Dredg

support Judgement Day + Solport4
author TL date 09/11/09 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

When I arrive at Loppen, Christiania, on a very cold and wet Monday evening, delayed by the omnipresent incompetence of the Danish train system, it was fair to say that I was not in the best of moods, and that it would take a few beers for me to settle down and open up to the show ahead of me. The show of Dredg plus support, a show the headliners of which I must admit to having very little prior knowledge of. In fact, I probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't because AP had recommended the alt/prog-rocker's recent album "The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion", an album which I haven't exactly been wearing out, but which nonetheless impressed upon me that missing an opportunity to see Dredg would be rather stupid. Before I could get to see them though, there was the matter of the support, one locally booked band, and one brought along by the headliners themselves.

Solport4

With a name like Solport4 (means Sun Gate 4 in Danish) I think it's fair to say that most early attendants didn't quite know what to expect of the first performance, other than that it would probably be something out of the ordinary. Quite right that was, as the four members of Solport4 take the stage in front of a backdrop upon which typical post-modern pseudo-artistic patterns and phrases was projected. And it's not like anyone seems to be any wiser, when the band launch into their music, the style of which I can only describe by referencing similarly Danish-singing bands like TV-2 or Loveshop. It's mellow, atmospheric stuff, carrying a strongly sensed ambition to stand out from the ordinary, especially in the rather peculiar singing of the frontman, at times seeming completely apathetic and at others suffering from brief outbursts of Mike Patton-esque aggressive attitude. To mirror these minor explosions, the music also sometimes include sections of noisy experimentation, but all in all, the impression I think most crowd members are getting is that this is just really really weird. Hence, the reception is also scarce, not to say non-existent, as people merely stand or sit and try to figure out what's going on with this band. They seem to be going for the kind of modern reflection that bands like the mentioned TV-2 are primarily known for, but I also get a similar vibe as that from newer, more mature U2 material. The defining difference is that while those two bands take their quirks and make them add up and make sense to the listener, Solport4 seem to be almost purposefully strange. That's not a decisively bad thing, because they are to be commended for trying something out of the ordinary, but it's not a good thing either, especially not on what they proclaim is their own favourite song, "Intercity", during which I struggle not to make a funny face. Truth of the matter is, I don't know what to make of this band, and I don't think many in attendance did either, but I can't say they bored me, so as far as a grade is concerned, consider them dead center.

5

Judgement Day

After that, me and my friends agreed to hope for something, shall we say 'more immediately impressive' and watched with curiosity as the stage was prepared for the arrival of Judgement Day. It's hard to say what our initial feelings were when we saw a cello and a violin being prepared instead of guitars and bass, but after pondering the idea for a couple of seconds, my friend Kasper turns to me and says: "This is the kind of thing that can only be either really, really bad, or really, really awesome". Turns out Kasper is dead on his money, as both cello, violin and a drum kit is manned by the band's three members and they launch into a performance so mind blowing I am quite sure it will be a long time before I ever witness anything to parallel it. Judgement Day play.. hmm.. epic, instrumental, black metal - completely devoid of both vocals and any additional instruments save for samples here and there, and fuck me sideways are they amazing. After fusing my jaw to the floor with a couple of opening tracks, the violinist Anton Patzner informs us that the band, which is completed by his brother Lewis on cello and Jon Bush on drums, is trying something new tonight, in playing their debut LP "Dark Opus" from start to finish. Not that this means anything to me, all I know is I've never seen anything remotely as impressive as the sight of these guys playing. Often have I heard instrumental post-rock bands defended with phrases such as "vocals would detract from this music rather than add to it", but never have I ever believed it for a second, till I heard this stuff. Often have I criticized three-pieces for having too few instruments to create a sufficiently interesting soundscape, but that was before I saw the cello/violin/drums combination. The interplay between the two string instruments is fantastic, the violin playing lead in so ear-catching a manner that there wouldn't be room for any singing, and the cello providing exhilarating... riffage? - the vibrations of which you can feel in your bones. Then you look at the speed and accuracy of the guys' fingers, and at the intensity with which they move about, seeming more into their stuff than the majority of rock'n'roll bands - and then a sample comes in with a grand choral addition and holy shit, if my jaw had rested any heavier on the floorboards, I'm sure they would've given in and let it drop down to the basement. This is stunning. This is genious. Even more so here, live, than on the band's (unfortunately slightly poorly produced) records. I would give this performance a ten, simply because of how rare it seems as I'm watching it, but as I watch the crowd's reception, which is still rather mild, chills run down my spine realizing just how good a show this could be in front of people who would fully embrace it. That's something I'm forced to leave room for, but seriously, if you truly appreciate music, you cannot afford to miss any Judgement Day appearances in your general area!

8

Dredg

By the time I remove myself from the merch table, now carrying both Judgement Day albums with me, I can't help but to wonder if Dredg can even compare after that display of talent. Thankfully though, as soon as they come on, it's clear that this is not something I need to worry about, as they launch into their material with a sound and a performance so dead on that you wouldn't have expected it, had Dredg not had the image they have. Everything sounds like clockwork, and it's hard not to be overcome with a feeling of privilege, listening to Gavin Hayes sing so well it's almost inhuman. As they proceed through their set, the crowd now showing that this is the band they came for, applauding, swaying and singing along, you get the impression that this is one of the few bands that put on a show where nothing is rushed, nothing is filler. As most songs open with some curious little sample, you feel that every track has a story to tell, each part of which is of equal importance. It might not be as immediate a spectacle as Judgement Day's rather unusual performance, but musically, the level of discipline, ambition and attention to detail that's on display here, is probably close to unparalleled.

Unfortunately, looking to the crowd again, I'm drawn from the heights of excitement, as even the increased response is still miles away from the appreciation I personally think is fitting for this kind of show. After all, Dredg, for all their ambition, is hardly an inaccessible band, and it's hard not to think that the atmosphere could be ten times as intense, were there a host of fans here who could sing along the choruses of each song, or who would be less restrained in their dancing or other forms of showing their appreciation. Here however, people are either too mature or just too cool, to really get into that spirit of common ecstasy which really signifies a truly memorable show. Instead, some coked up moron stumbles on stage behind Gavin, and while the singer is busy playing his slide guitar, the fool attempts to swallow the microphone. Despite the tool's swift removal by a bouncer, Gavin is visibly annoyed, though the band merely seamlessly extends the part they were playing while the frontman substitutes the mic, which apparently broke between the idiot's teeth. After the song is over, he angrily remarks "I guess it isn't a good show unless some crazy shit happens - thanks a lot junkie". On one hand, the anger isn't charming and does drip a slightl drop of negativity into the mood, but on the other hand, when Dredg go to lengths to put on as tight a show as they do, it's hard to fault them for being pissed when some lowlife decides to intrude for no reason at all. Fortunately for the audience, there's no further interruption in the proceedings, and the band continues playing in such a convincing manner it is almost frightening. And just as if they wanted to prove that they are in fact in total control of every single thing that goes on in their music, they play their last song while instruments are removed from the stage one by one, as their parts are no longer needed in the song - until even the drums have been removed, and, if memory serves, only two keyboards, and Gavin's voice are left to end things. Suffice to say there's no encore - not that Dredg needs one to emphasize that they've just given us the second half of a two-sided experience, so good that both halves could only have been better had they been performed in front of a more dedicated and engaged crowd.

8

Setlist:

1. Pariah

2. Stamp Of Origin - Ocean Meets Bay

3. Saviour

4. Gathering Pebbles

5. Mourning This Morning

6. Lightswitch

7. Down To The Cellar

8. Stamp Of Origin: Horizon

9. Ode To The Sun

10. Catch Without Arms

11. Bug Eyes

12. Same Ol' Road

13. Triangle

14. The Canyon Behind Her

15. DTD (Drum Take Down)

16. Cartoon Showroom

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