Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
Touché AmoréPrevious Next
support Angel Du$t + Swain
author MIN date 26/01/17 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN
One thing is having American melodic hardcore band Touché Amoré visiting town, another is having them come by with such excellent support bands as they do tonight. Punk rock outfit Angel Du$t’s sophomore record ”Rock the Fuck On Forever” was one of our highest rated album’s last year, and Dutch indie rock/punk band Swain’s latest outing, ”The Long Dark Blue”, also received its fair share of praise. Add to this the fact that Touché Amoré’s new album ”Stage Four” is an amazingly heartwrenching suckerpunch and it becomes kind of needless to say that if you’re a fan of any kind of punk or emotional hardcore, Pumpehuset’s small stage is the place to be tonight.
You’ve got to love the underground community of Copenhagen on a night like this: As tonight’s opening band Swain takes the stage, there’s actually a lot of people present already. It doesn’t seem like a lot of attendees know the band’s material, so I suppose that they’ve come to experience something new, which I personally think is a delight to see. But enough about that, on to Swain’s actual performance: Kicking off with two songs off their new album, “Half Asleep / Half Awake” and “Punk-Rock Messed You Up, Kid!”, Swain set things up for a rather energetic show, but sadly I get the feeling that the band sounds a little hollow. Each musician plays their part well, but it’s just not as tight as one could’ve hoped for. However, as soon as the band perform some of their earlier material, I can’t help but think that this is how the band’s supposed to sound in a live setting. Maybe a few more shows on the tour will give them the extra confidence needed for their new material to be as engaging.
After a few songs, the very charismatic frontman Noam Cohen talks about equality and greets us all in a good manner, giving the show a more personal vibe before they proceed. All in all Swain’s show is a great display where they range between the aforementioned punk songs, the atmospheric and mesmerizing “Never Clean My Room”, the hazy “Strange Way Down” and the catchy “Seen a Good Man (In a Bad Mood)”. Throughout the set, the band’s sound sends your thoughts far and wide, ranging between contemporary fellow punk band Drug Church and such grunge icons as Soundgarden (the reverberation on the band’s guitar is highly reminiscent of that on the “Superunknown” album). Ultimately, Swain did a good job where they engaged a lot of people and played some great songs, but some of their material needs to be tightened up, and the overall vocal performances delivered tonight leave much to be desired.
Just before Angel Du$t takes the stage, a wide gap opens up in front it. As soon as the band starts playing, arms start flailing and five to ten people crash into each other like you only see it in the karate mosh pits in America. I’ll get this out of the way fast and say that I’m no fan of this kind of moshing at all. As witnessed the last time American hardcore band Code Orange visited Copenhagen, people get seriously hurt, and this is not why I go to see a show. Luckily, no one is injured, and the people that decide to participate in the moshing look like they’re having a good time. No damage done – moving on.
As for the band’s actual prowess, you can’t say that they aren’t talented. There’s a reason for “Rock the Fuck On Forever” getting the acclaim it’s received: The pit-inviting groove of “Toxic Boombox”, the beautiful, swooning harmonies of “Bad Thing”, and the outlaw country vibes of the catchy “Headstone” and “Stay”. All of this combined with the thick, stoner-like sound the guitar and bass create make for some extraordinary tracks, but unfortunately not all of these delightful elements are properly showcased due to the venue’s flawed sound. The guitarist on stage left is playing all the tiny details that make the songs stand apart so often, but he’s almost inaudible in the mix. If I hadn’t known the details were there before going to the show, I probably wouldn’t have noticed them. Furthermore, frontman Justice Tripp’s vocals don’t come clear across the room either, too often drowning.
But it’s not like Tripp and co. aren’t trying their best. The guy is constantly in the audience’s face, inviting them to sing along and generally just moving around a lot – just how a regular hardcore show should be. On stage right we have the guitarist and bassist often kick-jumping synchronically, so it’s not like there isn’t a lot going on during the concert. If this show had been in a tiny basement with better sound, Angel Du$t’s set would’ve been a lot better. However, it isn’t any better, and therefore I can’t rate it any higher than I do. Let’s hope for a swift return!
Bathed in red and purple light, the soft opening chords to “Flowers and You” feel warm and embracing right until the song throttles into a high-paced sing-along with most of the crowd yelling the opening words to frontman Jeremy Bolm’s emotional thoughts on his mother’s passing and the hard times that followed. Right from the get-go the audience are engaged and forcing themselves to the edge of the stage to have a chance at getting the microphone from Bolm who’s enthusiastically passing it on to those most eager. Songs like “~” and ”New Halloween” follow in the same manner, and it’s nice to hear especially the newer songs’ details flourish in the more fleshed-out song-writing that the band’s started doing the last few years. Bolm’s impressively coarse and piercing vocals cut right through all the instruments, and it’s thus easier for the crowd to follow his lead.
Unfortunately, after a few songs it feels like the bass gets turned up too loud, and it literally rumbles over many of the older and faster tracks from the band’s career. They’re short tracks with less focus on choruses and are therefore harder to point out when you can’t hear the little things that you notice on record. However, the breaks and lines in songs like “Amends”, “Honest Sleep” and “DNA” are still impeccable, and what could’ve been an issue for a lesser band with more generic songs becomes irrelevant – especially due to the crowd’s admirable connection with Jeremy Bolm up front, creating a constantly flowing dynamic that keeps the set alive. At one point during the set, Bolm pauses for a little while to tell the crowd how much he appreciates us all for being present tonight, and when he afterwards tells us that people in Europe are way better at digging into new releases by bands (read: better and more patient fans), he’s easily won us over. He seems humble and genuine in both charisma and words, which is a parallel to his lyrics, but in stark contrast to his vocal delivery. Honestly, it’s pretty hard not to be smitten by the guy.
The show reaches a definite climax when the band airs both “Palm Reader”, “Harbor”, “Rapture”, “Just Exist” and “Water Damage”, and as they finish the main set off after an hour, it feels as if time flew by like nothing. They return for what turns out to be only one song, but it’s a bold and moving piece they’ve picked. The post-rockish “Non Fiction” off the band’s excellent third LP ”Is Survived By” subtly builds up to a huge catharsis where every member shines and even Bolm has picked up a guitar to add that extra punch in the soundscape. I almost want to quote the lyrics to the entire song, but instead I’ll leave you with the last few lines. Knowing what’s happened in Jeremy’s life since the song was released four years ago, its impact suddenly feels much more poignant and crucial, and I can’t help but feel that maybe that’s why the band chose to play it as their final song on this tour:
”Every love can’t always stay // And the dead will soon decay // With time we’ll all be gone // But how you lived can live on”