De Underjordiske

support Holy Motors
author BV date 06/05/16 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

It’s such a strange trip to see a band you’ve watched on smaller stages like Stengade suddenly transform into this mild sensation that draws a fairly massive crowd at Roskilde’s Rising Stage and, as was the case with tonight, almost manages to sell out Pumpehuset and utilizing the large stage at the venue. In a way it’s thrilling to see a band you’ve thoroughly enjoyed for the past years evolve to the point where many others seem to be getting in on it as well, but it does pose certain risks – a lack of intimacy for one. Mildly concerned with how De Underjordiske would handle this, but stoked for their show in general I entered Pumpehuset via a sizeable queue out front.

Photos courtesy of Philip B. Hansen

Holy Motors

The support of the night came from Estonia in the form of Holy Motors – a support slot that was, as far as I’m informed, one of the band’s first shows outside the Baltics and Russia. Functioning as a quartet, Holy Motors utilize shimmering, reverb-drenched guitars and tom-heavy drumming to create evocative and occasionally ethereal soundscapes upon which their vocalist unfolded her enthralling voice. The music struck me as Velvet Underground inspired, but not limited to that particular expression, as they occasionally sounded like a very cinematic band, scoring a rather epic, albeit at times slightly depressing film. I overheard a crowd member or two discussing the band’s stoic appearance and essentially saying that it made no sense to be that stoic on a stage. On the contrary I believe it added to the impact of the music as it would have been completely out-of-character and indeed misplaced for these four young Estonians to be bouncing around like madmen when their music needed time and space to properly unfold. Towards the end of their set, however, I too began to feel a slight sense of boredom creeping up on me as the band’s material, as of yet, simply isn’t varied or consistent enough to warrant a performance longer than the 30 minutes or so they were given. As far as support bands go, however, Holy Motors seemed to fit perfectly within the musical references of De Underjordiske – underlining once more why they got this gig in the first place.

De Underjordiske

Lit almost entirely from the back, the quintet known as De Underjordiske gradually entered the stage to several rounds of applause. Beginning with atmospheric guitar-work from the brothers Bengtsen, they were eventually joined by bassist Astrid Samuelsen, drummer Thomas Balslev Brandt and finally vocalist Peter Kure. With the atmospherics increasing in intensity, the first chord of “Ind I Flammerne” was struck whilst Kure began singing the first few lines of the song before the performance, led by a severely powerful bass-sound, exploded into a mild frenzy. It was entirely evident that De Underjordiske have indeed gained a certain popularity around these parts, as a majority of the crowd attempted to sing along to the lyrics, especially the latter parts of the chorus like; ”ind i flammerne / der omgiver dig” which seemed to be what most of them could manage to recall. “Under Skyggernes Kniv” followed immediately with its strangely up-beat vibe and in very little time larger parts of the crowd were dancing mildly or, at the very least, swaying back and forth in sync with the music. “Sultne Ulve” followed immediately after to great applause – understandably, as it is in my opinion one of the band’s strongest tracks. A magnificently solid bass-groove in unison with some fairly heavy drumming makes up the foundation whilst the cascading and reverb-drenched guitars from Andreas and Kristian Bengtsen make up the melodic and occasionally frenzied counterpart supplementing Kure’s vocal outbursts perfectly.

Given the band’s limited (albeit generally great) material, it would be extremely weird for the band to not play all the tracks from their debut album – meaning that we of course were treated to fiery renditions of ”Vi Kommer Nu” and ”Tempel” – the latter being utterly mesmerizing. ”We’re playing everything tonight… including Gnags!” remarked front-man Kure before the band ventured into their cover version of Gnags’ “Vilde Kaniner” – a fairly harmless (yet very catchy) track transformed into a beast wildly different from its original source. I’d heard the cover version on the internet prior to this performance, but I must say that it takes on a whole other dimension when you’re exposed to it at properly high volume. On this night De Underjordiske also presented a new track called “Piskesmæld”, a fairly long-running track which might still need some rounding out of the edges but nonetheless showed significant promise before the band returned to what is probably their signature tune by now; “Trold”.

Although “Trold” is always a welcome track in the live setting I must say that it sounded noticeably slower than the album (and single) version – which actually impeded some of its otherwise splendid grandeur. It was certainly still heavy, but it lacked that certain drive that is so significant for the track and its overall groove. As the band left the stage only to return for encores, we were treated to a track, the title of which eludes me, which was performed entirely by Kristian Bengtsen and Peter Kure and if I heard correctly, they also stated that this might in fact be the last time they would perform the song live. Closing out their set with the powerful closer “Med Næb og Kløer”, De Underjordiske left us to return to the outside world. Although this performance might not be remembered as one of their greatest, it was still a display of sheer force and a resounding yes to the question of whether or not De Underjordiske could handle a headliner show of such a capacity. You might find yourself yearning for the more intimate showings from this band, but those times seem to be long gone by now.

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