Sunday, July 31
A four-band bill on a Sunday night often means a headliner going>"/>
Sunday, July 31
Iceage, Cult of Youth, Grave Babies, King Dude
Sunday, July 31
A four-band bill on a Sunday night often means a headliner going on way too late, with people either leaving early or suffering a shit Monday morning if they stay--but the Crocodile and bands ran an amazingly tight ship last night for adolescent Scando punks Iceage's Seattle debut. Even starting at 9 p.m., the show wrapped up by 11:30, with each band playing concise 30-minute sets--or, in the case of Iceage, even less. The Danish foursome took the stage around 11 p.m. to a largely empty room and reggae on the sound system; the stage lights went dark, yellow floods lit them dramatically from below, and the band tore into "White Rune"--probably their best-known song from critically acclaimed debut New Brigade. Twenty minutes later, they played "You're Blessed"--probably their second-best-known song--and curtly walked offstage.
Iceage played a half-dozen other songs in between, all of them sounding more conventionally "hardcore" than on their subtly produced album, driven by aggressive, air-tight D-beat drumming and frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt's blurry mumble. Rønnenfelt started the night with a guitar, but ditched it halfway through to lean hard on the mike stand and sing, his face often displaying the kind of blank, stage-sweaty disaffect that, along with that voice, might remind people of Ian Curtis. When he leaned out over the crowd, past the stage lights, he disappeared. Under the lights, though, these 18- and 19-year-old kids looked childishly young--like Justin Bieber young. Between the headlong stabs at punk/hardcore, the youthfulness, and the eventual slam-dancing, it reminded me of nothing so much as old all-ages shows back at the Old Firehouse Teen Center (this is a compliment).
About that slam-dancing: When a big part of your band's hype is the scene that surrounds it--in Iceage's case, a young punk crowd with a reputation for bloody pit fisticuffs--it can be hard to translate to a tour. Seattle gave it a valiant effort, though, with about a dozen people slamming into each other, including some Grave Babies, and one Travis Ritter trying his damnedest to instigate a proper, orderly circle pit. With a bigger crowd, it might have turned into a bloodbath, or at least some crowd-surfing. As it was, Iceage delivered a damn promising debut here in Seattle; if they don't self-destruct or go off to college or whatever by this time next year, expect their next show to be a fair sight bigger (and expect at least half of last night's QOTSA audience to have caught on by then).
Cult of Youth were until last night just a band name I had heard mentioned in connection with other good bands and cool labels (opening for Cold Cave, responsible for Heaven Street records in Brooklyn), so while I wasn't expecting anything specific, I certainly wasn't expecting what they turned out to be: a stomping, thrashing, Irish-accented pub-rock act, with a lead singer absolutely attacking his black acoustic guitar, a redheaded goth violinist, and a drummer in a Propaghandi T-shirt (props). I tweeted: "So, what, Cult of Youth are like Flogging Molly for cool people?" And I more or less stand by that. A couple friends mentioned the Pogues, and while presumably there were plenty of Irish people on Earth before Shane McGowan, if your band cops a tooth-spitting Irish brogue, you're going to get that comparison.
I dig Grave Babies' blank walls of distorted, reverby garage goth, but let's face it: They are a band on whom it is impossible to take notes. You would pretty much have to be their bass player to tell one of their songs from any other one of their songs, and even he looked like he was just guessing half the time. And you can't just take down a line of lyrics and then Google the song after (usually a pro move), because the lyrics are smeared into one long syllable of echo. Two different friends (I have four friends!) observed the disconcerting delay between the singer's mouth moving and the vaguely related wails that came out of the PA, one likening it to a movie slipped out of sync. Like I said, I dig it.
I only caught the last song of King Dude's candlelit acoustic set, but I was impressed with how solo musician TJ Cowgill (also of Actual Pain) has developed his voice into a dark, resonant drawl, on some goth Johnny Cash shit (his NIN cover, say). It reminded me of how, in Book of Black Earth, Cowgill would not only scream in a cartoonish black-metal screech, but also on at least one occasion deliver his between-song banter in the same voice, so that his "thanks for coming out tonight" would come out a guttural, demonic, "THANKS FOR COMING OUT TONIGHT." It was a funny bit, but it's nice to see him putting his vocal prowess toward other, perhaps more serious ends.