I think this may have been one of the most anticipated shows of the day – however for some for all the wrong reasons. Out of all the bands, possibly ever, to play SPOT – Iceage is the only Danish act to ever receive a 10/10 from ultra-hip indie blog Pitchfork and now finishing off the first day of our little SPOT while dragging over the princes of CPH noise-punk, Lower, and two other budding acts over the big belt bridge to destroy the city of smiles.
I say “the wrong reasons” because immediately there is the very Scandinavian panic of questioning why the festival program has four “punk” bands all listed at the same venue at the same time, and then the very Scandinavian paranoia of planning to get there early and waiting to line up to get in to see one of the only bands any Joe Blow on the street had even heard of. There were a lot of middle age people wearing leather jackets with man bags, be-spectacled silver foxes sipping on Chardonnay, and a group of wee teenies rushing in and sitting on the floor in front of the stage, dressed in their high school hoodies, leather gauntlets, and doing their best to look punk.
Shortly after a quick backline check, Hand Of Dust appear on stage and play. 2 songs in – everyone that said they were looking forward to the set (and lying) left. The teens held hands and made a bee-line for the door (I suppose expecting to see their concept of punk manifest as Green Day or even The Clash or something….) and some of the elders after being rousted from their candle lit tables and spritzers clutched their bleeding ears, shook their heads and beat the retreat to the river. Hands Of Dust not giving a fuck about any of this, continued to plod on. Not even being the most “noisy” of the acts on the bill, they would have seemed like Burt Bacharach compared to what was to follow if the casual listeners had stayed.
The job was done, after about 40 minutes of medium energy flavored noise, punctuated by the front man’s ‘preacher’ esque libretto, the band said no “tak”s and left the stage. Job well done if they were meant to sweep out all the poseurs. More people that actually understood what was going to happen moved closer for a better vista. I’m not so sure Hands Of Dust really fit on this bill, but better than any other. I was pounding beers getting ready for a war though, so I was happy.
With absolutely no change over of gear, Communions hit the stage, a very very young troupe of men who looked fresh out of gym class or stealing scooters in some suburb somewhere. There sound was piercingly stark and heavier, but more on the melodic side, grasping possibly onto early Replacements and definitely with the ability to play their instruments and looked pissed off and moody, but it made me wonder at what cost? Instruments were tastily un-tuned, melodies a vague notion for the vocalist and volume bordering on insane – it was a marked improvement in style from the previous band, however I had to ponder: (and I’m gonna sound so jaded here) what is the point? I guess that is the point. I must admit I was just shredded from the piercing trebly sound and still confused if they were ‘playing dumb’ (because in stolen moments there actually were some great feats of musicality) or they actually just stumbled upon achieving such a great set by pure chance. We’ll never know. More and more people seemed to leave, confused as to why punk music had possibly de-evolved into this. I was excited though. This is exactly what punk is: pissing on everything, holding reverence for nothing.
I think every time Lower has played in Aarhus, they are second on the bill to Iceage. Personally live I have always thought Lower were a better band, a band that may play second fiddle to Iceage in the press, however on stage manage to blow them away (or anyone who comes after them) They absolutely do not give a fuck about anything. This performance was to be I think their finest yet in Aarhus, but a strange one. The thing is – not giving a fuck about anything means you especially hate anything phony or insincere. While Communions and Hands Of Dust were brought along possibly to fill out a bill and create an atmosphere – Lower’s aim was to completely fuck off anyone who wasn’t actually there to embrace what these boys do. The first 4-5 numbers appeared to be newer material. Absolutely atonal, poly rhythmical and seemingly devoid of any structure that the pedestrian could grasp a hold onto – anyone but the casual fans of extremely enraptured listeners began to mill about or leave, possibly still waiting to see what Iceage were all about. When Lower deemed that the grounds were now bullshit free, they launched into their tighter, older material and with gusto. The front man seemingly conducts each sentence with a “Morrissey-esque” swing of the mic and punctuates each word with hand gestures or just the light of his eyes. The rest of the band just purely focus on being beautifully loose and free at the same time. It all seemed to fall into place, and it was over. The finest Lower set in Aarhus I can recall.
Time for Iceage. They were all sharing backline, so no need to have stage hands running around with flashlights doing whatever it is they do, after a fifteen minute pause for beers and smokes, Iceage appear and saunter on stage. This time up though, lead singer Elias seems a bit different than before. He has long hair. I mean long. The band launch into their opening number and he immediately begins taunting the audience. Mic stands are thrown, liquids are spilled, faces are smacked a little and he rolls around on stage while caressing his sides like some vamped up Iggy Pop. It’s wonderful. Already among the lucky few who have remained at the front of the stage have had him crashing into them and begging them to do something to him. The stage is nearly un-lit, so there is a sense of underlying darkness and danger.
What followed was one of the best shows I have ever seen or heard this year. Drawing heavily on newer material, singles and “You’re Nothing”, Iceage seemingly propelled me through some sort of wormhole into another dimension. It seems that with each performance they are more violent, chaotic and incendiary, yet if you dare to close your eyes for a second, the music seems even more epic, tight and even psychedelic in places – going even further back than punk/hardcore roots to the industrial proto-punk of The Stooges and Mc5 in places, and even touches on “Trout Mask Replica” era Captain Beefheart in places.
Hero worship is never really smiled upon in the punk scene. I left their set at the end of the night that day feeling like though that I had witnessed something special from Iceage, and that their stage had been brilliantly and cleverly prepared for them by Lower. ‘For once’, a friend and I mentioned afterwards, feeling almost beaten by 3 hours of harsh noise, “Iceage wins this one”. It was certainly an experience, I just kind of wish some of you had stayed to witness it.
Hand Of Dust: 3.5/5