A Road To Damascus

support Shaped Like Swans + Tag Your Targets
author TL date 08/10/11 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN

It's Saturday, October 8th. My brother turns 22 today. Sharing any sort of celebration with him is going to have to wait for a week's time though, because coincidentally A Road To Damascus are having the release party for their fine debut LP tonight, kicking off their fall tour with Sweden's Tag Your Targets, and having invited local metalcore upstarts Shaped Like Swans along to give them an opportunity to play their first concert together. It all goes down at the recently renovated BETA, a venue which now makes a strong bid as the best small size venue in town. The place boasts two spacious, separate-yet-connected seating areas, a bar area and a concert room with room for a couple of hundred people. Prices seem reasonable and tonight the guests are even greeted with free Jägermeister shots, courtesy of a deal struck between A Road To Damascus and the liquor company. Certainly a pretty good way to get a good mood going, so with a reasonable amount of people already buzzing all there is to do is to kick back and look forward to the first band:

Tag Your Targets

Having seen the pop-punkers from across Øresund quite recently, I'm a little worried for them, remembering how their last show in town suffered from poor conditions with regards to sound and lighting. Then TYT played in front of a mostly apathetic crowd, with shitty lighting and a sound that ruined their guitars and vocals. Tonight they get started much better right from the beginning. The mix is expertly balanced, all instruments and voices audible, and the guitarist/bassist on either side of the stage show off some energetic jumps and rocking about. Being able to enjoy the musical side of things, I also have time to appreciate the band's style, which is essentially Set Your Goals pop-punk/pop-hardcore minus a singer and plus guitar solos.

As much as I do so however, I also have plenty of time to notice that there are still lots of things for the band to work on. Nevermind the fact that Tag Your Targets sound enough like Set Your Goals (even in the bandname) to lose some originality points, the way their trademark solos are included so far is also a little forced and predictable, making some of the songs feel a little long on occasion. Lead singer Mike Jacobson is also not the most tuneful singer anyone's ever heard, but then, you could argue that playing this style it isn't imperative that he is. Those are minor issues however, compared to the main hump I think the band needs to get over as soon as possible: They need more experience with engaging the crowd. This is evident in three areas: 1) The band seems unsure what to say to fill time between songs, and it makes for some awkward moments. 2) The guys, despite their energy, seem to be playing for the floor. When you play music like this, your show can benefit tremendously if you just look up at the crowd, put on a smile and look like you're confident in playing your set. 3) If any of the former two points weren't convincing, there's the tell-tale sign that the crowd actually dwindles over the course of the show. People simply decide after a few songs, that they've seen what there is to see and decide to go have some more drinks instead of staying for the full half hour. In conclusion, this was a much more encouraging Tag Your Targets show than the last one I saw, but the guys still have plenty things left to work on.

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Shaped Like Swans

Having another beer while waiting for the Shaped Like Swans show, I have to admit to myself that I have no idea what to really expect. Counting members that are/have been in Scarred By Beauty, As We Fight and lesser known comedy-core band Fags And Familiars this is obviously not everybody's first rodeo, but on the other hand, it is their first live show together and I haven't been too impressed with the first songs they've released on the web. As it turns out however, any skepticism in the room is exorcized pretty much immediately as the six eager young men explode into a veritable whirlwind of a show. On the web, their songs sounded bland to me, yet now I'm picking up traces of Darkest Hour, Bring Me The Horizon and Misery Signals in the often brazenly shifting periods of discordant onslaughts, subdued, cold melodies, and manic high pitched screams. I could be wrong of course, because the mix and sound have changed from warm and balanced, to an an overwhelming storm of noise imposing its will on the room and relying on sheer force rather than delicacy.

Those may not normally be the perfect circumstances, but here it fits like a glove with the band's hell-raising performance, full of jumps, instrument-brandishing and even some tongue-in-cheek crab-core stances. Singer Jesper Gün also provides a lesson for Tag Your Targets, in how to act completely at home on stage between songs, making everyone in the room feel more comfortable with some light-hearted exchanges with the front crowd, and explaining that one of the band's guitarists is actually rocking the set with a high fever. Halfway through, the guys in the front have had enough to break the otherwise casual atmosphere that's dominated the venue, and frantic moshing breaks out front and centre. It's only an appropriate response however, to a very impressive first showing from Shaped Like Swans, which only suffers from one thing, that being that the guys don't have more than five or six songs to play, and that the show hence feels all too short.

A Road To Damascus

With seeing and writing about A Road To Damascus as often as I have, I admit it's getting slightly harder to come up with new ways to describe a band that is working hard at being automatic in the best sense of the word. If you've come tonight having never seen them before, you'll likely be pleasantly surprised, witnessing just how forthcoming and energetic this ambitious quintet is. If you've seen them a few times, you'll probably take joy in how consistently they deliver their show. If you've seen them even more often, like me, you might even muse to yourself about how the guys seem just a liiiiittle bit more laid-back and comfortable than normally, with this for once being their night exclusively, rather than a situation in which they have to come out and win over a crowd of strangers as they normally do. The difference is almost so small that I might just be imagining it though, and what counts is that the guys show once again that they are among the most promising outfits in the country when it comes to bridging the stage/audience gap, getting everybody interested in their fine selection of songs. Newest member, singer Mikkel Raavig, gives another display of the progress he's making from being just a good voice to also being a good entertainer, strutting about the stage and hitting notes seamlessly while wearing a facial expression that gives you the feeling that he's all about what he's doing. To his left, guitarist Mads Møller and bassist Jakob Munk give him a run for his money with plenty of jumping, amp-climbing and so on.

There are only small critical remarks to be made. To Raavig's right, the remaining guitarist Jakob Lorenzen is made to look a little relaxed when one compares him to his fellow axe-men on the other side of the stage. Couple this with him being the guy who looks least like a scenester, one could get the impression that he doesn't quite fit in, if one didn't know any better. That's one thing, the other is that, following the mini riot instigated by Shaped Like Swans, the crowd activity is a little disappointing. It's not bad, because the room is full and people are smiling, bopping their heads and singing along when they can, but honestly, it feels a little too family friendly, thinking about how this is really supposed to be a celebration of everything the band has done so far. Like I said though, these are really minor, rather pedantic considerations, and what most people should be feeling leaving this show, is (reinforced) confidence in A Road To Damascus' being one of the best bands out of the Danish underground right now.

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All photos courtesy of Jill Decome Photography.

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