Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
Sick Of It AllPrevious Next
support Mörbultad + Fatal Fury
author PP date 27/10/16 venue Babel, Malmö, SWE
My first time at Babel, a refurbished church turned into a club specializing in mostly hip hop and electronic music events. Tonight is considerably different with New York Hardcore legends Sick Of It All playing their first ever Malmö show at the venue. It's a small club that has an eerily similar interior setup to Mejeriet in Lund, which also houses three separate levels of elevation in front of the stage with a small dance floor at the bottom. The bar prices aren't too bad on Swedish standards with a large 0.5L Budvar going for around 50 DKK, but all in all the venue is a bit of a strange choice for concerts compared to the next door venue KB (Kulturbolaget Malmö).
Opening tonight's festivities is an unknown Copenhagen hardcore outfit, Fatal Fury. With the extended travel time to Malmö and dinner arrangements prior to the concert, I arrive slightly delayed and only catch about half of their set. "It's nice to play to more than twenty people", their vocalist announces, but in reality, there isn't much more than that at the venue just yet. The floor is a wide open space and most people are either hanging by the bar or up at the elevated balcony-like levels. That doesn't seem to bother the band who deliver a fiery set of hardcore that ranges between Trapped Under Ice style stomp-and-mosh variety, and more interestingly, semi-rapped yells and barks that bring to mind Deez Nuts. The bouncy style of the latter is definitely the one that leaves a better memory from Fatal Fury's otherwise decent, but fairly generic hardcore set.
Mörbultad, which is bruised translated into Swedish, are up next. Stylistically, their name makes sense given the high-octane nature of their fierce hardcore punk that carries a similar sense of intensity and groove as Night Fever do here in Copenhagen. Performance wise, the same applies: singer Nicklas Malmquist more often than not leads the charge from pit side, actively taking part in circle pits, whilst the remaining band members bounce energetically up and down all set long on stage. But what a hilarious and charming contrast there is when they stop playing and talk to the crowd. All the intensity and fierce delivery of their music is replaced by a sense of humbleness from playing with Sick Of It All, and charming interaction with the crowd, that has grown in size significantly at this point. For starters, Malmquist spends about every second song gazing at the huge Sick Of It All - 30 Years banner behind him, and can't stop talking about it. "Wow... do you even understand this? Sick Of It All!". "Would you just look at that ", he points at the banner, and shakes his head seemingly in disbelief over whom they are supporting, "I think we'll have to end the band tomorrow, there's nothing bigger than this, we might as well call it quits.". Don't think I've ever seen such fan worship of a band on stage before, but he pulls it off gracefully and reminds us that yes, we are truly here with legends tonight.
The casual and down to earth attitude disarms most of the crowd almost instantly, and so when he climbs on the balcony and awkwardly asks people to gather because it's been his dream to do a stage dive, a bunch of people happily oblige despite the glaring empty space on the pit floor at this point. Off he goes and there isn't even a song going on right now. Funny stuff - just like when the band plays a translated-into-Swedish cover of H2O's "What Happened?" adjusted into a slightly heavier and barked version to suit their hardcore punk style better. All of this helps alleviate the fact that musically, Mörbultad doesn't compare too well to genre heavyweights. They are tight and fast, but not exactly memorable. Still, the energetic performance with the singer constantly in the pit contrasted with the sweetheart interaction in between songs leaves behind an altogether positive impression. Attitude makes all the difference in the world.
"Don't be shy, there's plenty of room!", Lou Keller shouts repeatedly throughout the set to let people know that the place is not as packed as it seems if you are just coming in from the door. The awkward room design means there's a huge bottleneck just by the bar where you can't see the rest of the room, so the effect is that a lot of people get 'stuck' on one side far away thinking there's no room further down. Fortunately, Keller is persistent in insisting people come on in, and we're set for what turns out to be total chaos in the crowd as the band's high-energy onslaught of New York Hardcore descends upon us. "Take The Night Off" opens the night with its iconic "Let's celebrate that we don't give a fuck!" chants, followed by "Injustice System" and "Good Looking Out" from 1989 and 1997, respectively. The band is thus making it abundantly clear from the get-go that this is a celebration of their entire 30 years long career as a band; the entire discography will be evenly represented on the setlist. Excellent news for old school Sick Of It All fans.
"Let's keep the energy going!", Keller shouts, right after the venue has drowned in crowd surfers and intense pit energy on the dance floor. "Don't be so shy, come closer, this is our party and you're going to miss it", he continues, drawing more and more people into the dancefloor area from the bar side. It's a masterful move because now we're enough people in the venue to have a classic hardcore show like how I imagine it was like during the late 80s in the New York basements. That's exactly what transpires next both onstage and in the crowd. Lou Keller is looking like he's 27 years old constantly bouncing up and down, and his brother Pete Koller on guitar is likewise jacked up, constantly spinning, jumping around, and exchanging positions with bassist Craig Setari, who is the calmest of the bunch with his occasional scissor kick jumps. The band is simply in constant movement on stage, which rubs off on the crowd as well. "Death Or Jail" sounds fantastic, and when Keller shouts at us, "Just look around.... you ready!?", sporting a huge smile, the venue morphs into insanity as the band continue with "Step Down". Crowd surfers go amok, the circle pits speed up, and there's no escaping from bruises if you're standing anywhere near the front. It's a spectacle to watch live even from the back rows, let me tell you that much, especially when the gang chant alongs complete the song during its awesome ending. It says a lot there's even a long haired blonde girl being thrown all over the place while stage diving (you go girl!), which is (regrettably) still a rarity at hardcore shows, but it goes a long way in explaining what kind of a show we have on display here tonight.
"We haven't held real jobs since 1997, and that's thanks to all of you. This is for all of you, it's called Sanctuaryyyyyy!", Keller screams, and off we go again. There is constant interaction in between the songs, and a triumphant message of positivity and community feeling emanating from the stage. When combined with an awesome setlist that really highlights the best parts of Sick Of It All's discography and the variety found within it between metal, punk, and hardcore, the end result is a fantastic atmosphere that leaves a lasting memory. "Uprising Nation" sounds fantastic, "Scratch The Surface" sees a wall of death orchestrated by Keller, and prior to "Machete", he points out that "the problem with playing fast is that all you young guys want to do is that Hatebreed kung fu breakdown shit so you don't know how to dance to it, and the old guys who know how to dance to hardcore, are too old to dance at all!". Spot on description from a guy that's seen it all. "This is the end.... this is the big finish! Did you guys have a good time with Sick Of It All? Because we will keep coming back as long as you keep coming back... 30 years ....30 fucking years", he lets us know, before "World Full Of Hate" has us all singing "Woo-ooh-ooh...Oi Oi Oi" and "Built To Last" lays the venue down in waste. An altogether fantastic performance that suffered only from the awkward venue design, one that certainly would've gone down in history books if it were a Copenhagen club show.