A Road To Damascus

support PMS + Luke Stole My Handgun
author TL date 18/02/12 venue Huset, Copenhagen, DEN

It's Saturday, February 18th, the hour is somewhere between 8 and 9 in the evening, and just like last time I found myself here, the reason for my being so is that our friends in A Road To Damascus are playing. Last time they did, they were supporting The Dreams at an installment of the Rock'N'Charity initiative that was sadly deserted, due to the Danish government opting to hold election on the same day. Tonight, no such bad luck is at play, and effectively the seats around the back of Huset I Magstræde are gradually filling up with curious concert goers, chatting casually over the evening's first few beers.

PMS

The first band to come on is party rock quintet PMS, and evidently, they're not the band that is responsible for drawing the majority of tonight's crowd, because despite singer Sofus Jensen's initial encouragements, only a handful of people are willing to get on their feet and approach the stage from the word go. Fortunately, this band is not one to be put off by such reluctancy, rather they're ones who rock like rockin' is their business and business is good. Moving about actively while playing tight riffs and grooves that are meant to move feet and get heads bopping, they get things going, and Jensen soon leaves the confines of the stage to greet some of the more cautious crowd members and try to convince them to loosen up. At first this turns into an awkward situation, when a planned "girls sing this, guys sing that" session is met with pretty much no response at all, but as the show progresses it becomes clear that some times wearing blinders on your situational awareness can be more of an advantage than a handicap - Because PMS just keep at it, trying to win the audience over, with a highlight of the show coming when the bassist and guitarist (sadly, I'm not sure of their names) engage in a mad collaboration in which each grips notes/chords on the other's instrument while still strumming the strings on his own. I've been told that bands like Cold Night For Alligators and Dragonforce also do this, but this is the first time I've ever seen such madness and it results in me standing around with a facial expression that says "mind effectively blown" for a good few moments. Furthermore, the band works with impressive independence from their monitors, often venturing out into the crowd having no noticeable problems with still dishing out their notes and chords, and a few of the songs played that I haven't personally heard before, also sound intriguing for having a bit more contrast than the average PMS song (which generally seems to be: full on kickass part + full on kickass part + full on kickass part). Unfortunately, the sound is less than optimal, seemingly being mixed according to the mantra "loud equals good, no exceptions", which makes it almost painful to be near the speakers, even with ear plugs, and you can hear that Jensen is also forced to sing with a little bit more force than is optimal, in order for him to be heard over the instruments. This plus the fact that the crowd only hesitantly and cautiously get into a show that deserves better reception, means that the overall experience isn't quite the best I've had with PMS, but they do as much right as they have control over, so I would still heartily recommend seeing them at any chance you get.

Luke Stole My Handgun

The next band up is a somewhat heavier proposition, courtesy of young metalcore act Luke Stole My Handgun, whom I last saw supporting Lights In Reverse some two years ago. The band teased with a new single last year called "The End Of A New Beginning", which saw them move away from their deathcore beginnings and into slightly more melodic Misery Signals-ish territory, and for this very reason, I am initially quite hopeful when the band takes the stage. Any hope I might have had for a decent musical experience are soon stomped on rather brutally though, as the material the band showcases for much of tonight comes over too breakdown-centric for anyone but the most single minded moshwarriors to appreciate. It does not help that the sound is worse than it was for PMS, with even the parts of LSMH's music that are supposed to sound pretty and melodic, coming out either weak or grating. The transitions between parts sound messy and clumsy, and the ambiance coming from the backing track is too low to contribute with any sort of atmosphere. Furthermore, the band performs with just about zero authority and personality, at best sticking with stereotypical synchronised jumping. Screamer Frederik Hansen, who must at least be credited for sounding decent in both his high screams and low growls, limits his interaction with the crowd to shouting "BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE!" in every other song, or asking for a circle pit from the 6-8 hardcore fans predictably losing their minds in front of the stage, while most of the remaining audience stands back either struggling to find a grimace that shows some level of appreciation for the repetitive breakdown-hell flowing in super loud torrents from the stage, or just flat out trying to divert their attention to something else, waiting for the show to be over. To be fair, LSMH are hindered tonight, both by the sound - which gets better but never good - and by having to play with a fill-in bassist after losing their prior one only a week ago. Most of all though, I think they're hindered by the limitations imposed on them by their choice to play predictable breakdown-core, but even if you're not a stubborn enemy of such music like myself, there really is no way you can call tonight's LMSH performance a good show. The movement is too forced, the communication has too little charisma and the actual sound is painful rather than intriguing. Best forget this one ever happened guys.

A Road To Damascus

While the two first bands of the night struggled with limited crowd interest, it shows when A Road To Damascus come on stage, that the majority of the people in attendance are here to check out this band, as by far the majority of the audience gathers faithfully round the quartet for the show. And you can't fault this, because from the word go, ARTD spring into action like a well-oiled machine, triggered at exactly the right moment. Their emo/pop/punk anthems are delivered with all the energy prior fans like myself have become accustomed to, with all standing members of the band rocking about, brandishing instruments and bouncing on and off boxes and monitors on the stage. Guitarist/screamer Mads Møller is especially worth noticing, when his turns come to provide vocals and his piercing howls imbue the otherwise very sunny soundscape with delicious contrast and intensity. The band plays most of the favourites from their debut LP including "What A Waste Of Breath", "No Wonder", "Heads High, Hands Down", "New Perspective" and "Talk Is Cheap", as well as oldie "Sweetheart", and we even get to hear a few new tracks. Granted it's hard to get familiar with a new track on one live listen, but while the new numbers seem as catchy as anything the band has done, I catch myself thinking that Møller's screams are less prominent here, and hoping to myself that this is not entirely indicative of where the guys are headed in the future, as I think their material is already tightly wound enough as it is.

Meanwhile singer Mikkel Raavig is treating us to some of his ever progressing stage presence, now matching his bandmates' activity pretty seamlessly. His singing however, is not at its finest tonight, as he struggles similarly to PMS's Sofus Jensen, with having to shout a bit louder than what is optimal to be heard over the super loud instrumentals. Maybe the trouble with hearing him and his lyrics is also partly to blame for the audience's benign yet rather casual reaction to the show. There's enthusiastic applausing and appreciative head-bopping, but not much in the way of dancing or jumping, which is weird considering the energetic nature of the band's music, and the fact that these people seem to be here to see this band first and foremost? Despite the band's smiles and encouragements, a party never really breaks out on the floor, causing the overall experience to stay good but not quite great, and I personally consider if ARTD might not give some thought to maybe being a little more elaborate in their stage banter, instead of just the casual "hey guys, come closer, it would be cool if you could sing along" stuff. All these comments are merely suggestions for polish though, because all the obligatory stuff is taken care of as convincingly as ever, with the band sounding tight, acting with energy and delivering solid song upon solid song upon solid song (even a punkified cover of B.O.B and Hayley Williams' "Airplanes"), leaving it hard not to give the usual recommendation for you to get their album as soon as possible, so you can come and dance and sing along when this band plays next time.

For more awesome photos, check out the galleries of Julie Decome and Jonas Smidt Mogensen

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