The Stradlins

support Stars Burn Stripes + Catwax Hair Machine
author PP date 14/11/09 venue Støberiet, Copenhagen, DEN

Another weekend night, another small scale punk rock night in Copenhagen. This time the venue was one of the most unusual ones I've encountered in Copenhagen, Støberiet Kulturhus right at the heart of Nørrebro, arranged by the people behind an awesome bar called Valhalla Rock Bar... which in itself isn't strange, but consider this: the venue entrance was a secured apartment building door, and behind it you would find a completely ordinary staircase that you'd find if you entered any regular apartment building, except the walls were spray painted with youth movement slogans and all sorts of colorful hippie drawings. But get this, the show took place in a spacious room on the top floor of the building, probably big enough for around 150 to 200 people! Apparently there's a smaller bar-venue in the floor below as well. To add to the weirdness of it all, entrance was 40DKK, but so was a pint of beer, which makes absolutely no sense at all. But lets get to the bands

Catwax Hair Machine

Tonight's first band was meant to be The State, but someone told me they canceled because they were afraid of getting shot (there's an ongoing gang conflict around this area). I think the real reason was illness, but joke or not, it shows how this area has developed in recent years. Anyway, the replacement band Catwax Hair Machine was one consisting of members not older than 15-16 based on the looks of their entire fanbase that they had brought along today (who rudely didn't stay for any of the other bands), and based on their appearance tonight, there's no way they've even reached ten shows just yet. Yet somehow they've garnered over 24,000 Myspace plays which is impressive for any starting underground band here in Denmark. Southern fried groove-rock is the shit these days, and when you add vocals with some grunge vibe to them, I guess lots of people are liking them. They were one of the most unlucky band's I've seen live, however, as to begin with their vocalist had lots of fever (38,5 degrees as far as I can remember), and was generally having trouble moving at all as a result. Then after the first song, the drummer smashed a hole in his kit: "can we borrow a drum from one of the bands", asked the vocalist, unfortunately Stars Burn Stripes' kit hadn't arrived so there was a few minutes of wait time where the band didn't really know what to do - I guess they haven't practiced jam-sessions for these situations just yet. Two songs later, the lead guitarist broke a string, so they had to borrow the Stars Burn Stripes guitar...oh man! I was half waiting for them to hit the bass on the amp next so their entire set would just fall apart. Oh well, at least the sound was great. All things considered though, their set gradually became better and better as it progressed. At first, they appeared boring because of the stand-still showmanship, but then the lack of movement started fitting to the music they were playing, especially the vocalist's dual-hand, leaning on the mic while wailing approach added a degree of hypnosis to their set. Though it could be just that he was too sick to move, oh well. A huge plus though was their sympathetically goofy guitarist on the left side of the stage who constantly interacted with their fans, fucking around and with a giant smile on, not taking the set seriously at all. That's exactly the kind of attitude that made this band much more interesting than their music lets you believe.

Stars Burn Stripes

Stars Burn Stripes can be considered regulars at the Copenhagen punk scene, as they're playing shows left and right, front and back, and have sold out their EP "We'll Be Right Back". A new one's coming this February, and as far as I could tell, at least one new song was played today, unless it was one of those old songs I don't actually own (send me a digital copy please!). I hope it was a new track though, because the riff had me going "well that's a really awesome riff" throughout the song. Tonight was also one of the first appearances for their new drummer Leo, who has apparently joined the band even though he's also in Kill The Rooster. But before we get any further, I should mention the hilarious opening five minutes of their show. In the best NOFX style, the band got on stage and vocalist/guitarist Lasse spent the first five minutes making fun of the rest of the band, the crowd, and everything in between before the band started playing their set. Example: telling the sound dude that guitarist Brian's mic should always be off during the songs because "we don't want to hear him sing", but it should be on in between songs so he can talk there. More humour followed later, but the two that stuck to my mind were "are these amps here just for fun because I can't hear anything from mine" and "My guitar feels warm" referring to Catwax Hair Machine borrowing his guitar earlier. The band were visibly drunk on stage (well, they DO play aggressive punk rock in the vein of NOFX), but not annoyingly so, because it meant Lasse had something to say the whole time. It also meant that the songs were somewhat more sloppily played than from what I remember seeing before, but hey, this is punk rock right? But I still came away from their set somewhat unimpressed. You can't fault the songs because they all have me nodding along and tapping my foot - even singing along in the best ones. But it really boils down to the same point I've mentioned all too many times in the past: you can't fully enjoy the set if you can fit 150 people in the room and you've got around 15-20 people scattered in it. Fair enough there weren't more than 50 people at any point, if even that, but I think that both us and the band could've gotten so much more out of the set had the Catwax Hair Machine fans stayed and watched the entire set. In short, the songs were great, the jokes were hilarious and the stage appearance was confident (every now and then the band tightened into small spaces as a trio, they should do that more often), but there weren't enough people to make it a particularly memorable occasion, sadly.

The Stradlins

Now if there were all too few people for Stars Burn Stripes, then it felt like I was the only person left at the venue half way through The Stradlins' set. Which made liking their set even more difficult regardless of how good of a band they actually might be. To start off with, they were a considerably more serious affair, avoiding any sort of jokes in between songs and favouring a "we're gonna play song X next" approach. But since they play a brand of melodic punk rock that reminds me quite a bit of the entirely awesome Finnish outfit The Dwyers, only in a somewhat cleaner version, cracking jokes every chance wouldn't fit the set at all. Performance-wise, they had a crazy bassist who was constantly engaged in thrashing around, but why was he facing either the amp or the side of the stage for the entire time instead of the...err...'crowd'. I guess watching an empty venue can be demotivating, so on some level I feel with the guy. However, if the entire band was as energetic as this guy, I bet they would've turned some heads and encouraged people to come stand a little closer. I say this because there were brief moments were his energy caught onto the other two, and these glimpses were fantastic. But as much as I enjoyed their vocal & guitar harmonies - melodic punk is my favorite genre after all - again I have to say that with an empty venue it's just that fucking hard to like a band, especially if you haven't even heard of them by name prior to the show. I hear they're recording their debut EP which should be done soon, so hopefully I'll be hearing from these guys very soon.

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Photo credit: Rene Jacobsen

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