Alternative Denmark

support Freddy & The Phantoms + The Migrant + The Reptones + Jet Flower
author TL date 16/02/13 venue Huset, Copenhagen, DEN

While the Danish music scene is fortunately seeing more and more activity in the underground when it comes to often overlooked genres like punk, metal and hardcore, as a fan of softer rock I've often felt that it was a shame that the same wasn't happening as much for bands in the gentler end of rock's spectrum. So when I learned that Target Music was dedicating an evening to alternative/indie rock bands I of course jumped at the opportunity to help with my services, both as a reviewer and as a between-sets-DJ (You can check out my selections on Spotify), trying to make the night at Huset KBH as cool as possible to all parties involved. That would be the short explanation for why I'm here tonight, queueing up Walk The Moon, Wintersleep and Frightened Rabbit for a growing audience before it becomes time for the first band to take the stage.

My apologies for the lack of photos - Instead you get some players to help you check out the bands!

Jet Flower

That first band would be Jet Flower, who come on looking every bit the part of the bohemian hipsters you'd expect to play in an indie rock band, and sounding like it too, adhering comically to their own stereotype by wondering out loud what the their band is supposedly an "alternative" to, being booked to play this show. That being said, the music they play is pretty damn cool, regardless of the fact that there isn't a particularly full venue to appreciate it yet, with most people opting to sit down a good length from the stage taking it in. The sound strikes me as a mix of the expansive soundscapes of Arcade Fire and recent The Maccabees, mixed with the stubborn loyalty to composition of a more progressive thinking indie band like Elbow. With effect-laden guitar and keys, Jet Flower kick up fascinating soundscapes that twirl around the highly Maccabees-ish vocals of their lead singer, whose singing performance tonight is just another sort of impressive than the rather trivial remarks he uses to eventually convince the audience to find their feet and come closer. Overall, I think Jet Flower showcase an uncompromising sound that really invites the listener to check out their stuff more in depth, but while they don't rush to accommodate fans easily in their song structures, the could do with a little more charming approach as performers. Couple this with an audience that sits down for half the set and the grade has to remain modest, even if Jet Flower have successfully made it onto my radar.

The Reptones

The next men up are the slightly more eclectic looking The Reptones, who also rock the guitar/piano/bass combination on stage. Bar their first, relatively hard-rocking song, the band strikes me as one who spends about 60% of the time sounding a lot like modern country-rock legend Ryan Adams, especially due to the highly Adams-ish singing of the band's frontman. The difference is that while Adams is deservedly revered for breathing a romantic frailty into his songs, The Reptones struggle with hints of banality in their melodies and lyrics, which is why I take it as a good thing that they often stray from being Adams-esque, over into a more flamboyant and hard-rocking sound, that reminds me of those Oasis moments where the band really shows their love for the big retro guitar riffs. The problem for The Reptones tonight, other than struggling with the same casual audience Jet Flower had, is that their songs don't really feel like they have much drama or movement in them. I never really find myself taken on a 'trip' with them at least, but I must however concede to being occasionally impressed by the moments when the band lets it all go in fits of guitar-hero ambitions (and also by their guitarist singing a bit that really reminded me of Greg Dulli's oddly impressive tunelessness). Still, of the bands playing tonight, even though they produce a sound that's easily as layered and skillful as the other bands, The Reptones eventually stand out to me like the ones that looked the most like they were 'trying to be' more than they were 'succeeding at being', and hence, they get stuck with the lowest grade.

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The Migrant

The third course on tonight's menu is The Migrant, a band I had made the least note of prior to the show, yet also one that has by far the biggest audience assembled in front of the stage by the beginning of their set. After spending a few moments mesmerised however, and trying to remember who their singer sounds like, I realise that it's Jeff Buckley, quickly thereafter realising how rare such a resemblance is. Naturally, such vocal work commands ones attention, dragging me along with the rest of the audience into the post-rockish growth of The Migrant's songs, that often build from subtle electric tremolo riffage and acoustic chords, with sampled accordion and live mandolin and trumpet coming in, gaining momentum in a fashion some might know from The Frames or Spokes, until one can't but stare at main man Bjarke Bendtsen as he becomes the focus of the sonic hurricane, dishing out those unreal vocals and hammering his acoustic with a pained expression. One makes the unmistakable realisation that here's just a man who has 'it' and has it in abundance. So while I have to admit that the 'build towards a climax' formula seems to get repeated quite a bit in this set, it does not come near overstaying it's welcome, on the contrary, I find myself checking facebook immediately after the set ends to find out when I can see The Migrant again

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Freddy & The Phantoms

The job of closing out the night is given to Freddy & The Phantoms, who as the first band steps on with an attitude that's everything but relaxed, as main man 'Freddy' immediately orders the crowd closer with the rowdy voice of a seasoned entertainer. And then he sets the steam-train rolling, launching his band into their highly recognisable blues-rock. Between his deep Johnny Cash is voice, the rocking and rolling guitar riffs and the almost militant rhythm of the drums, this band gets the audience involved quicker than any of the other bands tonight, and for that they deserve recognition. Following The Migrant however, it's really hard for a pair of picky ears to not notice how comparatively simple and straightforward The Phantoms sound, an impression that is even harder to avoid since the band is forced to play without their pianist tonight, relying only on the pace of the drums and the power of their guitars to keep things boiling. People keep dancing throughout their set though, so it's really hard to fault them for their approach. Save for the penultimate number "Who's It Gonna' Be" however, it's also quite hard to feel like you want to go home and spend a whole lot of time getting in deep with the band's recorded material. They come off as quite the live band then, but on this listen, you feel like their expression wouldn't be worse off with just a few surprises

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