A Road To Damascus

support Tiger/Swan + Sea + Dog In A Bag
author TL date 26/04/14 venue KB18, Copenhagen, DEN

It's a little past eight on a Saturday evening as I make my way to KB18. Out of the previous 32 hours, I have been working for twenty of them and consequentially have missed both the prior night's shows with Helhorse and Terrafraid. This is not sitting well with me, so in order to get some balance in my concert ledger, I've decided to check out the showcase that A Road To Damascus have put on tonight at the Kødbyen venue, and I'm in a rush, because from what I've been told things have already started.

Dog In A Bag

Hence the peculiarly named Dog In A Bag are already well into their set when I arrive, with a decent crowd of presumeably friends of theirs having gathered to see them play. With no prior knowledge of the band I quickly take a liking to their tone, which sounds like a cool midpoint between Kings Of Leon and Lovedrug, yet with the twist that they also want to get some 60's classic rock elements in the mix: The bass lines are hence delightfully vibrant compared to your normal pedestrian pop-rock grooves, but on the other hand the seemingly obligatory guitar solos seem a bit hit and miss on a song to song basis (though lead Rasmus Bech does entertain us by playing one with his teeth). The band looks confident and excited to be playing, and it's worth appreciating how their older influences seemingly only give their otherwise widely appealing rock a nice edge to it, without making it sound dated. There seems to be some rough edges to the songwriting here and there, and you do get the sense that these guys are only in mid-leap, graduating from likely being a high school band, but as a first, limited taste, I like everything except perhaps the bandname, so maybe these guys should garner some looks from local bookers in the coming time.



Next up are Sea, who have already graced our pages a few times since renaming themselves from Stoneword, yet for me this is also the first encounter. Unlike Dog In A Bag, Sea fly their classic rock influences in every visible and audible way, bringing wild hair, a cowboy shirt, a large chest piece tattoo and even a pair of flared trousers to the stage. The music is fortunately as eclectic as it is retrospective, adding a Chris Cornell-like lead vocal to heavy grooves alá Black Sabbath, yet often breaking out with exuberant guitarwork alá Led Zeppelin or even Guns N' Roses. A penchant for surprising tempo changes and the diverse patchwork of influences keep things interesting, and I get the same feeling of being on an encyclopedic tour through classic rock references that I get from listening to Go Go Berlin, although it begs emphasizing that Sea are a whole other category of harder and heavier. As with Dog In A Bag, you sense some rough edges songwriting-wise, as there for each well-timed dynamic is a part that drones on for perhaps a bit too long, where a more storytelling performance from singer/guitarist Anders Brink seems to me like it would do wonders. The second to last song "Ride On" however, is so sublimely well-written in its build-up that it - bar a bridge that sits a bit uncomfortably towards the end - almost makes the whole evening worthwhile on its own, and hence Sea also put themselves on my radar.



Another recently renamed local band, Tiger/Swan are playing their first show tonight since changing moniker from Be There Nowhere which, according to bassist Mark Hansen, was apparently almost impossible for friends and fans to remember for some reason. The change is supposedly also meant to mark a slight change in stylistic direction, but sadly the new sampled electronics don't make it through the speakers very well, barring the crowd from really getting a sense of the finer points of the new touches. This disappoints me somewhat, because while I'm a guy who likes a healthy bit of pop chorus in my rock, these guys have always sounded more like they just wanted a smidge of rock guitar behind their pop, and any developments from this are hence hard to find in tonight's set. Verse writing seems to be a point of neglect while Tiger/Swan hurry up to the soaring choruses that belong somewhere in the vicinity of bands like The Fray and One Republic, but to their credit they deliver it extrovertedly, sustaining the positive mood that's been present in the room the whole time. At their best, Tiger/Swan have dreamy big-rock touches that remind me equally of bands like Thirty Seconds To Mars and The Killers, but for each of those there's a generic "whoa-oh" hook to make me cringe a bit. It's a solid set, but unlike the former two bands, it doesn't engage me enough to prevent my mind from wandering off to considerations of whether bands like Tiger/Swan don't undermine the refrains they work so hard at, by forgetting that the verses that precede them need to be equally interesting to work as proper launch points.


A Road To Damascus

There's a certain sense of impatience when talking to the A Road To Damascus members before their set. Their debut album is three years old by now, and as is the case with many bands of their size, they're currently caught up in the period where they're trying to get everything just right for the follow-up, the songs on which have been ready for what feels like ages to them. Still, if you haven't seen them as many times as I have, you probably wouldn't notice this from their set, as an active performance is routine to them at this point, although new guitarist Patrick Petersen (formerly of Luke Stole My Handgun) clearly looks the most stoked of the quintet as they move back and forth on stage purveying their cleaner cut new tunes to tonight's late crowd. By now I've managed to hear most of them, and a tune like the one presumeably called "Save Me" is as infectious as ever, but positioned here right after Tiger/Swan's set it's hard to not notice some of the same problems with 'Road, in the sense that their new songs also seem in a rush to get to the big choruses and that their sampled backdrop doesn't really come into its full right either. The extra tempo and energy on stage makes things a notch more engaging though, but I do feel that the hint of danger in the emo and pop-punk elements in older songs like "New Perspective" and "Heads High, Hands Down" are still the most appealing, even to an audience that aren't necessarily familiar with their background. So while 'Road take care of business with a routine performance, I still drift off again, wondering if I'll be similarly apprehensive or if the pieces will fall into place when the band's new album eventually does come out.

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