Signals Midwest

support The Deadnotes
author TL date 07/09/14 venue UnderWerket, Copenhagen, DEN

Despite working on the site together for the better part of forever, it's still mostly fifty-fifty whether PP and I agree wholeheartedly or disagree violently when it comes to music. One thing we have agreed on though, is that Signals Midwest were one of the first bands to truly impress the both of us at last year's FEST 12 in Gainesville (and Pre-FEST in Tampa). Back then the Cleveland-based group delivered a burst of energy of a show that has stuck in our heads since then, so when we got wind that the band was planning to take their set to Europe, PP reached out to set up a show in Copenhagen and I of course had marked the date in my calendar, disregarding the fact that it was a Sunday and that it was both the first NFL Sunday of the year and the evening of the Danish national soccer team's first qualifying match for the next Euro Cup. Fortunately it turned out that at least a handful of others had their priorities thusly in order, and as the clock closes in on 21:00, a group of between 20 to 30 people happily swig the generously priced beers of UnderWerket, awaiting the performance of the evening's support band.

Photo credit: philipbh.com

The Deadnotes

Few knew in advance what to expect of German trio The Deadnotes, but to their credit, their show turns out as one that's hard to rate. The guys look young, but get started with a forthcoming introduction that signals that they're totally comfortable playing for a small audience far away from home, and as they commence playing they also perform with expertise and energy to spare, rocking out as much as their parts allow, and with guitarist and lead singer Darius Lohmüller soon jumping over the monitor to take advantage of the floor space as well. To begin with, I'm delighted to hear that Lohmüller, despite a noticeable bit of accent, has an engaging, relatively clearly enunciated singing style, reminding me of the likes of The Weakerthans and The Smith Street Band, on occasion throwing in some comical intentional voice breaks. More importantly however, the band endears the crowd by flashing a good understanding for songwriting dynamics, adding and subtracting instruments and backing vocals in a way that makes the songs feel alive and makes you forget that they're only a trio.

Knowing when to step away from the mic and shout parts unamplified, the young group show an understanding that you admire because it's the sort of thing that ensures that your songs will always be engaging whether written with three instruments in a bedroom or a full orchestral production. So far however, The Deadnotes' songs are more like the former type, somewhat schizophrenically mixing various types of riffs into their base punk-rock formula, suggesting that they're still trying to solidify an identity, and you can hear that while individual parts are well-arranged, the movements from one to another are at times a bit awkward, in the way where you can hear a bar or so of just drumming, in the absence of a good idea to tie one thing into the next. That's the kind of thing you're more prone to notice while listening at home however, and for a support band on a very casual Sunday, The Deadnotes do enough to leave a charming impression with a crowd that didn't seem to know a thing about them in advance.

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Signals Midwest

After a short break to change the instrument setup on stage, Signals Midwest come on, and from the first moment, the couple of us that have seen the band before are reminded just why it never seemed like a bad idea to convince them to come all the way up to Denmark and play the most intimate venue in town, even if it is a Sunday. One thing you're missing if you're listening at home is the sheer power of the band, which is strangely subdued on their 2013 album "Light On The Lake". With three guitarists in the band, Signals Midwest kick up a considerable noise, which is mainly harnessed in arragements where two guitars play harmonised chords and the last one plays a complex lead. Like a super-sonic version of The Deadnotes' approach, the various arrangements then twist and turn with frequent changes in tempo, striking and strumming patterns, while most members sing vocals whether they have a microphone on stage or not, showing that every member of the band is invested in the songs.

The involvement is on display in terms of movement as well, with both bodies and instruments being thrown around in an energetic celebration of the music. Frontman Max Stern often finds himself contorted in a stance that brings to mind the cover of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, yet finds the breath to address the crowd between songs, mentioning his genuine appreciation for both audience, organisers and the support band while drummer Steve Gibson casually swirls a drumstick around the fingers of one hand while drinking beer with the other. The only downside to the show is that Stern's more powerfully sung parts come at the price of diction, or at least it seems that way, partly perhaps because the band's busy soundscape often demands that he shouts in competition with three-part guitar arrangements, drowning out the words with regularity. The songs have enough quiet mini-parts to resummon the crowd's attention if ever it drifts however, and overall you can feel that people are getting won over, cheering enthusiastically after each song.

Time passes quickly then, and the mood is only bolstered as the band realises that the one Italian guest that has found his way to the show knows every single song they play, so when the show eventually ends the guys let themselves be convinced to play an unplanned encore. Perhaps though, the best testament to the kind of night this is, is how eagerly and casually people from both bands and audience interact following the show. While people dig coins out of corners of purses to purchase shirts, it feels like any gap between fans and musicians has long since been bridged, and many from both sides continue with considerable amounts of beer and friendly conversation in an apartment elsewhere in town. It appears then that both those who went home sensibly and those that went on and destroyed all hopes for their Mondays, can at least also agree on one thing:. Anyone doing anything else in Copenhagen on their Sunday evening missed out, and hopefully they'll read this report and know to join in on the fun next time.

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