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PHOTOS: John Grant, Vega, 29.11.2015

in Photos by
John Grant - Photo by Johannes Leszinski

Photos by Johannes Leszinski

John Grant - Photo by Johannes Leszinski

John Grant - Photo by Johannes Leszinski

John Grant - Photo by Johannes Leszinski

John Grant - Photo by Johannes Leszinski

LIVE REVIEW: Deerhunter, Store Vega, 19.11.2015

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Deerhunter live at Vega

Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Over the last fifteen years Deerhunter have distinguished themselves for uniting a passion for the weird and exoteric with an ear for classic pop hooks. From the noise experimentation of Weird Era Cont. to the back-to-basics garage-rock of Monomania, the band has always had a knack for incorporating eclectic influences without ever appearing derivative. And with a frontman as adorably charismatic as Bradford Cox, it isn’t surprising that I am being squeezed in every direction by the audience at Støre Vega.

But though they might be an engaging live act, Deerhunter are certainly an uncompromising group of musicians. Part of the anticipation of seeing them is not quite knowing what direction they will take. They gave us a taste of this with their newest release, Fading Frontier: preceded by the balls-out funkiness of “Snakeskin”, and opening with the comforting jangle of “All the Same”, the rest of the album takes a much quieter, subdued approach.

Tonight we find this strategy reversed. Bradford Cox is opening for his own band, under his Atlas Sound moniker, with a half-hour set of contemplative keyboard pieces. Accompanied only by a sampler, Cox fills the room with droning synths, looped beats and the odd sound of birds. It’s certainly an interesting side to Cox, reminiscent of his work on the soundtrack to the documentary Teenage, which was showing in the lobby of Vega before the show. But it’s not exactly an act to get the audience’s blood pumping.

Deerhunter live at Vega

 But of course, once the rest of the band takes the stage, there are plenty of chances to get the circulation going. Despite some initial issues with the sound, Deerhunter quickly gather momentum as they cover some of the catchiest parts of career so far. From Halcyon Digest‘s “Desire Lines” and “Revival” to Microcastle‘s “Cover Me (Slowly) / Agoraphobia”, the set consists of some of the best psychedelic indie pop written in the last two decades. And although some elements of their set conform their tradition, for instance how “Nothing Ever Happened” brilliantly transitions into a cover of the latter half of Patti Smith’s “Horses” , there are still surprises in store.

Tracks like “Rainwater Cassette Exchange” are re-imagined in a more rhythmically interesting, almost afro-beat flavour, giving the set a consistent feel, despite drawing from so many different ears of Deerhunter’s career. Towards the end the band transitions from pop tunes to more extended jam sessions. The aforementioned “Nothing Ever Happened” is extended to almost 20 minutes, miraculously never losing any of its focus and energy. Equally engaging and demanding, Deerhunter once more prove to be a highlight in anyone’s gig-going year.

PHOTOS: Julia Holter, Lille Vega, 04.11.2015

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Julia Holter (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh / mortenkrogh.com)

Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Julia Holter (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh / mortenkrogh.com)

Julia Holter (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh / mortenkrogh.com)

Julia Holter (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh / mortenkrogh.com)

Julia Holter Vega-4837

Julia Holter Vega-2621

LIVE REVIEW: Against Me!, Vega, Copenhagen, 08.04.2015

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AgainstMe (press photo by Ryan Russel)

Laura Jane Grace may once have been a teenage anarchist, but it’s difficult to imagine a time when she was given to convenient politics. Yes, she’s still talking about a revolution. And as headliners go, few bands to play the stage at Lille Vega have been more mainstream than Against Me!, which underwent a personnel change in the wake of last year’s excellentTransgender Dysphoria Blues. Yet Grace has always valued experience over pretense, knowing full well that “making yourself up as you go along” is what killed punk music in the first place. Sometimes though, you have to depend on a bit of both to put on a good show.

Grace heads up centerstage with longtime fellow guitarist James Bowman to her left. To her right is Inge Johansson, former bassist of The (International) Noise Conspiracy, and in the back is Atom Willard, former drummer and founding member of Angels & Airwaves. On the opener “True Trans Soul Rebel”, the chorus blares like an emergency signal, calling all cars: “Who’s gonna take you home tonight/ Who’s gonna take you home?” They play it true to the record, sounding out all the hooks with the conviction of a band playing from the heart.

It’s admirable that this clean cut approach actually helps emphasize the vulnerability in Grace’s songwriting. In the dozen or so years since Reinventing Axl Rose, Grace has retained a keen sense of self that helps make the music of Against Me! as challenging as it is accessible—you don’t simply sing along to a line like “You’ve got no cunt in your strut/ You’ve got no hips to shake” without feeling the sting of those words. Still the crowd is right there, showing their recognition by singing along on the big numbers with outstretched arms.

Between songs it’s all grins. It’s not unusual that a band should want everyone to have fun, but with Against Me! there seems to be a deeper appreciation for the need to feel good. When she’s on, Grace is a storm, angled toward the mic like a hood ornament, each word a gale unto itself. Even if sometimes giving it your all is “Cliché Guevara”, it’s inspiring to feel that a person has taken full ownership over who she is. And for a band to share that with a room full of people is a hot kindness that makes us all feel good.

(Press photo by Ryan Russel)

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