Negative Approach

support Commie Cowboys
author AP date 17/09/14 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN

According to BETA's venue manager, Mikkel Wad Larsen, yours truly is no fun on Wednesdays. Whatever the reasons underlying, such slight will not be taken lightly, and consequently, it is because of this that I resolutely walk through the familiar door this evening, to watch two bands I have honestly only ever heard of: one a local old school punk act, the other a revered old school hardcore band whose history dates back to a short lived existence between 1981 and 1984, and more recently a re-union which has been going on since 2006.

All photos by Philip B. Hansen @ philipbh.com

Commie Cowboys

It's back to the roots when these K-town punks initiate the festivities facing an admirably large audience. Their no frills approach to the genre is very much in line with the likes of Black Flag, Ramones and Reagan Youth, I'm thinking as they race through the first two songs - only to be dumbfounded by track three, which sounds more akin to Motörhead and Van Halen ("Hot for Teacher" in particular comes to mind). Simplistic though the overall aesthetic may be, guitarist Christian E. seems to be in possession of a limitless imagination when it comes to writing leads, licks and melodies, with the result that Commie Cowboys' music is riddled with some of the coolest guitar work I've heard in punk rock in some time - precisely because their origin is not that genre's three-chord cradle. Even more to his credit: seldom do you witness a musician pushing so much passion into his performance, his face expressions and energy quickly proving the focal point of the band's performance.

And that is not to discredit his colleagues - vocalist Dalle, bassist Kasper & drummer Johan; each of them, too, plays a pivotal role in generating, for me, an impression of positive surprise. Dalle's pacing back and forth, as well as his anguished look when delivering his lyrics; Kasper's loss of self into a groovy swagger; and Johan's frenetic slamming of the skins all consolidate into an excellent, felt performance of the sort that, when it ends, leaves you wanting for more, burning to listen to their music on record, and eagerly anticipating the next opportunity to catch them live.

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Negative Approach

It is an exhilirating start to the evening then, which makes it all the more infuriating to discover that these veterans of hardcore punk are antithetical to everything we just saw: lethargic, monotonous and carrying an attitude which suggests they have little interest in playing, let alone staging a performance. Now, it might simply be that this comes down to my own expectations for attending a concert, because the front fourth of the sizable crowd seems to be more than willing to get involved, mosh and even crowd surf throughout the lengthy 40 minute set. But what my eyes behold is a guitarist, Harold Richardson, who spends that entire period glued to the floor and staring into his amp with his back to the audience; a vocalist, John Brannon, whose legend as an intimidating and intense vocalist with a piercing stare and belligerent attitude in no way is justified by his apathetic persona here; a bassist, Ron Sakowski, whose demeanour is in vein with his six-string colleague, albeit at least his gaze is firmly fixed on us; and a drummer who does a decent job, but certainly doesn't produce any redemption to his compatriots' excuse for a show.

Fair enough, I'll be the first to admit that Negative Approach do possess a repertoire of extremely solid hardcore punk songs, many of which are aired tonight. But the intrinsic character of these tracks - a full frontal discharge with ferociously barked vocals with little variation - isn't sufficient to carry the weight of a concert on its own. Whatever hype there was about Negative Approach as a riveting live act is thus swiftly demolished by what is a piss poor showing at worst, and merely an average hardcore show when it peaks. That so many people seem so empowered by it tonight probably owes more to their love of Negative Approach's recorded output than what they are watching now. If not, well... I must be missing something.

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