Pom Poko

support Hôy La
author LL date 01/04/19 venue Ideal Bar, Copenhagen, DEN

The Norwegian band Pom Poko has been a shining star on my radar since I saw them perform at the Rising stage of Roskilde Festival in 2017. Their energetic performance of math-heavy indie rock with great poppy melodies as well as a massive punk attitude, and inspirations from jazz and African music made a solid impression and I have been looking forward to seeing them again for some time. They did play Ideal Bar about a year ago on a date I could sadly not attend but this year, I'm making my way to the venue eager to experience their brilliant madness once more. They released their charming debut full-length "Birthday" about a month ago and that has only heightened my expectations. Furthermore, I've been meaning to check out the Danish support Hôy La live for some time, so naturally, I make my way to the venue early in the evening.

We had no photographer available but you can check out Vega's own gallery here

Hôy La

Hôy La is a one-woman project but live, tonight, she has a bassist with her who also provides some backing vocals and additional synth-playing. She was recently announced to play the Rising stage at this year's Roskilde Festival and has already been with Pom Poko for some shows in their homeland this year, so things are definitely happening for this artist. Her dark, synth-heavy music moves between minimalist, beat-heavy loops and more fleshed out soundscapes. Her somewhat deep and impactful voice is front and center of most compositions as she passionately performs songs of great depth, tackling difficult emotions. She tells us that we get to hear a lot of new tracks tonight as well as more familiar, older singles and songs from her new EP "X Heads". The subtle "Please" makes a good impression early on as she is slowly but steadily building up her universe for us.

Later, an unnamed track about being alone provides the highlight of the set for me. Her eyes are closed and her face is contorted as she exclaims sentences like "I want to feel your pain", making the dark tangible for us while the synths loop and rumble underneath. The song also features a small kind of avant-garde saxophone part, only adding more layers to her mainly electronic soundscapes. In general, her demeanor on stage is serious and heartfelt, with her floating hand movements and almost hurting facial expressions helping her music along with great effect. Later on, "Purple" gives me a kind of heavy Cocorosie vibe while the solid "Shame" finishes the intriguing set after about half an hour. Throughout, the audience is pulled in to her musical world and applaud and cheer with increasing excitement. Definitely a well-played set and an artist I will be looking forward to experiencing again at Roskilde Festival!

Pom Poko

The changeover happens quickly and soon the four-piece band enters, smiling and ready to blow our minds. They lead with the explosive first tracks from their new album, kicking off the fun with "Theme #1" followed by "My Blood" and "Follow the Lights" that all make great impressions, and gets the shy Monday-audience moving slightly. Their skill level as musicians is amazing and especially in a song like "Follow The Lights" that constantly feels like it's falling apart or tripping over itself, they somehow still manage to sound tight and coordinated, like they are attuned to each other as one single organism. Even while playing difficult sections, they look like they are having so much fun, and it's a great cocktail that quickly influences the audience to loosen up a bit. The raw and very rock'n'roll "Day Tripper" then appears, really rounding out the initial energy-burst and providing a highlight of the set with its fast beat, high-octane melodies, and fun little howls from vocalist Ragnhild Fangel in the chorus.

The middle of the set, then, takes the pace down a notch and makes room for more mellow tracks like the dreamy "Blue" and the more quirky indie track "Milk Trust". Fangel's singing is on point from the get-go, both for these more beautiful, melodic sections as well as the sharp and more punk parts that especially dominate in the beginning. Every lyric appears cutting and supercharged and Fangel is also constantly moving and dancing to the music, even though Ideal Bar's small stage doesn't give her a whole lot of space to do it on. It really solidifies the energy of the music and helps to get the potency of the instrumental parts across the boundary of the stage. The three musicians, who cover drums, bass, and guitar are busy with their jazzy riffs and rhythms but even then, they are also fully present, exchanging smiles and looks between each other as well as with the audience. In the spirit of their new record, they have decided to dedicate the fun, jumpy title track, "Birthday", to anyone at the show that might be celebrating that day, but since that isn't the case for anyone tonight, they end up picking a volunteer who decides that this is her 22nd birthday. This is typical of the band's interaction with the crowd: fun and light but still casually offbeat.

"Crazy Energy Night", their quote-unquote "dancing track" and also one of my favorite songs on the record, makes a huge impact towards the end of the set with its never-ending busy drums, eclectic shifts in speed, and fun exchanges between the guitar and vocals. The setlist mainly includes songs from their new album, but one notable exception is the funky "It's A Trap" from 2017 that continues the dancing among the audience that was sparked just before. Through a vibrant kind of drum solo, it segues into the noisy "If You Want Me 2 Stay" as the final song for the evening, which works really well for the purpose as it rumbles along with its repetitive lyrics and distorted guitars, ending the set on a high note. It has definitely been one of my favorite concerts so far this year, and I can only imagine it would be even more fun with a bigger audience on a more party-friendly day of the week.

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