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LIVE REVIEW: Ava Luna, Pumpehuset Byhaven, 28.06.2019

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Ava Luna live

In terms of ideal concerts venues, it’s hard to beat Pumpehuset’s Byhaven on a warm summer evening. A break from the more extreme heat makes sitting outside very enticing, and New York synth-pop group Ava Luna are the perfect band for the setting. They essentially play block part music: It’s mostly dance-y, has a decent beat, but isn’t so deafeningly loud that you can’t decipher the three-part harmonies.

But maybe the setting isn’t perfect for the music. Not if you’re a performer, anyway. The perfect summer setting of Byhaven means that loads of people who aren’t especially fussed about the music are having drinks and chatting with their friends in the shade of Pumpehuset’s main building. Ava Luna start their set off unannounced, with a song so mellow it’s hard to tell initially if they’ve started to play or are still tuning up. Few people move towards the stage, even is as it becomes clear that the show is getting going.

If the band are discouraged by the inattention, they don’t let it show. Ava Luna know how to sell a song. Singers Felicia Douglass and Rebecca Kauffman have different, energetic performing styles — Douglass bops around with a fluid energy while Kauffman has more of a rigid theatricality — but the deliver every tune like the whole garden is rapt in their attention. The performance is balanced well, switching between singers and choosing key moments to play up the harmonies; leaning more into bright, vibrant synth lines; and deliberately slowing things down. It feels like the setlist has been chosen deliberately for the audience, for people who might want to get up and dance and acquiescing to those who want pleasant background music. It’s just curious that there is courtyard full of people who don’t realize what they’re missing out on.

LIVE REVIEW: Tune-Yards, Pumpehuset, 29.03.2018

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merrill garbus of tune-yards live at pumpehuset in copenhagen

Tune-Yards closed out a six-week tour on the smaller stage at Pumpehuset. The space is packed and the lights are low, and there’s faint aura on the stage from the glow of an uncountable number of pedals.

The energy in the room is good. In part, this is because Merrill Garbus is herself a high-energy performer. She bops and struts, leads her band in sun salutes, raises her arms as if in a rallying cry, and through the low lighting you can occasionally see how wide her eyes are opened and the exaggerated stretch of her facial features. But the energy also refracts back from the audience; the people here not only know Tune-Yards but clearly love Tune-Yards. They are dancing, they are shouting back lines from “Bizness” and “Gangsta.” Much of the set comes from this year’s I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, and they know the songs well.

If …Private Life was a bit down-tempo as a recording, the live set is a swamp of loops and yelps, driven by drums that cut through the electronics with their sheer tangibleness. Garbus makes playing the ukulele look cool, which is an impressive feat in itself, but much of that may have to do with her skill in making a ukulele sound like anything other than a ukulele. She plays her pedals with her feet like a separate instrument, her looped voice tumbling over and colliding with itself, and it doesn’t take long before it becomes difficult to distinguish what is sampled and what is looped.

Garbus’ voice has real power behind it, and she knows how to wield it. She offers a soothing sweetness when her vocals are meant to serve as a backing track and punctuates lines with massive bellows. She does not scream, she does not have to. Whatever she’s projecting — a state of zen or a call to arms — people are dancing, are listening, are ready to follow.

LIVE REVIEW: Ed Harcourt, Pumpehuset, 15.02.2017

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Ed Harcourt live in Copenhagen at Pumpehuset

Ed Harcourt is a versatile performer. Over the years, I’ve seen him play in dive bars and concert halls, with a full band and solo at an unstable upright piano in an old man’s pub. His set at Pumpehuset, however, removed him from notions of singer-songwriter and took the idea of one man band to another level.

Harcourt’s latest album, Furnaces, is full of dense production that doesn’t seem like it would lend itself to a solo performance without a lot of prerecorded tracks. And to be fair, he does have a number of prerecorded tracks at the ready for new songs and his back catalogue. What Harcourt also has, in a quantity I’m unable to count, is looping pedals. This means tracks are sometimes built from the drums up, but also that there are subtler shifts of multiple guitar or piano parts layered without fanfare.

It also means that no matter how familiar you are with Harcourt’s work, it’s impossible to predict what form songs will take. “Occupational Hazard” is reconstructed by drums, then guitar, then piano, and back to guitar, whereas the indie pop of “Church of No Religion” is stripped back to loop-free acoustic guitar. And we all learn a valuable lesson in etiquette: A whoop from the audience while Harcourt is trying to loop a tape played back from a Fischer-Price tape recorder gets picked up by the mic, requiring him to start again.

Ed Harcourt live in Copenhagen at Pumpehuset
Photos by James Hjertholm

It’s one of many awkward but strangely endearing encounters between Harcourt and the small crowd that’s assembled. We’ve all decided to be in on the joke, whether he’s pondering aloud if he should buy a ball gag or inviting an audience member whose shirt he admires to go on a shirt pilgrimage to Milan with him. It’s why we laugh at these monologues and maybe why during “Until Tomorrow Then” Harcourt steps off the stage to serenade the crowd — a recurring schtick for this song — people hug him.

He’s already reached the two hour mark by the time he comes out for his encore, at which point the audience starts calling for older songs. He complies readily with “Music Box,” with laborious effort for “Shanghai,” and skirts a request for something from Lustre by vamping the chorus of “Haywire.” He’s nearing the end of his tour and has pointedly said that he doesn’t care how long this drags out. And quite plainly, staying past curfew to take your obscure song requests says more about how an artist feels about his audience than weird banter or even hugs ever could.

LIVE REVIEW: Refused, Pumpehuset, 29.04.2015

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Refused (Photo by Amanda Farah)

Photos by Amanda Farah

The reunion cycle for bands is pretty predictable: First swear you’ll never reunite, then get back together playing venues and festival stages larger than at any point in your initial career. Everyone will hold their collective breaths and pray that it’s not an embarrassment, then proclaim it a triumph, possibly with tears in their eyes.

Refused are now at the point of starting over, despite all protestations from their camp. Their show at Pumpehuset was the beginning of a new tour to promote a new album — their first in 17 years, out in June — playing with a new guitarist (who happens to look like Billy Crudup in Almost Famous) and opening with a new song.

What is the same, however, is the essence of why anyone cared that this band was coming back. They are as loud and as tight as ever. Frontman Denis Lyxzén has the same startling, sustained levels of energy, dancing, jumping, instigating the crowd, spitting water, though gingerly sipping hot tea while the band plays.

refused 3

The audience is full of an energy that borders on violence, with the first stage diver appearing only minutes into the opening song, the new track “Elektra” (Note to all would-be stage divers: Make sure, unlike this first diver, that there’s someone to catch you before you jump).

Refused debut three songs from their new album, Freedom, the standout of which is “Françafrique,” with its dancey, disco rhythm and Shape of Punk… crunch.

It would be easy to let the moving target of Lyxzén distract from the rest of the band, but if the band as a whole did not equal each other in energy, if there weren’t a certain number of kicks and jumps framing the stage, then the singer’s slick dance moves would just make him look a fool.

But the sweaty man in the nice suit who jumps into the crowd for main set closer “Tannhauser/Derrive” and is immediately swallowed up by flailing bodies doesn’t look foolish at all. We can debate all day about punk ethics, selling out, and authenticity, but as of right now, there’s no denying that what they’re doing is a good time.

Body count:

Stage divers: 12

Crowd surfers that made it to the front: 2 (one of which got to the stage, then dove off of it)

LIVE REVIEW: Wasn’t Born to Follow, Pumpehuset, 09.08.2014

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Perfect Pussy (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh /

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.

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.

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: 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.


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.


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.


Photos by Ronald Laurits Jensen

LIVE REVIEW: Fuck Buttons, Pumpehuset, 16.11.2013

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The opening to Fuck Buttons’ third album, Slow Focus, is the punishing drum sample of “Brainfreeze.” When they open their set at Pumpehuset with “Brainfreeze,” the immediate impression is that something is lacking. That something is volume.

Despite this initial disappointment, they do build up to the anticipated decibel level, though it takes nearly half an hour of their 75 minute set. That lack of initial impact doesn’t prove to be a deal breaker. Fuck Buttons are one of those electronic acts that give you a sense of creation as they play, rather than just twiddling knobs. Watching Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power make wordless noises into microphones that are fed back to create new, different noise, or the brief, live drumming, during which Power knocks his floor tom off of its platform, are unexpected moments of humanity that take them away from their places hunched over their table.

Fuck Buttons (Photo by Tom Spray)The visuals, however, leave something to be desired. Throughout the show, Hung and Power were silhouetted in real time over myriad kaleidoscopic visuals — a neat trick, but not necessarily one that needed to be carried through the entire show.

Then again, Hung and Powers are themselves entertaining to watch. They both often adopt zen-like expressions and sway very gently while playing. At times, Hung glances over the audience with look of satisfaction that suggests he’s thinking, “Yes, I am responsible for this.” As the pair are separated by a long table, unable to communicate with each other directly, they can be seen making eye contact with one another, and a nod here and there seems to be responsible for new movements in songs.

And if that tires, there is a sea of people dancing, and most amusingly, dancing to different elements of the songs, every individual latching on to some different rhythm. It’s good that they’re into the music, because other than a quick “Thanks” from Power at the end of their main set, no other words are spoken during the entire show. The evening ends in an understated way when Hung raises his drink to the crowd and walks off stage, leaving Power to twist everything into a metallic distortion. But it is only another minute before he, too, faces the crowd and departs with a small wave, leaving us with a fading feedback loop. You can get away with that sort of limited interaction — when the music’s loud enough.


LIVE REVIEW: Wasn’t Born To Follow, Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, 11.08.13

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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]


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]


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 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]


Folkeklubben | Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, 25.04.2013

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Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (

















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