Blues Pills

support Hjortene
author AP date 10/08/14 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN

Day 2 of this third edition of Dirty Days of Summer saw a marked decline in extremity, with stoner and soul infused vintage rock on the menu. Just as on the previous day, the always instinctive booker of BETA, Mikkel Wad Larsen, had ensured his audience would be treated to a band in meteoric ascent; hyped to the skies, yet still in a place where booking them for a 150 cap venue makes financial sense. But before Blues Pills and support crew Hjortene were to take the spotlight, it was up to yours truly and Bo 'BV' Kastaniegaard Vinberg from our establishment to man the DJ decks and ensure that those fans who opted to show up early to enjoy the sunshine with beers & lemonade, and burgers & Jambalaya in hand, were treated to a selection of what we consider the finest grunge, stoner, psychedelic and heritage rock from 03:00 p.m. onwards. This is the beauty of DDoS: an event which entails more than just two or three bands playing for a total of 3 hours; enabling fans to come together and share their passion for the music whilst splashing in a children's paddle pool.

All photos by Stefan Frank thor Straten @ thorStraten.eu

Hjortene

"Sold out", we're told by Larsen as Hjortene kick into gear - and it's easy to tell. They're by no means a widely recognised band, not even by domestic standards. Yet the concert room is bustling with curious ladies and gentlemen taking in the lively performance, which frequently sees bassist Claus collapsing to the floor in outbursts of passion, guitarist Palle kneeling down to play his instrument like a lapsteel, and drummer Kim unleashing an inspired barrage of percussion. Hjortene stink of attitude and ability, making it exceptionally easy to lose yourself in the groove and forget for extended periods of time the intrinsic problem in the trio's material: originality. Infectious riffs they do well and offer in abundance, but as the songs roll by, I grow increasingly convinced that this is a case of having a firm grasp on the stoner rock essentials but not on what it takes to differentiate the music from the throng of other, similarly disposed bands. I note "Classic Rock F.M." as the highlight of the set given especially the power and emotion of Palle's singing in it, but largely, my thorough enjoyment of Hjortene's concert stems from their qualities as a live band.

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Blues Pills

Blues Pills weren't quite the sensation I'd tipped them to be at Hellfest this summer, my slight lament stemming primarily from that festival's decision to slot them on the main stage before noon. They're not meant for that sort of setting. But here, in the intimate confines of BETA, the promise if fufilled with a hot, psychedelic and intense performance that has the packed crowd boiling in ecstasy. They're set up in an unorthodox way, bassist Zack Anderson stage centre with guitarist Dorian Sorriaux & vocalist Elin Larsson on his right and left, respectively, as "High Class Woman" off the quartet's self-titled debut album starts resonating from the PA. But given the cool, Jimi Hendrix look Anderson is sporting, colourful hippie headband and all, it makes sense: his appearance draws our gazes, allowing Larsson to deliver the magic that is her singing from a less prominent position, thus affording more weight to the singing than her movement.

Indeed, the voice is very much the centerpiece in Blues Pills' music, and the fact that Larsson is able to deploy it as immaculately live as on record has me baffled virtually every time it emerges from one of the backing trio's many entrancing jams. So mesmerising is her Aretha Franklin-inspired singing, that were it not for Anderson, Sorriaux & drummer Cory Berry elbowing in for a lengthy instrumental part as frequently as they do, it might be too much somehow. The singing-free passages also bring forth another aspect to Larsson that makes Blues Pills such a pleasure to watch live: her bodily immersion in the music through seductive movements is as integral a part of the performance as is the band's collective flair for jamming from one song to the next without a marked transition. As such, tonight's performance is more akin to a spellbinding, rainbow coloured 60's party deep in some forest to the tune of songs like "No Hope Left for Me", "Black Smoke", and even a cover of Tony Joe White's "Elements and Things".

Expectedly, the applause is loud and enthusiastic after "Little Sun" concludes the proceedings in an encore, and my own impression of Blues Pills as a live act has improved tremendously. The inclusion of the original EP version of the haunting ballad "River" instead of the cover would have knocked it up even higher in my book, just as would have a little more animation from Sorriaux, but in spite of these minor qualms, there can be no doubt that the world has, in Blues Pills, a band destined for rock royalty.

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Setlist:

  • High Class Woman
  • Ain't No Change
  • Bliss
  • No Hope Left for Me
  • Dig in
  • Devil Man
  • The Time is Now
  • Elements and Things (Tony Joe White cover)
  • Astralplane
  • Black Smoke

--Encore--

  • Little Sun

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