Dance With Dirt

support Castles Made Of Sand + The Binnacle List
author TL date 10/10/13 venue Kulturhuset Islands Brygge, Copenhagen, DEN

It's a relatively warm for a Thursday evening in October, as I make my way to Islands Brygge Kulturhus, a venue I didn't actually know was a venue because I've never been here, let alone heard of any shows of note being put on here. Yet Dance With Dirt are playing here tonight, and while it seems a bit soon considering the band played very close to here in Christinia about a month ago (and in Beta for our anniversary a few weeks before that), I'm not complaining, because the band was brilliant when they played in Beta and their unreleased song "Snow Machine" has been stuck in my head since, prompting me to seek them out again.

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The Binnacle List

When I saw The BInnacle List once before, supporting Mutiny On The Bounty at KB18, I found it difficult to nail some accurate references for them, but as they get things started here tonight, the facebook event's description of them as a mix of Pixies and Weezer starts to make sense, as the twangy guitar tone of Pixies does in fact bleed into some mid-tempo pop-rock structures. Unfortunately the show quickly takes on an awkward feeling which is not wholly to be blamed on the very scarce audience of around fifteen people, who are spread out at café tables in a room that looks more suitable for wedding receptions than for small rock concerts. To be perfectly blunt, The Binnacle List are a band that seems to have a good idea, yet their performance leaves a list in my head of areas they could do to improve on.

Nevermind that the house mix is has so much treble that the guitar and the keyboards come through a bit too sharply, and that their singer/frontman voice sounds a bit grating around the high notes - those are details. What matters is that first and foremost that the frontman seems to struggle to feel comfortable on stage, looking like he doesn't know what to do with his arms when not clenching the mic stand. With the singing mostly keeping a neat, poppy tone that fits the wedding reception surroundings more than it does a sound that seemingly wants to be quirky and edgy, the band's expression feels disconnected except for the few moments when the vocals get roughed up a bit. Meanwhile, the songs, although full of melodies and guitar flairs that are catchy enough, are hampered by drum beats so stagnant they sound like they need a stroller, especially through four early cuts that all trudge along at the same slow pace. So like I said, the core idea seems cool, and I could see this working with a more charismatic, perhaps Say Anything-ish, performance of the songs, but so far there are too many tweaks that need making before The Binnacle List can expect to draw many more folks than the few they play to here.

Castles Made Of Sand

Things take an immediate turn for the better then, when the two piece Castles Made Of Sand take the stage, as especially the material they present early in their set seems interesting. With the drum beats varying between bluesy and hiphop-ish, some attitude-filled start-stop guitar riffs and high pitched classic rock vocals alá Led Zeppelin, Kasper Løfwall and Andreas Vejlebo instantly look much more confident in their skin, you can sense that the small crowd starts to relax more as they feel in safer hands. Unfortunately, the limitations of being just a duo start to impose themselves as the show progresses, and while the first songs felt like a back and forth dialogue between the two band members, the later tracks have more of a feeling of both just flowing steadily ahead on top of each other. So while international bands like Japandroids, White Stripes and Drenge have shown that the limited two-man format can be justified, CMOS aren't quite there yet, even if they show some good tendencies playing in tonight's modest setting.

Dance With Dirt

When the time comes for the headliners to come on, it's become pretty clear that tonight's audience is only barely going to crawl near thirty in number, so the view from the stage looks a bit sad, looking out over a room that could likely hold 200 if need be. Still the band acts like they intend to meet the challenge head on, initially congregating at the drumset to just kick up a lot of noise and pump up the mood before launching into highlight track "In The City". For those that haven't heard the band before, they represent a constant duel between catchy choruses and exuberant, noisy rock and roll, with the former tendency being flashed early, as singer/guitarist Magnus Jacobsen's white-hot, piercing vocals deliver the infectious refrains of both "In The City" and new song "Snow Machine" to eager ears.

Unfortunately, the noise/catchyness ratio is a bit lop-sided today, because in an experiment with his pedal setup, lead guitarist Kristoffer Veirum has accidentally cranked the volume on his booster up too high, meaning that when his solos come in he completely deafens everything else, and when he's done it takes a few awkward bars for ones ears to get used to the lower volume of the remaining band again. As the band proceeds with further well-penned bangers like "One Of These Days" and "Flush" however, it seems that their attitude is to try and conquer the circumstances of the show with a performance based on excess, and while it would have been a bit too much at another show, it only seems poignant to pull all the stops here, to prevent the show from feeling like a waste of time.

One thing I notice is that while Jacobsen seems to have an extra gear every time his vocal melodies demand that he goes higher and wilder, the one chink in his performance is that he seems to lose the melody briefly during parts where he has to sing with little instrumental backing, struggling with a common singers' problem of trying to find a full-sounding low when coming down from a piercing high. The lapses are miniscule however, and the band generally keeps the energy high, airing an upcoming new single called "Coming Home" - with a driving feel similar to Stereophonics' classic "Dakota" in style - and later giving room for Veirum to punish his guitar some more, at one time playing it with a water bottle, while drummer Jess Gertsen and bassist Jonathan Lyby generally keep the reins on the rhythm and provide spirited, well-timed backing vocals.

Overall, Dance With Dirt take their normally professional and enthusiastic approach and throw it over the edge tonight, doing anything they can to obscure that the fact that the show is somewhat under-attended. The floor is visited by both Jacobsen and Veirum who come as close to us as their cables allow, and the regular set ends with Veirum contorting his body on the floor while playing up to Jacobsen who's dancing and singing over him. To the band's credit, they get the mood and energy pumped up enough for the few attendees to insistingly clap up a demand for an encore, which Jacobsen spontaneously decides to meet playing a song from his other band Pocket Pet solo - Simply because Veirum has ripped enough cables out during his final surge of energy to make another full band song technically impossible. It's fair to say then that you could hardly ask Dance With Dirt to do more on the stage, but still for all their effort they can't erase the fact that their shows feel much better when there's a decent crowd presence and less technical difficulties with the guitar pedals.

7

Setlist:

  • In The City
  • Snow Machine
  • One Of These Days
  • Coming Home
  • Flush
  • Human
  • Girls
  • Blue Queen

Encore:

  • Magnus Jacobsen solo-performing an unreleased song from side-project Pocket Pet

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