Siamese Fighting Fish

support Agent Fresco + Taras + E-motion
author TL date 28/01/11 venue Stengade, Copenhagen, DEN

Before entering the year 2011, one of the things I was most looking forward to, was seeing how the locals from Siamese Fighting Fish would fare on their debut album "We Are The Sound". By now, the record has been out for six days, the band has opened up about it and I've shared my thoughts as well, so this article isn't about that. Instead, it's about the show the band organised to celebrate the release last friday.

So, let's rewind back to around 9:30 PM on Friday, January 28th. I've just rendevouzed with my friends outside of Stengade, and as we make our way downstairs to the cloak room, it's fair to note that the wait is quite long, considering the relatively small size of tonight's band and venue. As it turns out when we make it to the bar, that's because quite a crowd has assembled tonight, and while we get some drinks, the venue is buzzing. Due to Danish train-service consistently malfunctioning even at the hint of frosty weather, we've missed the opening, all-girl rock'n'roll band Taras, and the following funk-band/dance-crew E-motion. This is naturally a shame, but on the upside, we manage to perfectly time getting beers from the bar, getting free shots from the band (due to their new sponsorship from Danish booze-brand "Fiskefjæs") and lining up to see the last support band, Iceland's Agent Fresco

Agent Fresco

Tonight is the second day in a row I see Agent Fresco play, and I know already at this moment, that I'm going to see them again Saturday, when they play an acoustic set in a clothing store. A little excessive, seeing the same band three days in a row, you might think, but then, you clearly can't have heard this band's debut album "A Long Time Listening". Opening the same way as the album, the set initially soothes the crowd with the calming tunes of "Anemoi", before they're violently shocked and shaken by the noisy assault of "He Is Listening", which is even heavier live than on record. A thoroughly confused crowd then hears singer Arnór Arnarson explain in perfect Danish, that he isn't going to entertain with a funny Icelandic accent, given that he once lived in Denmark. Having a shorter slot to deal with than in yesterday's headliner, the band chooses to display that they know which songs are their friendliest, and thus what follows is a parade of some of their most engaging tracks, such as "Silhuette Palette", "Tiger Veil", "Implosion" and "Translations", showing the audience the full range of the band's abilities.

The raw, amplified power of the venue's sound system renders the band's jagged and heavy parts, like white hot daggers of noise that create a sensation balancing perfectly between pain and pleasure in our ears, and while Arnarson apologizes for his vocals being rusty as an effect of last night's partying, he still throws his voice around expertly between clean, screams and falsetto. In fact, the small hints of strain in his delivery only fits the powerful appearance of the band's experimental sound. Meanwhile, the majority of the crowd seems to behold the eccentric stage performance with expressions that are part exhilarated, part stupefied. Even the most active give up quickly, when it comes to headbanging to the strange rhythms, soon resorting to just staring in awe at a the performance. A performance the kind of which doesn't feel like it lends itself to being described with the same words we use for other bands. Even the day after playing two shows in less than 24 hours, this band still takes care of business, looking like an act SIFIFI shouldn't want to follow, and the only thing that I think can make their shows any better, is if a crowd starts to show signs of knowing the music intimately, rather than just looking on in amazement while their faces melt. The sound alone however, is so good that Agent Fresco could probably play to a garden full of statues, and still make for an excellent live experience.

Siamese Fighting Fish

In letting Agent Fresco play before them then, SIFIFI have set up a challenge for themselves, but they aren't to be deterred, seeing as this is their night after all. Coming on dressed for the occassion, they kick off proceedings with a new song that, unless I'm mistaken, is not even on "We Are The Sound". It has me torn initially, because while the song seems like a hit right off the bat, and the front crowd is already moving excitedly to it, the sound seems a bit off. With the vocals and violin almost drowning out the guitar and bass, I am immediately fearful, that the night should, like the band's album, be let down slightly by the mixing levels.

When the song ends however, frontman Mirza Radonjica utters words that will prove to be prophetic: "Guys, like Arnór's, my voice is not the best tonight. I've got the flue and it sucks, but I think it's going to be okay, because you guys seem like you're going to carry things home from here". As the band follows these words by launching into one of their older songs that has been re-recorded for the album, you will forgive me for not remembering which one it is, because in mere moments, I have been swept up in a mass of jumping and moshing bodies. I would be able to see more clearly from the band's expressions that they have been looking forward to this, if it weren't for the crowd seemingly trying to show that they have been looking forward to it more, by turning the front half of the room into an untiring dance floor.

Note that here I had actually planned to try to maintain some restraint and reservation tonight, but as the band proceeds into "Gods On TV", it becomes clear that such an attitude is inappropriate in this room, in which the front half is rocking out with glee to songs they haven't heard before, while the people in the back nod cheerfully along - all of them contributing to that rare, collective atmosphere of excitement that characterises a really good show. So it really doesn't take long for me to forget about a professional and objective appearance and join the fun instead.

Meanwhile, Mirza might not be sounding all that great tonight, but he seems hellbent on making an occasion of it anyway. In a sort of compensation for playing previously unreleased songs, he leads the band into a stomping violin-rock version of Prodigy's "Voodoo People", which sends the mood into a frenzy, and if it wasn't clear already, it now is that SIFIFI are going to leave the stage having decisively won the audience. They're not done spicing things up however, as the epic "Sundance" sees Trusted Few's Johan Pedersen come on stage to help out with the screamed verses, and his appearance only seems to enrapture the crowd even more.

Eventually though, the regular set comes to an end, and unsurprisingly, SIFIFI return for a planned encore. They will only play it however, if people forget about moshing for a while, and start stage-diving instead, and as they set off into the excellent "Perfect Human Being", bodies quickly start sailing from the front of the floor towards the back, dangling momentarily from planks attached to the roof, before rejoining the action on the ground. At this point, you can see in the band that things have already exceeded expectations, and they're ready to call it a day, but they barely get to leave the stage before they're called back once more.

Having no more songs planned, and being unwilling to subject his soar throat to vocal acrobatis of the ballad "For You", Mirza apologises to any reviewers in the building, for having to do something he's sure will be noted as scoring cheap points. That being squeezing the very last out of the loyal crowd, with a spirited cover of Rage Against The Machine's timeless "Killing In The Name", before letting himself be carried off stage. He will hear no complaints from me however, because even if his band didn't sound anywhere near as fantastic as Agent Fresco did, the excitement shared by band and crowd during the show - that was of the quality you expect when a band only comes to a country once every five years or so - it certainly wasn't what you'd expect from small band, playing a style that virtually does not exist in Denmark, and releasing their first album. Overall, the night was an experience pretty much made out of awesome, for bands and fans alike, and one can only hope for SIFIFI, that they have similar kinds of success, when they start hitting venues abroad and in the provinces.

All photos courtesy of Nicolai Levin

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