support Astpai + The Smith Street Band
author TL date 08/05/14 venue Underwerket, Copenhagen, DEN

It may very well be that I caught two out of three of the bands at the weekend's past Groezrock festival, but given the chance to see them in Underwerket's all together differently intimate setting, there was no way I was going to pass up tonight's pan-continental punk rock extravaganza. Still, because I have the least flexible day-time job in the world, I still barely manage to get out of my shift and find myself on a bus around 8 - which is the time Astpai are set to start - and I'm thinking "fuck fuck fuck fuck I'm not missing them for the second time this week".

All pictures courtesy of Noise Of Living Photography


Fortunately, the Austrian quartet are only two songs in when I set foot in the basement venue, so I go "cloakroom, schmoakroom" and instead quickly duck out back for a beer and then slide up front to rock out with bag, coat and everything still on my back. The reason I don't want to miss them is that I've already seen what the lads can be like, back when they supported Smoke Or Fire in the same venue, and save for their frontman having abandoned his previously youthful appearance and now rocks a bit of a beard, Astpai are going about their business in their usual awesome way. They're a scruffy-looking, clearly tour-worn bunch, but they rock through their fuzzy, fast-paced punk rock songs with an energy that makes you think they feel each note and drum hit buzzing through their bodies.

Each chord is played with the entire body in bouncing power stances, and while you can probably find faster punk-rock bands if you're enough of a connoisseur, Astpai makes it feel on occasion like they're the fastest, the way they change gear from quick to quicker, exuding raw power the whole way through. Their obstacles today are an audience fresh from their jobs who haven't quite gotten into the beer-tinged mood yet, and the common punk rock problem of under-articulated vocals, that require you to know the lyrics intimately beforehand if you want to sing along to anything more than the tiniest bits. I make note of "Honest And Sentimental" but miss "Spelling Friendship", and while there's not a lot of singing along, most nod approvingly, which makes sense, because in the terms of a dependable 2014 punk rock show, Astpai is the salt of the earth.


The Smith Street Band

The Smith Street Band's name has literally been in my face everywhere I've gone online for a while, and to boot, some of our most loyal readers have been pushing them intensely to me in the past months. I haven't fully "got it" yet, neither listening to the band's "Sunshine And Technology" album or seeing them perform to the afternoon crowd at Groezrock's main stage, but as it turns out, tonight's more humble surroundings fit their lyrics-driven, story-telling punk-rock much better. Frontman Wil Wagner is the fixpoint of the show, sounding like Australian Frank Turner and as unable as Astpai were when it comes to preventing his entire body from getting into his performance, rocking back and forth and up on his tip-toes for particularly intense parts.

Wagner's talksy singing isn't the most harmonic, but it certainly is dynamic, and The Smith Street Band's songs have plenty of parts that beg to be shouted back at them, which a surprising amount of people here do. "Has the show drawn a contingent of Australian visitors?" - I wonder while people are singing back refrains from "Sunshine And Technology" and particularly "Don't Fuck With Our Dreams". Wagner and his friends look positively awestruck to hear such response here and the mood in the venue is already a noticeable notch merrier as he remarks "We played to four people in Frankfurt the other week, so thank you guys so much for not being Frankfurt". By the time the band ends, people shout for encores, to which the band is forced to reply that they're out of time, but the feeling persists that if Smith Street had been tonight's headliner, we would already feel like we'd gotten our money's worth.



As I chat with fellow patrons outside while Restorations prepare their set, I wonder how the band is even going to fit their three guitars, keyboard, bass and drums on Underwerket's stamp-sized "stage", but of course they manage and don't even look particularly cluttered as they get going. To begin with, I have a feeling like the band's grand mixture of post- and punk-rock actually sounds weird and oversized for a venue like this, and when guitarist Dave Klyman apparently stomps one of his pedals into pieces during the second song, there's an awkward break to begin with to make things worse.

Fortunately frontman Jon Loudon proves to be every bit as amicable and forthcoming as the situation calls for, and despite admitting that the twelve hour drive the bands took to get here has worn them down, he makes an immediate connection with the audience. And from here on out, things only get better. The change in pedal setup is hardly noticeable in Underwerket's limited sound setting anyway, and instead the loud deliveries of several songs from the band's recentmost "LP2" win the crowd over in increasing manner. "Kind Of Comfort", "Let's Blow Up The Sun", "D", "Civil Inattention" and "Adventure Tortoise" all make appearances alongside both older songs and a new, unreleased track the band decides to play on a whim, and while few are shouting lines like "I have no interest in that kind of competition!" or "I am no longer scared, I'm terrified all the time!" along with me, the fact that someone is clearly rubs off on the band.

The band thus rocks out as actively as the spatial constraints permit them, standing back from their mics at well-timed moments to deliver unamplified gang choruses and brandishing their guitars actively. Loudon makes his way down in front of the audience to play and Klyman calls for beer to carry him through the encore that the audience absolutely demands to hear. The band warns us that it's our own fault if we tire out during the performance of a longer old song, but no such thing occurs, because symptomatically for the night, it has low impact that fewer people seem familiar with Restorations than with The Smith Street Band - The band's anthemic and dynamic compositions speak for themselves and translate much easier than their unconventional structures would suggest. Similarly, the satisfied vibe and the smiles that escape the now warm venue when it all ends is also unmistakeable, leaving nothing left to be done than to be grateful to see such good performances on a mundane Wednesday for the generous admission price of 50 DKK.


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