Dry The River

support Bjergtaget
author TL date 04/04/15 venue Stengade, Copenhagen, DEN

The British chamber rock/post-folk group Dry The River have lately been touring off the back of their sophomore album "Alarms In The Heart" from last year, and arriving in Denmark for at show at Stengade, the band figured to capitalise on the goodwill previously earned playing at Roskilde Festival and BETA when they were touring after their stellar debut "Shallow Bed". And indeed, reports come in over the course of the afternoon that the concert has sold out, and though we are not met with a queue or a crowd when we arrive, Stengade gradually turns from deserted to packed over the course of the support set:

Photos from the night taken by HES


Dry The River has been blessed with above average support lately, having Dancing Years warm up for them in Malmö and The Migrant in Aarhus, and tonight the Copenhageners are treated to the upcoming local group Bjergtaget, who plays singer-songwriter folk-pop in our native tongue. The band is fronted by Stephan Krabsen, who sings and plays acoustic guitar while seated at centre stage, while Thor Boding and Mads Thorbjørn Jensen provide subtle bass and percussion and Simone Pedersen sings harmonies. In terms of contemporary references the Danish can think of them as something in the middle between Ulige Numre, Peter Sommer and The Migrant, with a retro feel in there, as if Woodstock-type songwriter-poets have been their main source of inspiration.

Krabsen sings well, taking his voice from hazy, muttered low, over more sharp, expressive full voice and up to occasional rowdy shouts, and his textured sound is contrasted well with airy harmonies from Boding and crystal clear notes from Pedersen, making it an asset in itself that the band can draw on three part harmonies from such different voices. The songs are mainly quiet and contemplative, with tiny touches of psych/prog surfacing particularly when the guitar/bass interplay is in focus, yet their structures are tight, deftly maintaining the listeners' attention from quiet beginning and up to the hooks and choruses. The crowd remains silent and attentive, for the most part, which speaks of the bands quality, and polite applause is awarded between tracks.

All in all, it's a skillful support performance that intrigued an unfamiliar audience without necessarily blowing anyone away. Judging from the band's calm confidence on stage, and from the clever ways their songs are already put together, it's not unlikely that they will catch on with at minimum a niche audience in these parts.


Dry The River

By eleven o'clock, Stengade is packed wall to wall with fans of all ages anxiously anticipating the beginning of Dry The River, who come on and start directly with "Alarms In The Heart" and "New Ceremony". The mix is loud, and frontman Peter Liddle's high, clear singing rings against the backdrop of his and Matthew Taylor's guitars. Bassist Scott Miller is singing his harmonies, but these are nowhere to be heard in the mix and to begin with the band looks a bit rigid on stage. As the truly phenomenal "Gethsemane" is aired though, sections of the crowd can be heard chanting the verse with gleeful excitement: "It started with the moon that turned an inexpensive room into Saint Peters.." they sing, and their excitement seems to rub off on the band, with Liddle gradually smiling more and Miller starting to throw his bass around like previous concert guests of the band's will be used to.

It turns out that the group woke up this morning to find out the windows in their van had been shattered, knocking their itinerary off course and making the day a lot more stressful for them than anticipated, which is offered as an explanation of them seeming a bit distracted to begin with. With the loosening up gradually though, the early set continues with "Family" and "Lion's Den", both some of the bigger songs from the otherwise mainly subtle "Shallow Bed", and with the mix staying loud it becomes this side of the band that's in focus today. As a consequence, the crashing climaxes songs like these arrive at, with Liddle howling lines like "Loveeeeeeer! Remember!", become the most impactful as the volume of the sound help these come out even more forceful.

Regrettably the extra loudness comes at the cost of the band's main strength, namely the precision and organicness that characterises their sound when they allow things to be most frail. In tracks like "Bible Belt" and "History Book", it's particularly suboptimal when Miller's vocals start to drown out as soon as more than one guitar is being played, and while the problem has less impact on newer tracks like "Rollerskate" and "Everlasting Light", which both drive ahead at more persistent tempi, even Liddle's voice is reduced to notes that, despite ringing clearly enough, lose the clearness of the lyrics in the clutter of treble among the guitars and the keys.

Still the set proceeds to grow quite long considering the band only has two albums out, yet with songs like "Vessel" and the hyper-romantic "No Rest" rounding off the regular set, the crowd is hardly going restless, and those who can approximate the ridiculously high notes, sing along like lives depended on it: "I loved you in the beeeest way possible!", and leaving the stage after such a high, it's no surprise that the applause goes on as we pass midnight, summoning the group back to the stage. They continue their tradition of playing "Shaker Hymns" unplugged in the middle of the crowd, and one hopes they never grow tired of this gimmick, because here we get to hear particularly how good Liddle, Miller and Taylor's combined harmonies can sound when there's not too much noise in the way.

Returning to the stage, "Weights & Measures" becomes the final chapter of the show, taking the crowd to a final soar with the unforgetable, heartbroken chorus of: "I was prepared to love you, never expect, anything of you". This rounds of a long-ish performance from the band, who granted have the songs to justify it, and who had great impact when things were meant to be booming loud - yet knowing what they're capable of, it's a knock on the show that it took Dry The River a bit to warm up to the audience, and more so that the levels were never adjusted to give the guitars and the backing vocals an even footing, which denied us the experience of the sheer perfection the band can sound like when the details are just right. That said, the band's unique talent was still clearly on display, and we got to where we wanted them to take us fairly often, only not quite as consistently as they have the material and the abilities to ensure on their best days.


  • 1. Alarms In The Heart
  • 2. New Ceremony
  • 3. Hidden Hand
  • 4. Gethsemane
  • 5. Family
  • 6. Lion's Den
  • 7. It Was Love That Laid Us Low
  • 8. Everlasting Light
  • 9. Rollerskate
  • 10. Bible Belt
  • 11. History Book
  • 12. Med School
  • 13. Vessel
  • 14. Hope Diamond
  • 15. No Rest


  • 16. Shaker Hymns (unplugged in the middle of the crowd)
  • 17. Weights And Measures

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