Greenleaf

support Fatso Jetson
author AP date 27/09/16 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

Finishing off my busiest month of gig attendance yet this year is a band I have been meaning to catch live ever since the release of their fifth studio album ”Trails & Passes” in 2014. Past opportunities to do so have been foregone, so it on this rather nondescript autumn evening that I head toward the cosiest of Copenhagen’s venues, not really knowing what sort of turnout to expect. Arriving there to the tune of DJ Rockadelika’s sharp choices of vinyl, the place is not buzzing, but there seems nonetheless to be a medium-sized crowd equally as eager as I to check out (or revisit) one or both of the evening’s two artists.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

Fatso Jetson

Dating back to 1994, Fatso Jetson is one of the less prominent representatives of the Palm Desert, CA scene popularly referred to as ‘desert rock’, despite often being credited as its founding father. Perhaps it was the relative accessibility of the band’s younger neighbours Kyuss and especially Queens of the Stone Age that earned those acts such a reputation among casual listeners as well, while the fusion of math, punk, stoner and surf rock that was and continues to be Fatso Jetson’s music ensures they are likelier to appeal to the smaller, nerdier segment of fans. The odd time signatures and discordant riffs are certainly a challenging listen, and with the four musicians looking almost disinterested in providing an actual performance during the first song, “Dream Homes”, you could be forgiven for harbouring notch of skepticism.

Luckily, it turns out that this is rather a case of warming up and easing into a groove than a symptom of a larger issue, and by the time “Magma” takes over with more traditional stoner vibes in the wake of “Royal Family” — another new song taken from the upcoming “Idle Hands” LP — misters Mario (vocals & guitar), Larry (bass) & Dino Von Lalli (lead guitar) as well as Tony Tornay (drums) have initiated their trip. Dino looks especially narcotised, his face expression betraying (the semblance of?) an illicit substance starting to kick in as he dreamily strums and sways away. Admittedly though, the brand new material, which comprises six out of the eleven tracks tonight and features the heaviest applications of the math-rock influence, never strikes a chord with me to the extent that those more straight-up stoner and desert rock picks à la “Salt Chunk Mary’s” do; the musical merits are undeniable, but their jagged nature does not feel that compatible with the live setting just yet.

Indeed, the majority of those serrated cuts has a tendency to sound pretty uniform, and to shun hooks altogether. And with Mario and Larry concentrating so much on getting them right, the visual aspect that exists during, say, the psyched out jam section in “Too Many Skulls” (played sans the saxophone soliloquy), is missing from stage right for extended periods of the concert. Nonetheless, there are sufficient tracks sandwiched amongst that catch the ear for Fatso Jetson to still be able to muster an enjoyable show — not least because it is so different to what one is accustomed to hearing from artists in this genre.

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Greenleaf

Thank to a shared backline, the switchover from Fatso Jetson to the evening’s headliner Greenleaf takes just ten minutes to complete — which those of us needing to work the following day obviously welcome. The crowd has thinned somewhat, but judging by the reactions to opening track “A Million Fireflies” off this year’s “Rise Above the Meadow” LP (reviewed here), our reduced numbers have little real effect. Of course it helps that Greenleaf’s brand of heavy heritage rock is quite straightforward, not to mention that the quartet is a much livelier proposition on stage than ‘Jetson, with vocalist Arvid Jonsson and guitarist Tommi Holappa frequently stealing the show with their face-offs and energetic rocking out. Multiple times throughout the concert, Holappa exerts himself to a degree that one fears he might lose his balance and topple over; it is the same sort of demeanour that made Dino from Fatso’ such a fixating character — but even more unhinged.

But although the brunt of the action is focused on these two gentlemen, one should not overlook the assured performance put in by bassist Johan Rockner nor drummer Sebastian ‘Kongo’ Olsson either. The two form the rock upon which Jonsson & Holappa’s antics rest, exuding a decent amount of enthusiasm without lapsing into the kind of maniacal spasming we see from Holappa in virtually every guitar solo, and in particular toward the extended conclusion of “Pilgrims” at the end of the ordinary set. On the flipside however, Jonsson sadly has trouble reaching the same high notes he nails on record in moodier picks like “Howl”, making his vocal performance flatter and markedly less interesting to the obvious detriment of those songs. I try to ignore his misses, but they are far too recurrent, far too pronounced to just brush aside.

Furthermore, with Greenleaf exercising their freedom to play just about as long as they like (the curfew is at 01:00 a.m., I think), it does become obvious that the band’s repertoire is scarcely extraordinary. Good, solid stoner rock, yes. But those moments that beg the audience to completely lose itself in the music are few and far in between, and with fourteen songs aired, the inevitable result is that gig contains a number of pretty lulling passages.

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Setlist:

  • 01. A Million Fireflies
  • 02. The Drum
  • 03. Funeral Pyre
  • 04. Howl
  • 05. Our Mother Ash
  • 06. Trails and Passes
  • 07. Ocean Deep
  • 08. Golden Throne
  • 09. Electric Ryder
  • 10. Stray Bullet Woman
  • 11. Tyrants Tongue
  • 12. Pilgrims

— Encore —

  • 13. Equators
  • 14. With Eyes Wide Open

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