Off With Their Heads

support Wayl
author AP date 18/04/15 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN

I’d be lying to claim I’d not been looking forward to this mild April Saturday with some enthusiasm, what with the evening’s headliners Off With Their Heads ranking among my absolute favourites within the punk rock genre. There’s something utterly revitalising about their unusual juxtaposition of uplifting, energetic instrumentation and dark, anguished lyrics - the perfect opportunity for rocking and singing one’s heart out fuelled by a couple of Brooklyn East India Pale Ales BETA now stocks on tap. From behind the DJ decks, it delights me to see that I am far from a rare case in feeling this way about the Minneapolis, MN based quartet, as the venue is positively bustling by the time tonight’s special guests take to the stage.

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen

Wayl

Copenhagen punk rock trio Wayl (formerly known as What Are You Like) are no strangers to this webzine, yet it still strikes me as odd that this is only the second time I’ll be watching them live. Last year they played at UnderWerket in Valby in support of Authority Zero, mustering a very decent, if a little unspectacular performance I personally would have nudged at least one full grade higher had it been my duty to review that occasion. As such, it is pleasure to see the three musicians - bassist/vocalist Peter Oliver Espersen, guitarist/vocalist Christian Hjort Jakobsen and drummer Sonni Sander - have been making good progress, both in terms of their song writing and the confidence of their demeanour. I’m particularly drawn to the vocal melodies of the two frontmen individually as well as in unison, with the harmonisation in “Deathcount” [sic] and Espersen’s impassioned solo singing in “Vaseline” leaving a strong impression.

It’s difficult to label this stuff unique, to be sure. But even so, Wayl have this quality and conviction that reminds me of the horde of punk bands worldwide that never truly made it, but still pack enough punch to make their music instantly enjoyable. Wayl seem to derive much of their influence from NOFX and Pennywise, the latter very much a present influence in the way Jakobsen & Espersen carry themselves on stage, leaning into their mic stands instruments strapped low, looking both urgent and cool. There’s also the political element, which manifests itself particularly well in the standout “Red or Blue” towards the conclusion of the set. Mind blowing this is not, but given the chance I’d still watch these three gentlemen live any day for a dose of honest punk rock jammed with catchy ideas.

7

Off With Their Heads

Given this is the third time I’ve embraced the opportunity to catch Off With Their Heads live, I know more or less exactly what to expect from them: relatively static, yet at the same time compelling postures; songs largely delivered back-to-back in what often seems like a single intense barrage; and people upfront doing their utmost to reciprocate all of the energy in the quartet’s songs via moshing and roaring the words back at frontman Ryan Young. And that is the way of it tonight as well. Young is stationed rightmost, and appears to spend the entire duration of the set shut-eyed, which admittedly removes some intimacy from these proceedings, yet simultaneously makes his lyricism focused on a tough upbringing and other personal experiences sound that much more authentic. The man stops only once to express his satisfaction about the fact that we, the audience, seem to be having a blast, but this matters little as it ensures the set never descends into a lull — even when a slower and more balladic song like “Don’t Make Me Go” is aired in the wake of a furious opening salvo comprising “Nightlife”, “Theme Song”, “Eyes of Death” and the fantastic “Altar Boy”.

Young’s compatriots upfront, bassist Robbie Swartwood and session guitarist John Polydoros, assume that same forward-leaning stance as Wayl’s two frontmen just before, but aside from the occasional spin, vibrant expression or step back there’s not much else visual going on here either. It does bother me to an extent that Off With Their Heads appear quite comfortable in simply ploughing through their setlist and relying on the pulling power of their songs to keep our mouths in a smile; I want them to be in our faces, sweating, roaring, and spilling their souls down our throats. And as much fun as I’m having roaring the lyrics of song like “Shirts”, “Drive”, “Janie” and “Clear the Air” aloud myself, there’s that extra it missing from tonight’s show that would earmark it as unforgettable. Don’t get me wrong: Off With Their Heads pull through in convincing style as always — Young’s honest reflection and reminiscing, his tangible regret, and the sheer passion with which he sings and plays a track like “Always Alone” is a feat to behold in its own right. It simply falls short of being truly exhilarating, which anyone familiar with the group would know they’re capable of, and indeed renowned for.

Setlist:

  • 1. I Hope You Know
  • 2. Nightlife
  • 3. Theme Song
  • 4. Eyes of Death
  • 5. Altar Boy
  • 6. Don’t Make Me Go
  • 7. Shirts
  • 8. Self Checkout
  • 9. 1612 Havenhurst
  • 10. Drive
  • 11. Janie
  • 12. Seek Advice Elsewhere
  • 13. Stolen Away
  • 14. Always Alone
  • 15. Start Walking
  • 16. Clear the Air

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