Protomartyr

support Tyvek
author LL date 01/05/18 venue Hotel Cecil, Copenhagen, DEN

A weird thing happened with my lack of understanding for post-punk when the Detroit group Protomartyr's most recent album "Relatives In Descent" came out last year. The way most of the songs on it hit such a delicate and catchy balance through melodically busy guitar riffs and a completely apathetic vocal delivery struck a deeper chord with me. So since then, and even more so since I saw Protomartyr's solid Tiny Desk performance, I feel like I finally found a way into the genre that makes sense. Thus I was very happy to see them play at Loppen in November and increasingly more so when tonight's show at Hotel Cecil was announced, meaning that I would get to hear almost all of that solid album live once more.

Sadly none of our photographers were available tonight

Tyvek

The supporting band on this tour is also from Detroit and has a long-standing friendship with Protomartyr themselves, as Kevin Boyer who is fronting Tyvek was actually their original bassist. Their genre is more of an indie punk/garage rock blend and this along with their awkward but super likable way of being lowkey quirky on stage certainly spreads a good mood in the semi-filled room. Their stage presence works the best during the very fastest of their songs where the guitars thunder loudly and Boyer's square glasses slide to the tip of his nose as he presses his head slightly upwards against the microphone to avoid losing them while hectically singing his lyrics. Even though a song like the slower "Wayne County Roads" is very recognizable with its crowd-yelled chorus and guitar solo, it also feels too simple in its set-up, at least to my tastes. During this and other not-quite-so-fast moments of the set, Tyveks music feels a bit too heavy to lift off the ground. A few people near the front of the room get into it and are almost jumping energetically in place but most are watching more calmly with slight smiles of enjoyment on their faces. The band's garage rock energy and their sporadic jumping both do their part to get us warmed up tonight in good enough fashion but they never quite succeed in making a solid mark in their own right.

Protomartyr

Around their announced set time, a loud noise rock intro begins playing over the speakers of the venue, replacing the music that has otherwise been on and pulling the audience of the almost sold-out show in towards the stage. Steady green lights bathe the four-piece as they enter and begin with the mumblings of "My Children" that opens the set. It slowly picks up like many of their songs that build more and more momentum before changing into the more atmospheric "I Stare at Floors". From the get-go, the very melodic guitar riffs of their music take up attention while contrasting perfectly with the apathetic and deadpan delivery of Joe Casey's vocals. The core elements of their sound are cemented here, with the driving bass and the steadfast and super tight drumming laying a solid foundation. They play nine out of twelve new songs tonight and it's already in the third song, "Don't Go To Anacita", with its bastard attempt at melodic singing that the band really clicks into gear. From here on out, the show is one long enjoyable flow of songs, only broken two times by short talks by a smiling Casey who seems to be enjoying himself.

He sips various beverages throughout the show and often grabs the microphone from its stand to move about a bit on the front part of the stage, not being quite as immovable as he has been in previous times. Generally, the band is not doing anything too crazy when they play but their bassist's constant hypnotic grooving back and forth is infectious anyway, and their guitarist who seems to be one with his instrument moves all the time in accordance with the energy levels of his riffs. "Corpses in Regalia" slams in as one of my highlights of the set tonight, with Casey really grimacing while spitting contempt in lines like "Decent people don't live like that / Decent folk don't live that good" while the bass rides on almost playfully and the guitar bursts into tremolo bits. The incredibly atmospheric and recognizable "Windsor Hum" from the new album makes a great impression as well while the following "Up the Tower" really gets the heads around the venue moving in time to the repetitive aggression of the noisy chorus.

In general, there are many great songs in the set tonight that each contributes certain memorable elements. The great and oddly open-sounding riff in the culmination of "Male Plague" as Casey lightly croons "Everybody knows / it's gonna kill you / someday" along to the guitar is one. Other highlights include the beautiful gothically sounding song "3 Swallows" from the group's debut "No Passion All Technique", the melancholic "The Devil In His Youth" and "Pontiac 87" from "The Agent Intellect", and certainly the heavy "Half Sister" that gets a few cheers along the way and ends the set with most of the venue hypnotically banging their heads. Just a little less than an hour after they first went on stage, they're out again, ready for the encore when a fan from the back of the room yells out "We love you!" in a moment of quiet. This leads immediately to a humorous moment where Casey, at the same time scuffing and chuckling, responds with "No you don't. I got a lot of issues!". After this, the classic combo of "Why Does It Shake?" with the characteristic tempo change in the middle and "Scum, Rise!" end the evening in strong fashion.

After my epiphany concerning this band on their latest album, it's perhaps a lot easier than before for me to appreciate nuances in their music that I can easily see why others might find too static or flat. Here tonight, though, they prove themselves an incredibly tight live band as well and their dynamic is that of a really well-oiled machine. Every one of the four seems at once to be doing his separate thing that's worth focusing on while they also come together in what seems to me like a continuing stroke of compositional genius that makes for a rich sound. I'm just as happy with their show tonight as I had hoped I would be and I leave for home with a solid smile on my face just recalling the tightness of the evening even though a more energetic crowd could really have lifted the experience to more magical levels.

8

Setlist:

  • 1. My Children
  • 2. I Stare at Floors
  • 3. Don't Go to Anacita
  • 4. Corpses in Regalia
  • 5. You Always Win (new song)
  • 6. Windsor Hum
  • 7. Up the Tower
  • 8. Male Plague
  • 9. What the Wall Said
  • 10. The Devil in His Youth
  • 11. 3 Swallows
  • 12. A Private Understanding
  • 13. Here Is The Thing
  • 14. Pontiac 87
  • 15. Dope Cloud
  • 16. Half Sister

- Encore

  • 17. Why Does It Shake?
  • 18. Scum, Rise!

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