DZ Deathrays

support Press Club
author AP date 18/09/19 venue Stengade, Copenhagen, DEN

As soon as I had listened to Press Club’s sophomore album “Wasted Energy” for the first time, there was no question that I was going to seize the first opportunity to watch the Australian group live. And I was in luck; the band had already been booked for the ninth birthday festivities of Copenhagen venue Stengade alongside their countrymen in DZ Deathrays — and to make it even better, the price of a ticket had been set to a ridiculous 10 DKK. And affordability coupled with the buzz around Press Club in particular has clearly had the desired impact; the place is very nearly at its maximum capacity when I arrive a good 20 minutes before the first set, and this bodes well in terms of the sweaty punk show that rumours have assured me both of these artists like to deliver.

All photos courtesy of Philip B. Hansen


Press Club

The room is indeed packed when this Melbourne-based quartet stride onto the stage, but as it tends to go at weekday gigs in Denmark, the audience seems quite timid at first, with an arc of emptiness gaping upfront even after vocalist Natalie Foster has encouraged everyone to take several steps forward. She and her cohorts spare no energy, however, as they kick things off with “Separate Houses” off the new record, with Foster in particular exerting herself with such vigor it has me worried she might grow dizzy before the show has even properly began. As the track enters its second verse, Foster decides to abandon the stage in order to get a closer look at the audience she has to entertain tonight, charming select ladies and gentlemen with lyrics sung straight into their faces and even tugging at their shirts in a clear bid to get some energy flowing on the floor as well. It takes a while, but when “Headwreck” off the group’s 2018 début album “Late Teens” eventually arrives, the nature of the evening transforms completely. With Foster in the middle of it all, the song drives most of the attendees into bouncing up and down, and it is not long before the air is as thick with enthusiasm as it is with humidity.

The remainder of the concert is thus rendered exactly the sort of basement punk rock show I had expected, offering only limited breaks to catch one’s breath when the music either stops or slows down somewhat. And in these moments, Foster manages to underline the fact that Press Club is far from just a frenetic live act — they are also passionate about the messages of their music, and have a penchant for translating their feelings into a more subdued expression, like when Foster closes her eyes and kneels down as she strains her voice for the chorus of “My Body’s Changing”, or when she arches over one of the monitors to sing “Obsessing” at us as though she were performing burlesque. Needless to say, the audience is loving every bit of it now, and when the anthemic closing track “Suburbia” arrives it draws a mass singalong. As its chorus, “I left my heart in the suburbs! Whoa-ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh, oh, oh, oh!”, resonates through the venue, with Foster in the thick of the moshpit again and her compatriots — guitarist Greg Rietwyk & bassist Rufio MacRae — ecstatically brandishing their instruments from the edge of the stage — it is thus difficult to imagine anyone feeling disappointed by the Press Club’s Danish live début. It is wild and rowdy, yet also full of intimacy, and it would not surprise me if bookers will be stumbling over one another to bring this Aussie quartet back to Denmark for a headlining show of their own in the near future.

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DZ Deathrays

The bar is almost unfairly high for the headliner then, and as I make my way downstairs again, I am honestly feeling pretty skeptical about the trio. Although DZ Deathrays are apparently quite renowned in their home country, it is not a band I have heard of before except in passing, and the term ‘disco-punk’ that is often used in reference to them does not exactly inspire any more confidence. But as I make my acquaintance with tracks like “Total Meltdown” off the group’s 2018 album “Bloody Lovely”, that term starts to feel stranger with every passing minute. What even is disco-punk? To me, the style of DZ Deathrays’ music feels like pretty standard garage rock, albeit with touches of indie, punk, grunge and even post-rock spliced in, often sounding like a rock’n’roll version of Basement — though not quite as melancholy.

Most of the songs are catchy — even anthemic — and seem to exert a grip on the audience much faster than was the case with Press Club’s material, with virtually all of the people that still remain here engaged in constant movement. Shane Parsons (rhythm guitar & lead vocals), Lachlan Ewbank (lead guitar & backing vocals) and Simon Ridley (drums & backing vocals) may be less obviously visual in their showmanship than Press Club, but there is nonetheless an intensity about their demeanour, and often an elegance about their music that holds my attention captive, with the likes of “Still No Change” and “Nightwalking” (the latter taken from the band’s 2014 album “Black Rat”) in particular managing to send a couple of shivers running down my spine. So while DZ Deathrays are a new experience for me, their gritty performance and penchant for songwriting nonetheless prove there are good reasons they hold an ARIA Music Award in their native home, and why Press Club’s Foster earlier insinuated that we were in for a treat.

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