Joie De Vivre

support While Giants Sleep
author TL date 16/06/12 venue Huset, Copenhagen, DEN

It's a Saturday evening in sunny Copenhagen, and while most music fans with inclinations towards heavy stuff are enjoying the Copenhell festival, old softies like me have been looking forward to seeing the show with American emo revivalists Joie De Vivre, put on at Huset KBH by local indie blog/bookers/radio-show Calexas Mixtape. Only one problem though, as I arrive around 8:30, half an hour after doors, I am literally the only person at the venue except for the bartender. Rather than waste energy beeing frustrated with the sorry state of the Danish music scene, I try to think; "YES! I've finally become so ahead of the curve that I'm the only person at the gigs I attend. Succesful hipster is succesful!", yet my moment of triumph is short lived, seeing as enough people eventually arrive to make us a crowd of between ten and twenty. Really though, I'm thankful for this, seeing as I probably would not have known what to do with myself if I was still the only person in attendance when the time would come for supporting act While Giants Sleep to take the stage.

While Giants Sleep

All the stage lights are off when While Giants Sleep come on stage, with the small crowd gathering semi-circle style in front of them, and personally I'm not sure what to expect, having found that the band's debut EP needed a bit of work and that the sound was almost too melancholic to bear. I need not have worried though, because as the band gradually switch on old lamps positioned around the stage while also starting their music, it becomes clear that these five Swedish youngsters have a solid plan for tonight's proceedings.

On record, the band's progressive, post-rockish music has sounded rather invariably cold and miserable, but here it soon becomes clear that While Giants Sleep build intricate movements from the bleak to the triumphant. Showing a fine knack for progressions, the band gradualy adds layers, changes rhythms and melodies with an almost perfect sense for timing, knowing exactly when to integrate the next part, so that the audience's attention is constantly lead from one brilliant little moment to the next. It may not be the most excessive experimentation I have ever heard, but that matters little when the sound that flows over us is this effective at setting an interesting atmosphere.

The guys on stage play with a quiet confidence, vividly rocking out yet never overdoing it, and it looks good with only their singer seeming a bit rigid in his movements. His singing sounds good though, and especially his lower parts impress me with an airy quality that suits the music much better than his slightly sharper, more whiny recorded performance. Truthfully though, the platform for him to perform upon is almost too good, with the band's mix being absolutely excellent to the point where things sound so good that the small flaws in the singing come through more clearly than they would at any normal rock show.

The set carries on for five songs in total, all five of which are tightly performed and all five of which do theirs to fill onlookers with faith and interest in the band's future recordings, which is likely exactly what they were hoping for. In fact the only thing that drags the grade for the show down, is that you can easily imagine things being much better with a richer set and a larger, more familiar audience. As While Giants Sleep play their last notes and gradually turn out their lamps again though, that's not as near to your mind as is the hope for them to continue to grow and develop, no matter how difficult it may be for music like theirs to find its proper audience.

Joie De Vivre

After the regular changeover it becomes time for main band Joie De Vivre to take the stage. The five piece from Illinois compliments the regular dual guitar/bass/drum lineup with a trumpet and an occasionally used xylophone, but besides the use of these two instruments, the musical expression is entirely and faithfully slow, 90's emo very much like Mineral used to play it. Sentimental tunes carried by calm rhythms and complimented by vocal exchanges coming from multiple drawn out voices.

Now, like I said, this style is well over 10 years old, and the essential quality of Joie De Vivre is indeed that besides the trumpet parts, they do little to nothing to develop the it, for better and/or worse. Compared to the relatively ambitious compositions we just heard from While Giants Sleep, it feels like we've ventured a grade down technically, but then technicality does not seem the point of Joie De Vivre as much as conjuring up and emotive and immersive atmosphere that should make any listener feel a little warm and nostalgic.

Now personally I've never seen a 90's emo band, nor a revivalist one like Joie De Vivre, but what I had expected was to see a band entranced with playing their own music and pouring every bit of emotion they had into their singing. What we get from Joie De Vivre is a somewhat more casual show, and the guys admit to still being in the process of recovering from a somewhat wilder show in Kolding the night before, with the lead singer/bassist apologising for having lost some of his voice.

It's not so much the odd note of vocals or trumpet that comes out wrong that hinders the show however, as is the fact that the whole thing is just a bit too calm. The jokes made between songs by the band are made away from microphones, and this is symptomatic for a feeling that carries into the actual songs; that Joie De Vivre do not have the energy, at least tonight, to really cross the bridge and connect with their - admittedly small - audience. It doesn't make for an awful show, as listening to the band's songs is still an enjoyable, chill time, but over a longer set it gradually becomes clear that Joie De Vivre have less musical intricacy to offer than their support band had, and they're not making up for it with sufficient energy or 'magic' or 'x-factor' or whatever you want to call it. So what I'm saying is that while I enjoyed Joie De Vivre, I was disappointed that they didn't manage to one-up the surprisingly impressive While Giants Sleep - but then I guess the danger of going on a long, tiring, couch-surfer type tour is that it is impossible to be pumped full of energy for every single show.

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