Earthless

support Comet Control
author LL date 12/04/18 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

The mighty Californian psychedelic rock group Earthless is only something I started listening to recently when their 2018 album "Black Heaven" found its way to my musical area of attention. As I explored their jammy style further, though, I was quickly convinced that they are a band that is definitely worth experiencing live and not just on record, and thus I naturally find myself at Pumpehuset tonight. Groovy and mostly instrumental rock music envelops us in the downstairs part of the venue for three hours and even though the evening's show is not sold out, there is a good amount of people slowly filling up the place as we arrive shortly before the support band.

All pictures by Stefan Frank Thor Straten

Comet Control

The members of this Canadian psych band enter the stage quietly and calmly as the clock strikes 9 but as soon as they get going on their instruments, we are in for a loud 45 minutes of heavy grooves, distorted guitars, and spacey vocals. It doesn't take long for their rolling beats to get the audience grooving along with them and in general, their fuzzy music sounds fine in the mix tonight with just the right heaviness to keep the floatier parts grounded. They start out strong with a longer track with a dynamic tempo that accelerates irresistibly towards the end. Their lead guitarist is the most active of them, moving like his instrument is almost living its own life as it pulls him into a few dramatic poses as he slumps or looks dragged down towards the pedalboard. This happens in a rhythm fitting the sudden bursts of distortion that he emits in the most interesting of their songs. The set generally flows between different compositions that get a bit lighter and more tightly knit rhythmically in the middle while the best moments are definitely the heavier and faster ones that seduce us easily with their powerful groove and rumbling in the floor. One song especially towards the end gets yells of approval and solid clapping as it has an extraordinarily infectious energy that really pushes the music over the edge of the stage before the last song takes a slow and more fluffy approach. When they end, a few people yell out for them to keep playing and overall it is indeed a solid set although I find that some songs definitely have greater pull than others.

Earthless

For Earthless' set, it seems the volume knob has been cranked up just a bit more than before. Whereas the songs from earlier felt mostly tightly framed, it doesn't take long before the headliners begin extending their first track, the already fourteen minutes long "Uluru Rock", a bit. Thus they underline their jammy approach and set an energetic as well as organic frame for the rest of their show. They are super down to earth and casual in their presentation, creating a great easygoing vibe in the room and among the happy audience with just a few words. I'm especially glad as the new single "Black Heaven" appears as the next song with its charming and strong main riff, really kicking the show into gear. The new songs are generally more tightly put together with shorter durations and more of a focus on a forward drive and it gives a great dynamic in the setlist tonight with three of these types of tracks making up the middle while surrounded by two of the more expansive, longer sessions. "Electric Flame" has people breaking out some groovy dancing around the venue and the rolling "Gifted by the Wind" only heightens the mood even more afterwards.

Each song feels like the possible culmination of the set, but magically the energy level keeps being pushed a bit higher, peaking in "Violence of the Red Sea" that finishes the regular set. It feels like a tour de force of elements that have been introduced in the set so far and every time it evolves, it sounds like it's folding out of itself somehow, just naturally progressing. This very seamless feel in particular from the playful guitar playing really lifts the spirits in the room and everyone on stage as well as in the audience seem to be having a great time. The encore features the short energetic burst of the new twangy track "Volt Rush" that collects us before their two classic covers finish the evening, each again bringing completely new nuances of their sound to the set and keeping the high-energy performance rolling. "Cherry Red" with its falsetto vocals has a lighter more spacy feel while the amazing Led Zeppelin song "Communication Breakdown" evolves into their own style to great effect and has the audience singing along as well as bringing out some entranced dance moves here and there. There is no doubt that Earthless is a talented bunch of musicians but what's really impressing me tonight is how their songs that feel like they are circling around the same tone, somehow paradoxically also keep evolving deeper and deeper into their grooves in a kind of spiraling movement that is fascinating to be a part of in the live setting.

Setlist:

  • 1. Uluru Rock
  • 2. Black Heaven
  • 3. Electric Flame
  • 4. Gifted by the Wind
  • 5. Violence of the Red Sea

- Encore

  • 6. Volt Rush
  • 7. Cherry Red (The Groundhogs cover)
  • 8. Communication Breakdown (Led Zeppelin cover)

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