Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN - 10/12
author TL date 25/09/12 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN
This is a busy week for me. Busy in the best way that is, because I'm seeing three shows in three days, all of them with some properly buzz-worthy bands (and actually I'm considering a fourth show on Saturday, but you can read more on that later if I decide to go). Wednesday it is We Were Promised Jetpacks and Thursday it is the mainstream-breaking fun. but before I make it to any of those, this Tuesday night will be spent in the company of Japandroids, whose brilliant sophomore album "Celebration Rock" was released earlier this year, and who have since been talked about as contenders to emerge on various Album Of The Year lists. Tonight however, a sizeable gathering of hip young Copenhageners have come together not to listen to the band on album, but to find out what it sounds like live, which they'll have a chance to do right after the brought along support band PAWS.
PAWS are a Scottish trio whose debut album "Cokefloat" is only a few days away from coming out on Fat Cat records, and they are excited to be playing Denmark for the first time, because as they tell us, they used to be called Copenhagen Hope. Their music is a brand of fast-paced indie/punk, and although I often feel like the are few Danish fans in the overlap between these two genres, the ones there are should probably connect with PAWS rather easily. Still, the early crowd watches rather apprehensively, as PAWS power through one song after the other at high speeds. Their stuff is simply structured, with punk-style vocals being half-sung half yelled/spoken over straight forward four chord guitar progressions and clearly these guys mean to win people over mostly with their energy and between song charm. I like that while they shy away from being traditional entertainers, they stick to their microphones when sharing light hearted conversations on stage, thus making the audience feel like they're in on the little jokes going back and forth.
Their music however, sounds rather samey, due to the repetition of a rather minimalistic song writing formula, and the show is not helped by the fact that the lighting remains an unchanging gloomy dim for its entire length. Things do live up when the band hits their bridges and outro after their second choruses, and their guitarist/singer leaves his microphone to strike some rocking poses and let loose with slightly wilder guitar playing. Otherwise, it is actually the calmer, more noticeably developing songs that catch my ear the most tonight, but whether it's just because they stick out, or if it's because PAWS are onto something there, it's hard to tell judging from this first encounter with them.
When it becomes time for Japandroids to take the stage singer/guitarist Brian King immediately steps up to the microphone and starts to casually introduce himself, his bandmate singer/drummer David Prowse and their band. Instead quickly to play a song however, he goes on about where they're from and how their tour has been going and what's going on with them, starting to strum lingering chords on occassion as Prowse gets a drum beat going, and with both his talking, the guitar noise and the rhythms combining for more and more intensity, you quickly get the feeling that one hell of a show is coming.
As it turns out however, what follows as soon as the band does kick into a song, must rightfully be called sort of a mixed ride through their set. The first song they play is an old one, and standing near the back, it becomes clear that people here are no nearly as familiar with the pre-"Celebration Rock" songs as they are with that album, when the crowd does not really get going until the band proceeds to air "Fire's Highway" and "Adrenaline Nightshift". It is to become symptomatic for the night that the majority of the audience move enthusiastically to the sound of these newer songs, and sing along to the catchy oh-oh parts as well, while about half of them settle down with a more cautious attitude whenever older songs are played.
This is no fault of Japandroids' however, because they're clearly playing for the people that want to party, bringing as much movement and intensity of their own as they can muster at this late stage in their tour. King takes every opportunity between songs to share his genuine excitement for playing and touring with the crowd, and is very careful to convene that this show means no less to him than any other, exclaiming at one point that he "did not come all this way to have an unmemorable show! We are going to get rowdy and you are going to get rowdy with us!". It's hard then, to not get caught up in his enthusiasm, as he plays his guitar according to the The Who school of thought, bringing his strumming hand round in wide arcs, emphasising chords with well timed jumps and now and then holding his instrument up for all to see.
For as long as you can stay unenchanted by his behaviour, it's possible to stay back, noticing the ups and downs of the show's intensity, the slightly uneven mix that at times handicaps the layers of guitar chords, and the fact that halfway through a long show of about an hour and twenty minutes, King is almost entirely unable to sing the vocal melodies as high and clear as they should been. Staying this calm however, gets harder and harder as the show goes on, so eventually I jump up front to join the fray in the howling of the refrains from "The House That Heaven Built", "Continuous Thunder" and "Young Hearts Spark Fire", and from up here, the show feels like the glorious, sweaty fun that you would feel could go on forever if it wasn't robbing you entirely of your breath as you bounce off the people next to you.
It's far from a perfect show then, but somehow the imperfection feels like exactly that kind of imperfection that belongs at a proper, unhinged rock'n'roll show. It's more about energy and enthusiasm and about losing it a little, than it is about sitting back and appreciating the nuances of sentimentality that Japandroids bring to bear on record. As much is perfectly clear when Japandroids explain that they will end their set with no encore, instead opting to play "the best song of their set" - which predictably turns out to be their spirited cover of The Gun Club's "For The Love Of Ivy" - a song that sat oddly on their album, yet fits perfectly as the final discharge of frantic music and movement on a night that should have been a dull, wet school night, rather than a sweaty, packed out rock'n'roll romp in Pumpehuset.