All Them Witches

support Red Lama
author AP date 16/08/16 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

While other scenesters bicker and bitch about low turnouts, the psychedelic and stoner rock scene in Denmark continues to thrive. The year has been, and is still littered with concerts covering those genres more or less, and time after time such gigs either sell out or come very close. Tonight is no exception, with the little known(?) cult stoner rock four-piece All Them Witches drawing numbers that take me completely by surprise as I muscle my way into the front for a good vista of the opening act. There is a lot of people here, and in liaison with Loppen’s low ceiling and the humid late-summer air, the circumstances are thus ripe to deliver a sweltering evening.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

Red Lama

In the artist presentations for this year’s edition of Copenhagen Psych Fest, Red Lama was described as an experimental ‘moodrock’ band with a vision to paint colourful soundscapes through a live music experience. And that mantra is evidenced by my spinnings of their début album “Dreams are Free”; intriguing though the record is, listening to it on the stereo or worse is much less rewarding than the way the seven musicians unfold it live. Only then is its enormity revealed, the feverish bongo drumming, rattles of maracas and swathes of kaleidoscopic organ complementing the conventional instruments to create a genuinely transcendental, neo-folksy psychedelic rock séance.

The songs follow a fairly rigid pattern, intensifying with each passing minute until climaxing in an intense (and loud!) conglomeration of melody and percussion. The synergy that must exist between the members to generate such freely flowing, yet artfully considered music… But while the live renditions of Red Lama’s material impress and entrance, so, too, does the septet’s visual aesthetic follow suite. Awash in abstract, multicoloured projections, this is a band that understands the importance of really living the music, and reflecting its multitude of atmospheres with the appropriate persona. When a track is quiet and teasing, movement is minimal — when it erupts, the band pours physical emotion into its antics, with especially vocalist Johannes H. K. Linnet commanding a hypnotic stage presence with his possessed contortions and shamanic dancing.

Everything about Red Lama’s show tonight is transfixing: the rhythmic texture afforded by the two percussionists, Marius H. K. Linnet & Niklas S. Jørgensen, the cascades of melody sent swirling at us by guitarists Jonas H. Rahbek & Oliver A. Fick and organist Morten Kaas, the heavy presence of Frederik R. Hansen’s bass guitar, and the utter immersion of each musician’s self into the mind altering soundscape. It is one of those performances that has the crowd buzzing with excitement afterward, exclaiming ”I was not expecting that!” in gleeful unison; one that sets the bar terribly high for the evening’s headliner for whom this is the advent of their Danish gigging.

All Them Witches

Fortunately, the Nashville, TN quartet practices in territory that diverges somewhat from the psychedelia just witnessed. All Them Witches lean toward the stoner rock genre — something that bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr. makes abundantly clear with a series of harrowing powerchords at the onset of “Charles William” off the band’s 2013 LP “Lightning at the Door”. That none of the thick crowd has diminished so far is a resounding testimony to the cult following that the Americans reign over despite ranking far from what you might call the heavyweights of the genre, and to the fact that in the live setting, songs like “Dirt Preachers” just sound absolutely magnificent. ”It’s not too loud, is it?”, Parks rhetorically asks in the aftermath of the earthquake his thick gauge strings have just set loose, and then proceeds to confirm that it does not necessarily require seven musicians to construct huge, elaborate soundscapes.

All Them Witches’ music though, focuses on riffs and licks in best stoner fashion, with nigh endless, jammy intermezzos and touches of alt-country and blues slotted amongst as well. And just as Red Lama before them, Parks and his compatriots — guitarist Ben McLeod, drummer Robby Staebler and keyboardist Allan Van Cleave — are experts at personifying the music as it unfurls, subsiding into sullen stances when the mood calls for it and then throwing those proper arm’s length strikes on the fretboards when things become raucous. They are not as wildly entertaining nor as uniquely styled as their Danish opener, but the show staged by ‘Them Witches nonetheless bears the hallmark of a textbook stoner rock performance played out almost to perfection.

The heat inside the venue is stifling thanks to a strong turnout and the willingness of people to bundle up right in the musicians’ faces, but the general consensus seems to be that it makes no difference — or that it possibly even heightens the atmosphere as it puts the mind in a hazy, febrile state so receptive to this kind of music. You watch it, feel it, are consumed by it. And although the concert was unfairly hyped by certain persons to be some kind of life-changing experience rather than the stone solid lesson in the genre that better describes it, the amount of tickets sold and the euphoria of the audience should make a strong case for a promoter to bring ‘Them Witches back around these parts the next time that they opt to journey across the Atlantic pond as well.

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