Jex Thoth

support Human State
author AP date 27/09/14 venue KB18, Copenhagen, DEN

We as reviewers often face tough choices, especially with bookers as prolific as those currently ensuring Danish - particularly Copenhagen based - connoisseurs of rock music can enjoy quality live music almost every night pulling the reins. Tonight, it was a painful choice between the noisy post-hardcore and heavy rock of KEN mode & Hark at Spillestedet Stengade, or a serving of psychedelic doom, courtesy of Jex Thoth here at KB18; however, given my colleague Ellis 'EW' Woolley's enthusiasm about the latter, and his unwavering credibility when it comes to recommendations, it was also this option that spoke loudest to me. And so, in the company of some 80 fellow concert goers, it was in the murky confines of this meat packing district venue that I would spend the late hours of this Saturday evening.

Human State

As I arrive, the manager of the joint Ulrik Korte Hansen suggests might be some last grasp effort to bring in a support band, and listening to the band's unmistakably Danish approach to alternative/indie rock which would serve better as the warm-up to a Dance With Dirt concert, this seems the likeliest scenario. Few are showing much interest in it, and while this can easily be forgiven taking the nature of tonight's headliner into account, it's a shame because Human State are a solid, well gelled outfit (and, judging by the 2,200 likes on their Facebook page, at least moderately popular in some circles), injecting even a dose of the unique to their sound with a saxophone wielded by Tobias Brandt. His histrionics are a constant source of allure, and in lieu with the impressive pipes of guitarist/vocalist Zachary Ray, Human State take their music to places where it's hard to deny their potential - even in conditions as dismal as these. I make note of two songs in particular, the names of which escape me, as highlights; the former a slow and moody piece not unlike the late Cleo Malone, the latter an energetic banger reminiscent of the aforementioned Dance With Dirt in which the cool vocal fills by bassist Alex Panduro create an infectious call-and-response effect. But under the loom (or perhaps lack thereof) of an almost non-existent audience, it's easy to see Human State aren't expending all they have, so interesting as they may be musically, their live performance tonight is not one that will go down in history as particularly exhilarating.

6

Jex Thoth

The number of people in the venue has grown significantly by the time Jex Thoth take the stage, and despite the fact that this is probably one of the less attended shows on their tour, the band show remarkable professionalism in putting on the absolute best show they possibly can. In a daring move, they begin the proceedings with a cover of psych-folk artist Bobb Trimble's "When the Raven Calls", which nonetheless blends seamlessly into the band's own material, of which we are given eight samples during the ordinary set. Positioned in a crescent circling their beguiling frontwoman Jessica Bowen from whose name the band's moniker is derived, and with somber expressions on their faces, guitarist Jason Hartman, bassist Matt Jacobs, drummer Nick Johnson and keyboard/samples guru Clay 'Zodiac' Ruby show all the characteristics of seasoned artists, barely moving yet in doing so casting the spotlight, deservedly, on the boundless charisma of Bowen.

She, as the performance, is full of mystique, her slow, deliberate movements and occasional eruptions of energy providing a constant point of fixation; whether she's extending her cape like wings at us, drawing lines of smoke and scent in the air with thick incense sticks or stomping the ground maniacally, there is little negative to say about this lady for whom music and the performance of it sits so close to heart she cannot abstain from expressing herself with undying passion. Elsewhere, the presence of various occult objects and live candle holders on amps and tables together with the dim, atmospheric lighting, sends us all into dreamland as one after another slab of riffs and psychedelic jams unfolds; so deep is our trance that hardly a soul notices Bowen suddenly behind the audience, worshipping some unseen demon amidst the darkness with another incense stick in her hand, or the passing of the hugely evocative "Equinox Suite: The Damned and Divine" as the last song of the evening. We stand in awe as the band exits through our ranks, shaking hands and sharing hugs with some of us, without as much as a word uttered now or during the concert.

Jex Thoth do return when the calls for an encore refuse to quiet, playing the duo "Warrior Woman" and "Son of Yule" to thunderous approval, and once this last fix has filled our ears and inscribed itself in my memory, I realise I've been in a kind of daze for the past hour, unable or unwilling to direct my eyes elsewhere than on the mesmerising performance the band has just delivered. So I must thank Mr. Woolley once again for his insistence on checking this show out.

Setlist:

  • When the Raven Calls (Bobb Trimble cover)
  • The Banishment
  • The Places You Walk
  • Luna Moth Speaks
  • Raven Nor the Spirit
  • Keep Your Weeds
  • Separated at Birth
  • Ehjä
  • Equinox Suite: The Damned and Divine

--Encore--

  • Warrior Woman
  • Son of Yule

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