Mighty Music Fest Day 1

support TigerSwan + Broadway Killers
author TL date 22/08/14 venue High Voltage, Copenhagen, DEN

While "only" a subsidiary to Target Music, the hard-edged little brother label Mighty Music is arguably the most serious player in the Danish scene when it comes to working with rock and metal, and this weekend the team had decided to collaborate with club/venue High Voltage in Copenhagen to put on a two day showcase fest for some of its currently most happening bands. With Friday assigned to rock and Saturday to the heavier metal, we decided to check out the first day, which also served as a release party for local favourites A Road To Damascus, whose second album "In Retrospect" is coming out on Monday (but you can already read our advance review of it here).

Pictures from the event courtesy of philipbh.com

TigerSwan

As we descend into the heart of High Voltage around ten o'clock, Copenhagen-based would-be stadium rockers TigerSwan have just started their set. Having seen them previously, both before and after this year's name change from Be There Nowhere (a better name in my opinion, but I digress) I know that the band has struggled while solidifying their style, with exchanging a perception as wannabes for one of legitimacy, grappling with a problematic stamp of tryhardness that I guess is not unusual for band's that want to play such big music right from the very beginning. For some reason however, they exude a difference-making shade of confidence tonight, that - despite my being unusually sober for the occasion - has me grooving along soon, and even singing along to one of the (arguably a bit too frequent) "whoa-oh" refrains.

They're going about the show right: Instead of going overboard with the crowd-engagement tactics common to their type of band, all members simply look lively and more importantly - like the crowd's reaction truly isn't the determining factor in whether they enjoy playing or not. They let the tunes and their own energy do the talking, as singer Andreas Neiiendam Jensen sounds comfortable crooning the extended notes you'd expect from this type of music - which my Revolution Music colleague humoristically labels "Thirty Seconds To U2", while I also make note of a certain resemblance to The Killers - and Jensen isn't too cool to play pretend guitar with his mic chord when he's not in focus. Next to him, bassist Mark Schøtt Hansen favours a foot-on-amp power stance while seemingly trying to share a grin with every guest on the floor in front of him, while guitarists Christopher Fiil Østergaard and Lorentz How Aarhus both stand back a bit, yet especially Østergaard wears a knowing smile that reflects that the show is going well. (Aarhus normally plays in the band Glad You Came, but is standing in for Stefan Zych Thorsen tonight, while the latter is recovering from shoulder surgery)

And the show does go well, as it seems TigerSwan gradually win over the decent group of onlookers considering the early hour. The floor looks nicely populated, and for some reason, although the mix is much kinder to the band than when I've seen them previously, there's a nice feeling of muscle and roughness to it, like you can hear the band's ambitious melodies straining against the venue's modest size in compelling fashion. Hansen's bass work and the drumming from Bob Lynggaard has the thickness you love in the live setting, and the minimalistic touches from samples and guitar, those so instrumental in making large scale stadium tunes feel vibrant instead of echoing hollowly, penetrate the soundscape in a fine juxtaposition with Jensen's vocal work. You can still wonder if TigerSwan do enough to stand apart from their obvious influences, and I'd still wish that they'd write more actual lyrics in place of the superficial "whoa-oh" singalongs (it doesn't have to be Shakespeare, just words rather than meaningless cyllables are always nice in my book) - But the overall impression of the band is refreshingly exciting this time, and all of a sudden I find myself looking forward to the band's debut album with anticipation. Sadly it seems we'll have to wait 'til next year for it, but in the mean time, perhaps it's worth considering seeing these guys again?

7

Broadway Killers

Next up are Broadway Killers from Aarhus, a punk-rock trio whose self-titled debut album also comes out on Monday (August 25th) and who were mysteriously compared to Papa Roach by our own editor in chief in his recent review of the new album. So to poke fun at the boss man, let's start by observing the Top 3 bands Broadway Killers resemble - spoiler alert: none of them are Papa Roach - starting from the bottom. Number 3: Rise Against, from whom guitarist Anders Bæk Albrektsen seems to smartly borrow the feel for dynamic changes in strum-pattern and timing. Number 2: Against Me, mostly from "New Wave" and onwards, although "Violence" (from "Searching For A Former Clarity") sounds like it has been raided almost a bit too thoroughly for inspiration in one of the band's slower numbers. And finally number 1: Billy Talent, whom I find it almost impossible not to think of constantly, as I listen to the band's minimal punk-rock approach, which labours within self-imposed restraints with only bass, drums, sharp and raspy vocals and a guitar with little to no effects on it.

About the performance, firstly the good news is that it shows that the band has experience from larger shows, having supported the mighty Bad Religion on a recent Euro tour. They look completely at home and confident both playing and addressing the audience between songs. Secondly the songs here, although restrained to simple elements, are skillfully put together in terms of dynamics, consistently moving from intro to verse or verse to chorus at well-timed moments and with the kind of rises and dips in energy that keeps the listener engaged in a song. It's a rare enough trait that it's easy to see why both Bad Religion and Mighty Music have shown faith in the band, and while I think to myself that my nineteen year old self would have gone nuts for this - even despite the at times questionable lyricism - a group of younger guests in front of me display exactly the type of energetic response I'm imagining in my head, and as was the case with TigerSwan, there's still a solid group of people paying attention to the show, making the event as a whole look great so far.

Unfortunately, as the roughly forty minutes of set that's been allowed to Broadway Killers move on, some chinks in their armor do begin to appear. Despite bringing in their own sound engineer from Berlin, the guitar is too low in the mix, making you suspect that someone has worried about it getting in the way of the vocals. While this is often a prudent concern, Broadway Killers have so few elements in play that the back and forth between the vocals and guitar is a mainstay in their allure, and with the latter coming through meekly it makes them sound a bit handicapped power-wise. Similarly, while both standing members of the band are active, it's singer/bassist Jakob Thalund Møller that is consistently in focus, simply because he looks up and shows his face to audience in an engaging manner. On guitar, Albrektsen is super active with his body, but you get the feeling that neither he nor Emil Johnsen seem to be making much eye contact with the audience. Admittedly a superficial observation to make while watching a punk-rock band, but I couldn't help but feel that it would make for nice bit of variety if we got to feel like the band was more than one man just once or twice. Finally, the strain in Møller's singing style started to wear him out noticeably towards the end of the set, so while Broadway Killers started out promising, the overall impression had both ups and downs to discuss while waiting for the next band.

A Road To Damascus

While still young in the grander scheme of things, A Road To Damascus are the more accomplished of tonight's bands simply by standing at the second album mark already, and perhaps for this reason they're also picked to headline. Regardless, it's clear that the guys are about to get serious career-wise, when they appear after the stage has been redecorated with graphics in the band's style on both a large banner and two displays. The tones of the new album's untitled intro heralds their emergence, and instantly things blast off into the hyper-active single "All Said And Done", as the band comes up firing on all cylindres - perhaps even a few more than the mix is prepared for, but fortunately this is swiftly adjusted appropriately. The impression is as overpowering as on record, but this only fits nicely in a gig where people are warmed up and ready, and the floor quickly fills to the point where the people watching from the bar do so more out of necessity than disinterest.

I note to my positive surprise that guitarist Mads Peter Møller sings backing vocals tonight, which I cannot understate the impact of - Møller's limitations as a vocalist are barely noticeable in the small roles he needs to fill, and the positive impact this has on the performance dynamic is well worth the choice of having him sing in place of (or on top of) a backing track. So much so that I kind of wish he would have also handled Yashin singer Harry Radford's guest parts on the new album's title track, but these are instead delivered by drummer Anders Veikko Madsen, whose vocal presense is a bit too low in the mix. While I make note of this however, the band is busily working to convince new listeners, showing exactly the kind of infectious, all-out energy on stage that we know they're capable of when in top form, and it seems they have made sure to be in peak fitness condition tonight - And I'm speaking of everyone, not just bassist Jakob Lærke Møller, whose bodybuilder physique increasingly (and entertainingly) has him looking like bass playing Steve Rodgers (that's Captain America to you non-nerds).

Things proceed well, and with the band opting to air audience favourites from both albums instead of just playing the new stuff, the crowd stays engaged and the band in turn enjoys the kind of bouncing response that makes this looks like a pretty good show to anyone who would just stroll in from the street. The by now traditional singalongs are commanded in old number "Heads High, Hands Down", and as new voices are pedagogically enlisted to aid the song's refrain, I smirk as I notice my previously mentioned Revolution Music counterpart pausing in a beer order to lean dangerously far over the bar while belting along: "We're not gonna make it! I'm shaking my fist, I'm making sound!". The inclusion of old songs generally does wonders to provide a more nuanced contrast to the somewhat similarly toned new singles, yet while I've accepted by now that the band doesn't do screams in the new material, cutting out the response vocals in a song like "Heads High.." seems a shame to me. Regardless of such a detail however, and with few noticing that singer Mikkel Raavig also shows some wear and tear in the last two songs, this looks like one of the better shows A Road To Damascus has played in some time. We don't really get the synergy from the crowd that I expect will come when people have gotten to know more of the songs, but this is still pretty much exactly what the band would want as a launch point for the touring efforts they're about to commence.

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