Rock 'N' Charity

support Silence Of September + A Road To Damascus + Stream City + UpUpDown
author TL date 20/11/10 venue Huset, Copenhagen, DEN

It's Saturday, November 20th. I'm at "Huset i Magstræde", a small Copenhagen venue in the center of Copenhagen. The place is getting to be one of my favourite venues, due to it's smallish nature, good arrangement of seats and floorspace, intimate stage and cheap bar prices. I'm here for the first installment of the Rock'N'Charity tour which, if you haven't heard about it, is a series of concerts put together by the local acts A Road To Damascus and Silence Of September, who will play around the country with support from a variety of bands local to the individual tour spot, donating any and all proceeds to a foundation that supports children with cancer. Initially I had figured I would be here with a group of friends, however, over the course of the afternoon it became apparent that I actually going alone. On the flip side, both AP and I had won free beer tickets for the event (obvious bribe is obvious?), and since AP had to cover Taste Of Chaos, I quickly sweeped all of the tickets and used them to bribe another friend of mine to come along. Not that you need to know about this, unless of course you want to attribute any of the following to me having over a handful of pints over the course of the night.

UpUpDown

The first band of the night is also the only band whom I haven't seen before. That being said, I do know of UpUpDown and know what to expect. The band is a trio that plays a very unashamed brand of powerpop, full of bright melodies and nintendo-style keyboards. Tonight they appear with a fourth man aiding them on guitar, allowing singer Gûnes to engage the crowd with a full range of motion. The first thing I notice is that despite the band's online material having a distinctly electronic tint to it, guitars sound like guitars and Gûnes sounds like an entirely real singer, and with the help of a sound man who manages the levels with expertise from the word go, UpUpDown quickly summon up headbobbing among the attentive members of the early crowd. The circumstances are good for the band, and they seem to take advantage, putting on a lively, well-sounding show, jam-packed with easily enjoyable tunes. A few things I'd like to mention though. Firstly, whoever this guy is who's playing guitar, he is visibly less comfortably into it than the rest of the band, and this hinders the totality of the visual impression. Secondly, trying to engage a slow crowd is always commendable, but I would suggest not calling out things like "Leeeet's go!" or something, like you already have a big room crowd jumping up and down for you. Meet the audience halfway, and my experience is it gives better results. Finally, this is admittedly a pretty God damn poppy band, and while that in itself is enough to scare off some people, for most others, there's always an element to a pop band that reveals whether it deserves being taken seriously or not - an element I'm not sure whether or not UpUpDown have. It can be that hint of self-awareness in the corner of the eyes of the members, the cool hint of irony in the lyrics or the vocal performance, or something even more obscure, but the fact of the matter is that there's normally always something to tell a newcomer to your average pop band, whether such a band is one that should only ever be a guilty pleasure (Boys Like Girls, Forever The Sickest Kids) or one you can openly admit to being a fan of (New Found Glory, Fall Out Boy). I'm not sure if I see this or not tonight, and I'll be looking out for it in the future, but for now, these small remarks do little to detract from the notion that UpUpDown do as good a job as I could possibly have expected, despite the fact that the majority of their audience seems to be suspiciously young looking females.

7

Stream City

Next up are punk rockers Stream City, to whom I am no stranger. I was blown away by this band when I first saw them, little over a year ago, but since then, I have admittedly found the following experiences, both live and recorded, to be of a lesser quality. Not tonight however, as the sound man again proves how much of a difference a man of his profession can make. Having sounded rather loose and well, punk, in previous live shows and on their demo, tonight Stream City man up and grab the bull by its horns, providing a better sonic experience of their band than I have heard to date. They come on stage announcing their name and that they play 'progressive punk' and for the first time, that 'progressive' label really seems justified, as both the violin-fronted, and the slower, more melodic guitar passages come through with an entirely different kind of 'oomph' than I'm used to from SC. Both the singing of Dion and the screaming of Peter and Søren sounds right on the money, and with the help of well-adjusted monitors, you also get the feeling that the band is rockin' their material with more tightness and timing than usual. Granted, these improvements may be miniscule, and are possibly only noticed by me, but as far as I'm concerned, they are all-important in the process of making this the musically most interesting performance of the night. In "The Magician" there's a soft guitar signature that falls below the rest of the sound, and some clean backing vocals from Peter which never make it through his mic, likely because of it being set to low sensitivity to accomodate his loud screams, but other than that, everything is just more on the money than even on the band's demo EP. This is not lost on the crowd either, and though it seems to consist of fewer SC-friends than the band normally brings along, the appreciation for the awesomeness is plainly readable in the faces around the room. All in all, while I had started to think my initial liking for this band was based on a fluke, tonight shows that is not the case, because Stream City are capable of being very very good when all details fall into place.

8

A Road To Damascus Third band of the night is the first of the two headliners of the Rock'N'Charity tour, the pop/core quintet A Road To Damascus. Like Stream City, this band blew me out of the water when I first saw them, and tonight marks the last Copenhagen show with their energetic singer Mathias, a guy who was a big part of my initial impression of the band, and who has announced that he is leaving the band after this tour. That might be a fair few shows away from now, but even so, he comes on leading the band in a show so intense that you'd be forgiven for believing this was his last show ever. The sharply-voiced vocalist is all over the stage from the sound of the first note, and despite not wearing earplugs, he too sounds more impressive than ever. Again, I make a mental note to recommend that all the bands buy the person at the sound board a beer, because his job with the levels of both speakers and monitors is really lifting every band to another level today. Not that ARTD are normally a band that needs much help with their performance. As per usual, the band delivers a show that is exemplary when it comes to both energy and tightness, and other bands should take notes from them, regardless of liking their style of music or not. Tonight's show gives me the feeling that the band must currently be working to implement inspirations from more breakdown oriented pop-core outfits (A Day To Remember and Four Year Strong come to mind, but actually also New Found Glory), as the eruptions of beatdowns seem more frequent than I remember. Now normally, I would caution against the use of too many of such passages, but during this show, I can't really find a moment where it strikes me as out of place, and in fact, one of the heavier songs played tonight really turns me on, via a recurring, sexy falsetto note located in a back-and-forth between Mathias's singing and guitarist Mads' screams. Knowing ARTD and having seen them before, I shouldn't be surprised, but I still am, because their show is, as always, a display of effective song writing and hard practiced performance-skills, far beyond the years of the band on stage. Add a sound man who presses all the right buttons, and the excess passion delivered by Mathias at his last show in town, and it should be clear that this is in fact a really, really good show.

Silence Of September

Last on tonight's menu are Silence Of September, a band who, as opposed to the other three, I have yet to experience any liking for. At best, listening to their debut LP and seeing them live has made me think of them as a group of hard working, well-meaning, yet ultimately ham-fisted and awkward guys, inspired by music I normally consider best left in the last decade, along with all the Creed's and Nickelback's of this world. Tonight's impression is a much different one however. I still credit the sound man for making each band sound just a bit better than they might normally do, but even so, just as UpUpDown did, SOS thoroughly take advantage of a good situation by delivering a performance that easily overpowers the last time I saw them. First of all, the singing and screaming is on point, and with me, that is always a big deal, but there's more than that to it. SOS play radio-friendly big-rock, there's no doubt about that, and that's part of my reluctance to like them, however, where last time elements in their songs seemed to linger, overstaying their welcome and appearing ridiculously bombastic, this time around one part is swiftly and effectively delivered, and then followed by the next. I realise that SOS are probably playing to the same beat they always have, but there's a perceived tightness in how the band seems to pounce on each next part like they can't wait to play it for us. It translates into a feeling of them coming from a humble place, really wanting to show the audience what they've got, as opposed to the one I had when I first saw them, when I felt like the band thought the world loved them much more than what I at least believed was the case. I realize I'm speaking in pretty intangible terms here, so to get back to earth, let me just say this: I don't think I'll ever be much of a fan of this band, for that their approach is much too direct and lacking in texture for my taste - a song like the title track of their LP "Sleep Of Reason" for instance, still makes my toes cringe with all its melodramatic cornyness. That being said however, if I look for the same kinds of clues of credibility that I described in UpUpDown's part of the review, tonight's SOS performance provide those much more readily than I thought the band capable of. Simply speaking, though SOS have less of an audience than the two prior bands, and less impressive music as far as I'm concerned, they still manage to rock, and if this is how they're going to play in the future, then I say it's entirely okay for you to be open rather than embarrased, should you count yourself a fan of theirs. How's that for some reluctant recognition?

Now, normally I would end a review after the description of the last band, however, in this case, I would like to pass on a report from Nikola, who has since the show revealed that the Copenhagen show brought in over 6500 kr (about 1150$) for charity. I think that's a pretty good job by two underground bands, and I want to heartily recommend that you go see Rock'N'Charity when the tour comes around your parts, even more so because both headlining bands proved on the first stop that they definitely know how to rock, but also because I can vouch for most of the bands they've convinced to support them around the country.

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