as their billionth appearance at Loppen, the band clearly feel at home. And after two hours of waiting, the audience is fervently on their side. Beer splashes everywhere, and bassist Jack Donovan nearly beheads a few people in the front in his frenzy. A few obligatory technical glitches do little to dent the enthusiasm of either band or audience, and as the evening draws to a close, Elder proved they were definitely worth enduring the awful weather.

PHOTOS: A Place To Bury Strangers, Loppen, 10.04.2016

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A Place To Bury Strangers performing at Loppen in Copenhagen

Photos By Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)

A Place To Bury Strangers performing at Loppen in Copenhagen

A Place To Bury Strangers performing at Loppen in Copenhagen

A Place To Bury Strangers performing at Loppen in Copenhagen

A Place To Bury Strangers performing at Loppen in Copenhagen

A Place To Bury Strangers performing at Loppen in Copenhagen

A Place To Bury Strangers performing at Loppen in Copenhagen

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