Of Mice & Men
The Mo Club, Southampton, UK - 16/4
Blue Beetle Rock for CharityPrevious Next
author BV date 19/04/13 venue Huset KBH
I’ve never been the festival type, really - at least not in the sense of camping, tents, little-to-no showering time and tons of booze. Well, that’s not entirely true though, as I actually quite like the booze. Anyway, that’s why I jumped at the chance to cover an indoors festival (thus giving me the luxury of crashing in the safe confines of my home) spanning three days, of which I was able to attend two. Given my great love for psychedelic, retro, garage and blues rock I ended up finding it quite mandatory, for myself at least, to partake in the charity-festival at Huset-KBH that went under the moniker “Blue Beetle Rock for Charity 2013”. With a lineup including some of my favourite ‘lesser-known’ acts as well as bands of whom I have heard great appraisal, two gloriously psychedelic nights were in the making, as I entered Huset.
- --Friday 19th--
- Romulus & the Wolves
- Dirty Old Town
- Fuzz Manta
- The Hedgehogs
- --Saturday 20th--
- Sahra Da Silva & The Jagged Soul
- Shivas Nat
- Paper Tigers
- Gonzo Morales
Please excuse the massive wall of text – I found myself unable to procure any pictures from the event.
Romulus & the Wolves @ 21:00-21:35
The first act of the first night came in the form of the ‘rookie’ band of the evening, Romulus & the Wolves. By rookie band, I am referring to the fact that this was the first performance the band has played. It was not a crucial factor though, as this band consists of three experienced musicians: Stephan Krabsen (Helhorse, Bjergtaget) on guitar and vocals, Thor Boding (Syreregn) on bass and Lars-Peter Wallfält on the drums. Stylistically speaking, they reminded me quite a lot of Queens of the Stone Age with just a twist of Jack White’s solo material. Despite the fact that singer/guitarist Stephan Krabsen decides to remain seated during their 35 minute set, the band plays an energy-charged set of desert-rock sounding tracks, molded together with the more low-key singer songwriter spectrum that I have come to remember Stephan Krabsen the most for. The band rounds off their performance by remarking to the small crowd, that they have essentially played all the songs they have at the moment, so even if they wanted to play one, an encore would be somewhat impossible.
As Morten Christensen took the stage for a solo-performance under the name Dirty Old Town, there was still an atmosphere of intimacy surrounding the venue as the crowd was not exactly of a size I would have expected. Nonetheless, the intimate surroundings played right into the coming set as Dirty Old Town took us to the dusty American highways to the sound of folk and americana. The eerie chord progressions and the piercing, yet mellow voice of Morten Christensen made up a great combination as the songs progressed through themes like cowboys, motorcycles and some of those good old love-songs. There was plenty of time along the way to tell witty anecdotes of recent tours, life in general and stories about old bands, before launching into an acoustic rendition of Wrong Side of Vegas’ “Hands in the Fire” (a personal favourite of mine), thus completing the mellow, yet quite endearing set of Dirty Old Town. It wasn’t the rock-experience I had set my hopes up for, but I still managed to get swayed by it and ended up quite happy with it.
While Fuzz Manta was slowly getting ready to take the stage, a somewhat larger gathering of people had started to rear its head, and the space in front of the stage was becoming denser – forcing me to get off my comfortable ass and actually stand up for a while to catch the show. As the first sounds of Fuzz Manta’s sampling of German frogs/toads from one of their tours hit me, I was instantly thinking that I was about to be treated to the same sonic journey as I had been on a previous occasion, where Fuzz Manta acted as support for Graveyard. As it turns out, I was quite right about that observation as Fuzz Manta embarked on the sonic journey that is their upcoming studio album “The Stonewolf” in what I assume is its entirety. Vocals were sparse and guitar soloing was abundant, as Fuzz Manta showed off their seemingly great love for prog-infused hard rock in a set that didn’t exactly contain any ‘hits’ per se. The performance was more or less identical to the one I recall from Amager Bio, with the exception that the vocals were far too spacy this time, due to a heavy fondness of reverb from Huset’s soundguys. It was in essence a solid performance by a solid band, but the material from the new album seems to get less mindblowing over time. Nonetheless, I am excited about the upcoming album and I am definitely going to see Fuzz Manta again.
As the alcohol content in my body started amassing itself into a notable amount, my anticipation and excitement also rose quite remarkably as the retro/garage rockers of The Hedgehogs were about to take the stage. I’ve never seen these guys live before but I had heard that they were able to give quite the performance. For this particular evening, they had brought Kasper ‘Levitation’ Fjord (Troldmand) along thus becoming a sextet rather than a quintet for this evening. The upbeat garage psych of The Hedgehogs wasted no time in actually getting people to dance, as most of the crowd gathered in front of the stage. I’m feeling quite impressed at this point, despite the fact that The Hedgehogs had left the 12-string guitar at home for reasons unknown to me, which is sad because I was really looking forward to listening to that particular sound. Nonetheless, the guys blast through their set that culminates with the heavily psychedelic tracks “Behind Every Door” and “Your Eyes” that expanded to include vast sonic textures provided by Kasper Fjord’s theremin trickery and the echo-fueled organ and guitar sounds. It was a cool experience to see these guys and it speaks for itself that the crowd did not want them to leave the stage, despite the fact they had reached their time limit.
When the last band of the first night, Papir, were about to hit the stage, many of the people who had amassed themselves in front of the stage had sadly ventured back to their seats or had taken off entirely - a shame really, as Papir are best experienced in a live setting where you just stand or sit around, and take in the sonic textures, the grand soundscapes and the improvisational skills of these three skilled young men. Whilst never really getting me to float away entirely, Papir gave an admirable performance and didn’t really seem to be affected by the relatively small amount of people left in the crowd at this point. Had there been a greater crowd that Papir could have interacted with, it would without a doubt have benefitted them. However, I am forced to remark that it was a good show with little-to-no crowd interaction that sadly seemed of little interest to anyone else than the remaining musicians from other bands. In essence it was musicians playing for other musicians.
As Saturday evening came around I once again found myself in the confines of Huset to see another five acts playing for a charitable cause.
The first act of the Saturday lineup is Sahra Da Silva & the Jagged Soul, a bluesy and soulful quintet that mostly delves into a slightly melancholic, yet funky soundscape. Sahra Da Silva sings with a powerful voice and her band are nothing short of talented musicians. However, as Friday night was plagued by a low starting attendance, so was Saturday which heavily affected the stage presence of Sahra Da Silva & the Jagged Soul. Despite their cool sound and their frequent lapses into a light version of psychedelia I couldn’t help but feel reluctant to be drawn in as the aforementioned stage presence wasn’t really that captivating. They made for a great ‘lounge’ band that played some cool tunes while the people who were actually there, sat around and sipped on their beers while chit-chatting about random events, but never really got to the point where they demanded attention.
The second act of Saturday night, Shivas Nat, were something I had awaited with great anticipation as they gave one hell of a performance the last time I saw them at Dragens Hule. Shivas Nat didn’t disappoint as they gradually delved deeper into the psychedelic depths of their repertoire while constantly proving that touring extensively has indeed benefitted them greatly. With the oscillating echoes of both the guitar and the organ, the haunting vocals, the fuzzy bass and the bombastic drumming, Shivas Nat ventured out in the improvised wilderness of their psychedelic garage-blues with tracks like “Dragonodyssey” and “One for the Sinners” and firmly reassured me of the fact that I am very excited about their upcoming EP. I will need to see these guys play live again soon, as they were, in my humble opinion, the high-point of these two days.
Following Shivas Nat were the somewhat hyped retro-rockers in Paper Tigers. Paper Tigers were in my opinion a quite curious booking for this particular festival as most of the music was primarily aimed at the mind-blowing psychedelia and the sonic textures that came thereof. As a result, Paper Tigers fought a somewhat constant uphill battle in their frequent attempts to get the crowd dancing to their energetic ‘pop-sounding’ retro-rock set. The crowd mostly remained lukewarm until Paper Tigers slowly started delving into heavier tracks like “Foxy Lady” and “Caveman” where the crowd (which I could imagine was quite a bit older and more manly than their usual demographic) actually started warming up to these four young guys. Sadly the set was a mixed pleasure that lacked interest from the crowd through little over the first half, and only really picked up in the end. But, I have no doubt that Paper Tigers can start a party with their target demographic, rather than a bunch of psychedelia loving, semi-old dudes.
The fourth act of the second night, Syreregn, was also something I had anticipated with great eagerness as they have, once again, gotten a new guitar player and I was eager to hear how this affected the band’s sound. The three guys in Syreregn wasted no time in cranking up the pace with the fast rockers “Hvem Ved Hvad” and “Søvngængeren”, letting new guitarist Casper Gyldensøe shine with his technically proficient playing. At this point the crowd is starting to gather in front of the stage to witness the spectacle and most of them seem impressed as Syreregn blasts through song after song of ‘new’ material that will likely end up on the new album they are currently recording. Through their set we are treated to one old song, the ‘classic’ “Mirror, Mirror” which rang with a familiar grace despite the obvious change in guitar players. This recent incarnation of Syreregn has got potential, but I don’t think they are overwhelmingly tight-knitted yet – hopefully this will come as the amount of gigs starts to increase again after their studio sessions. In short, people danced, spaced out and heard a bunch of tracks off the upcoming album and seemed to enjoy it. – A good performance, but not quite as excellent as I have previously seen them play.
The final act of Saturday night was Gonzo Morales, a band that I had little-to-no prior experiences with save for the casual listens I have had to an album of theirs. Not knowing what to expect, I went into this performance with no prejudice and, well, no expectations. Gonzo Morales sounds like something that has been wandering the desert highways for quite a while, with the hoarse vocal work, the fuzzy guitars (occasionally three of them!) and the ‘lazily-driven’ rock beats. Gonzo Morales seem to gather a small crowd in front of the stage, but most people left at the venue seem to focus quite a bit more on their beers than on the band playing. I never really manage to get what the band is ‘trying to pull’ as I can’t really get into their sound. They are clearly good at what they do, but it doesn’t really appeal to me – at least not on this particular night. They interacted nicely with the crowd and delivered a solid performance that was neither riveting nor excruciating. It was just good, bordering on the plain to me in particular, since I couldn’t get into it. To conclude this, I found that the festival scheduling will often conflict with the psychedelic nature of bands like the ones on this particular roster, as the time limit will inevitably hinder the bands from unleashing their full improvisational capacities. Nonetheless I found these two days to be quite enjoyable and I would deem the event a relative success that hopefully managed to gather a nice bundle of money to support the Indian school children that were the main driving factor for this event. Hopefully we will see an event like this again, with a greater turnout.