Category Archives: LIVE REVIEWS

Live Review: Harsh Toke, Paris, France, Jan. 9, 2015

HarshToke

Religion is a terrorism of the mind.

Fundamentalist or not, it inspires fear of the invisible and the impossible, it discourages critical thinking, and it banishes the sceptic to an eternity of torture.

Yet religion has become so interwoven into society and so—pardon the imagery here—“bulletproof” to criticism that we ignore its illogic and immorality (as Robert Heinlein once put it, albeit in a different context) “just as fish ignore water.”

Tonight, in a city where just two hours earlier, police ended a pair of stand-offs with Islamic terrorists who killed 17 police officers, cartoonists and Jewish shoppers, the most powerful weapon against this mental scourge could very well be … weed.

The attacks on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo have been cast as a strike at the freedom of expression, a fundamental right in any civilized society. Among the art forms that are most unbridled in their expression—and appropriate “fuck you” antidotes to its suppression—is stoner rock.

Indeed, San Diego’s Harsh Toke embodies, above all else, freedom … specifically, the freedom to light up a doobie and fucking jam.

Released last year, the group’s debut album is a bracing sprint through psychedelia and metal, with just a soupçon of Southern rock. Less riff-reliant than Earthless, less doom-heavy than Sleep, the Tokers give free rein to their inner pothead. Like all hard-rock stoner bands, it owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Black Sabbath, but Harsh Toke focuses on the life-affirming ecstasy of the high rather than the snarling malice of the dark.

It is fitting that, on this night, in this town, the vicious guitar leads don’t express anger or despair or doom … but rather joy and exhilaration, the white-water thrill ride that life can be at its most wonderful, most invigorating moments. On several occasions throughout the show, guitarists Justin Figueroa and Gabe Messner look at each other, mid-jam, and smile. The munchies have clearly not made them grumpy.

The quartet ends its set with the album’s title track, “Light Up And Live.” The song builds from a slow, deliberate groove into an exuberant gangbang of notes awash in wah. Tonight, the band reminds us of the taste of freedom in one’s lungs. Sure, sometimes when you take a big gulp, it burns going down. A harsh toke, indeed. But you’re still the better for it.

No mention of the terrorist attacks is made from the stage or the crowd. The audience is grateful for the respite, relieved simply to ride the good vibes.

The death cult of religion devalues this life and tries to sell you on the unknown and unknowable prize “behind door number two.” So yeah, Light up and live. But most importantly: live.

#JeSuisCharlie

—Eric Bensel

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Live Review: Winter Jazzfest NYC

Jazz

It’s the 2015 Winter Jazzfest NYC. MAGNET’s Mitch Myers reports from the festival.

Now in its 11th year, the Winter Jazzfest in New York City has become an established fulcrum of offbeat musical activity, ideal for the consumer as well as industry insiders. It’s an impressive series of showcases—much akin to CMJ— crammed into 10 Greenwich Village venues and featuring more than 100 acts. With affordable day passes allowing attendees to wander from one club to another, the WJF encourages adventurous listening and discovery, highlighting avant-garde improvisation, amazing new compositions and high-concept projects.

Both the audience and the musicians ranged from younger neophytes to grizzled veterans, and Thursday night’s formal kickoff epitomized the generational diversity with just two shows. The Le Poisson Rouge venue highlighted a current crop of hipsters with Blue Note recording artists Robert Glasper, Kendrick Scott, Jose James and Derrick Hodge, while the nearby Disability Pride benefit concert showcased esteemed jazz elders including Benny Golson, Ron Carter, Jimmy Cobb and George Coleman.

Friday night’s schedule was an embarrassment of riches, but I stuck to the action at the Minetta Lane Theater with established artists including reedist/composer David Murray. Murray has recorded more than 150 albums under his own name, and had three different showcase slots including a Clarinet Summit with Don Byron, David Krakauer and Hammiet Bluiett, and a trio gig featuring Geri Allen on piano and Terri Lynne Carrington on drums. Following Murray, there was Trio 3 with Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille along with special-guest pianist Vijay Iyer. Even without Iyer, Trio 3’s collective experience was well over 150 years, and they did not disappoint.

Longtime “Downtown” musicians were also on hand, with Mark Ribot & The Young Philadelphians With Strings playing instrumental versions of classic Philly soul. Ribot’s band killed it, especially with the amazing rhythm section of bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma and drummer Calvin Weston. Other downtown legends included Strange And Beautiful, which is a Lounge Lizards tribute ensemble featuring Lizard alumni Ribot, pianist Evan Lurie, trumpeter Steven Bernstein, saxophonists Michael Blake and Erik Lawrence and many more.

Saturday night’s schedule was more of the same—both in quantity and quality—including Rudresh Mahanthappa interpreting Charlie Parker, the Campbell Brothers performing a sacred steel version of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and the SFJAZZ Collective playing the music of Michael Jackson. Overall, there was just too much for any one person to see, but that was a good thing.

—photo by Steve Sussman

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Live Review: Motörhead, The Damned, Paris, France, Nov. 18, 2014

Motorhead

Creature Double Feature!

Rarely are audiences treated to two bands of such legendary stature on the same bill. And interestingly, the Damned and Motörhead are not merely pioneers in punk and metal, respectively; they also have close historical ties.

Motörhead’s Lemmy played bass on the Damned’s cover of the Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz,” and the two bands once merged for a live version of “Over The Top” under the contracted moniker Motördamn. But their joint immortality was ensured when they both made unforgettable cameos on the ’80s U.K. sitcom The Young Ones. YouTube that shit up, kiddies.

First up: the punks.

“We’ve come from 1977 to save you from The X Factor!”

Captain Sensible is an incorrigible yukster. He has been playing the clown before audiences for more than 35 years as bassist, then guitarist, for the Damned. The first time I saw him perform—at the original 9:30 club in D.C. back in the early 90s—he improvised poetry about Sylvester Stallone sucking his cock.

“We’re the Damned,” he yells tonight. “And we sound something like this … ”

The “this” should have been the most bracing, razor-sharp punk from the original wave of revolutionary yobbos. In a genre that, at the time, eschewed technical skill, the Damned was rebellious in its virtuosity. Drummer Rat Scabies was a Keith Moon who could actually keep time. Sensible was every bit the guitar god that Page and Clapton were. And unlike Johnny Rotten, Dave Vanian could not only carry a tune but also apply a range of “treatments” to his vocals, appropriate to the song’s mood.

Unfortunately, tonight, with only Sensible and Vanian remaining from the band’s classic era, the boys only sound “something like” the Damned.

The punk tunes (“Ignite,” “Second Time Around,” “Love Song,” “Neat Neat Neat” and signature hit “New Rose”) lack the bite they had so long ago. But the more pop-inflected songs (“Wait For The Blackout,” “History Of The World (Part I),” “Eloise,” “Street Of Dreams”) all really buzz. Vanian may dress like an undertaker emceeing a three-ring circus, but his pipes are as clean and rich as ever. Furthermore, with closer “Smash It Up,” the group is subtle, powerful and anarchic: everything that made it the most accomplished, versatile, exciting, and—don’t challenge me on this one—best punk band from the class of ’77.

As he exits the stage, Vanian warms up the audience for the headliners by suggesting we may all be “killed by death.” Only at a metal concert would that be greeted with cheers.

When Motörhead takes to the stage, one senses that the set of an ’80s metal video has come to life: a drum riser towers, the garish Snaggletooth banner seethes malevolence from the rafters, the powerful search lights cast their tendrils outward, and the ubiquitous devil hand symbols reach, ironically, to Heaven.

Lemmy and Co. play a punishing set of their trademark one-two-three  sweaty metal. The band hammers through a series of crowd pleasers: “Shoot You In The Back,” “Stay Clean,” and “No Class.” “Iron Fist” is conspicuous in its absence, but there is plenty gristle elsewhere on which to chew. And if the numbers all sound similar, no one is complaining. Motörhead fans don’t come to the shows for diversity in the songs: They come because—I’m quoting several bleary-eyed fans here—“no one rocks harder.” Indeed, Motörhead is utterly uncompromising. Over nearly 40 years, the group has never sold out, let alone sung a duet with Miss Fucking Piggy. (I’m looking at you, Ozzy.)

Just before the encore, the trio delivers metal’s crowning achievement: the all-time greatest metal tune—I’ll brook no opposition on this point either—the incomparable “Ace Of Spades.” The song that should be engraved on every time capsule we jizz into space.

As preface to the night’s closer, the pummelling “Overkill,” Lemmy addresses the crowd one final time, paraphrasing a lyric from another one of his songs and repeating his intro at the start of the show. “Don’t forget us,” he implores. “We are Motörhead, and we play rock ‘n’ roll.”

Got it.

—Eric Bensel

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Live Review: Blonde Redhead, Paris, France, Sept. 22, 2014

BlondeRedhead

Lower your expectations and you will rarely be disappointed. Scientists refer to this as the “Tom Arnold Principle.” It applies particularly well to tonight’s Blonde Redhead concert.

In the 1990s, Blonde Redhead was breathtakingly original. Its bracing, no-wave indie punk inspired (fitting) comparisons with alternative legend Sonic Youth. Its jagged rhythms and jarring, boy/girl vocals created a dynamic that was the envy of all bands who courted the avant-garde yet still wanted to sound catchy.

With the turn of the millennium, BR shifted gears, toning down its rock elements to create dreamy pop gems fashioned in a Fabergé workshop. The group had transitioned from gorgeous art rock to gorgeous art pop.

And now this.

The trio’s latest release, Barragán, is suitable for an elevator in Stockholm—fittingly, come to think of it, since the band seems sympathetic to its captors: it has fallen hostage to Euro-wusscore and seems content to seal the cocoon permanently shut. The album lacks the elegance and exquisite beauty of its previous releases: the tracks—cottony and threadbare—float through one’s ears like tumbleweeds through a dusty ghost town. To cite but one clunker, “Defeatist Anthem (Harry and I)” sounds as if the High Llamas dropped acid and performed on Hee Haw.

So expectations were running low for this gig. However, in Paris’ regal Trianon club, Blonde Redhead offers a polished, and at times inspired, performance. Kazu Makino and twin brothers Amedeo and Simone Pace play a deliciously languorous version of “Hated Because Of Great Qualities.” Even Barragán’s “No More Honey”—a bit limp on record—is haunting, hypnotizing in this live setting. It oozes voluptuous ’60s French pop à la Ivy. The song’s pendulum-like guitar line hangs suggestively in the air, tantalizing one’s libido.

Late in the set, the focus of the show narrows sharply onto Kazu. She abandons her guitar and bass and takes center stage with mic in hand. Previously, she had lurched about with the grace of a paraplegic spider, but with the euphoric, dancehall shoegaze of “23” she sways and shimmers and thrashes with physical poetry, energy and—fuck yeah—sexiness.

Even while belting out the staccato chorus to “Equus,” she exudes fragility and shyness. The audience is thoroughly entranced.

The band closes with “Seven Two” from the current album. The Pace brothers quickly exit the stage, knowing that all eyes are on a different set of twins. Kazu stands alone in a slinky white dress, absorbing lavish applause. She blows charmingly awkward kisses.

The public gushes. Kazu blushes.

Tonight, Blonde Redhead finds a new way to exceed expectations. Such is the art of seduction.

—Eric Bensel

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Images From The Chicago Riot Fest

Corn

MAGNET contributor Michael Jackson attended this year’s Riot Fest in Chicago and sent us these great photos. More after the jump.

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Live Review: Kate Bush, London, England, Aug. 27, 2014

KateBush

Long before there was Björk, Cocteau Twins, Tori Amos or Bat For Lashes, there was Kate Bush. For the uninitiated, Bush has fashioned a four-decade career as a true musical original—a bloody-minded British eccentric right out of the Syd Barrett/Monty Python/Julian Cope handbook, hell-bent on pursuing her own muse to the exclusion of nearly everything else going on around her, pop or otherwise. Back in the day, Bush objected to being objectified (criticizing her record label for marketing her as “a female body … rather than an artist in a female body”) and was the first woman to pen her own U.K. number-one hit (“Wuthering Heights”), winning her a fanbase that came to include artists as diverse as Johnny Rotten, Tricky, Outkast’s Big Boi and Rufus Wainwright. To put it in modern terms: Kate Bush is a pop/rock OG, equal parts King Crimson (prog) and David Bowie (glam/wave), with a back catalog to rival that of anyone making music over the past 50 years.

Somehow, along the way, Bush had managed to stay mostly out of the live performance business since 1979 before announcing a spate of shows in London entitled “Before The Dawn.” This news encouraged an enthused (mostly) British public to promptly purchase more than 77,000 tickets in a mere 15 minutes to a series of 22 consecutive gigs at the Eventim Apollo (the Artist Formerly Known as Hammersmith Odeon), with ticket prices on the black market fetching nearly 2000 GBP. The fact that Bush’s last proper tour took place in spring of 1979—and that rumors had since made the rounds of a crippling fear of flying, the almost manic need for Bush to control every aspect of her career, or that the death of her lighting engineer at one of her gigs had severely affected her ability or desire to play live again (with the benefit for the family subsequently scheduled for the very same venue she was playing this evening)—has only generated the sort of anticipation that one associates with An Event, A Moment, a Bucketlist Item.

Tonight’s show was only the second of these gigs, so the wide-eyed wonder of seeing an artist both remarkably ahead of her time and so famously reclusive hadn’t yet worn off, with news crews wandering around in front of the venue interviewing fans, hangers-on and those who (like me) had traveled long distances to catch one of these shows while Bush was still in the mood to perform. And perform, she did—a three-hour set in which an energized Bush recreated the second side of her 1985 classic LP Hounds Of Love (the so-called “Ninth Wave” suite) and the second side of her 1993 album Aerial (the “Sky Of Honey” cycle) as separately imagined stage productions, with sets, costumes and lighting effects more akin to a West End play than a rock ‘n’ roll show. Bush’s vocal gift is an instrument neither ravaged by time nor age; her airy soprano soared as high tonight as it ever has, sure in pitch and rich in power. A devastating weapon perfectly deployed against a wide-ranging arsenal of material.

(Bush, via her website, had made an explicit request for tonight’s audience to “please refrain from taking photos or filming during the shows; I want very much to have contact with you as an audience not with iPhone or iPads or cameras” … Hence, the lousy picture accompanying this review. Normally, I would do better. But as it happens, when a British audience is asked to do something, and they love the person who asks them to do it, they comply fully and passionately—I wasn’t about to be the one person in the theater tonight kicked out or made a social pariah for abusing the rules … sorry, ya’ll).

Her performance kicked off with the voice of Miranda Richardson, from Bush’s 1993 album The Red Shoes, reading from the Sanskrit hymn Gayatri Mantra: “O Thou who gives sustenance to the universe, from Whom all things proceed, to whom all things return, unveil to us the face of the true spiritual sun hidden by a disc of golden light, that we may know the Truth and do our whole duty as we journey to thy sacred feet … ” And from the darkness of the stage marched Bush with her backup chorus in a line behind her, working her way through a series of old favorites (“Hounds Of Love” and “Running Up That Hill,” which to my ears remains one of the best songs ever written by anyone in any era) before closing out the final line to “King Of The Mountain” in a shower of confetti before segueing into a stage set approximating the watery shipwreck of “The Ninth Wave,” a harrowing, emotional journey populated by a psychedelic cast including dancers dressed as fish skeletons, seafarers in orange life jackets and Bush flipping between live appearance and filmed screen sequences (having spent three days in a flotation tank capturing these bits in partnership with Adrian Noble, the former artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, whose last night with the troupe was evidently this evening and was therefore given a warm sendoff by Bush at the break). The overall effect was somewhat akin to an acid trip—not unpleasant at all, but disorienting and jarring in parts, such as one scene in which an overhead lighting apparatus was made to stand in for a search-and-rescue helicopter, frantically seeking Bush’s drowning female character beneath the waves as her family is rescued in the meantime. At one point, the ghost of Bush repeatedly sang “I’m not here” to her family (Bush’s real-life son, Bertie McIntosh, featured heavily throughout the evening) and to the audience, seemingly taunting all concerned by pointedly stepping out of the narrative to remind us of her lengthy absence.

Following a raucous standing ovation and subsequent 20-minute intermission, the altogether different “Sky Of Honey” suite began, connecting birds and their seeming symmetry to light (up at dawn, asleep at dusk) to a 19th-century painter whose work goes maddeningly unfinished over the course of its 10 “movements” but nonetheless ends on an altogether more uplifting, life-affirming note—with Bush and McIntosh lifting off in flight as the suite closed, to dazzling effect. Between the costuming, imaginative use of puppetry and special effects, the suite far exceeded the limits it had been assigned on record, and Bush seemed genuinely moved by the rowdy, passionate reception given to her performance. So much so, that by the time she had returned for the encores—accompanying herself on piano for the remarkable “Among Angels” before bringing the band back for the crowd-favorite “Cloudbusting”—she was dancing barefoot in twirling circles with the audience doing its level best to imitate this step, in place, in their seats.

By any rational measure, 35 years seems entirely too long to wait to see live music performed by an artist who is so obviously among the most influential and important of the past two generations. I mean, entire lives can be altered and worlds can be rocked off their rotational axes over the course of that period of time. And yet—as I sit here attempting to describe for you the sheer joy I experienced watching Bush bring her music to life for an audience who, equally as clearly, could imagine doing nothing else but take it in, in rapt attention, for 180 straight minutes—it seems an entirely rational turn of events. Dearest Kate—let’s try not to wait so long, next time. We missed you too much. There is simply too much “there,” there.

—Corey duBrowa

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Images From The Pitchfork Music Festival

StVincent

MAGNET contributor Michael Jackson attended this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival and sent us these great photos. St. Vincent is above. More after the jump.

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Images From The MAGNET Turns 21 Anniversary Show Featuring Guided By Voices, Surfer Blood And Titus Andronicus

All photos by Steve Streisguth

Guided By Voices:
GBV1

GBV2

Surfer Blood:
Surfer1

Surfer2

Titus Andronicus:
Titus1

Titus2

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Live Review: The Hudson Project, 2014

ModestMouse

It’s the 2014 Hudson Project festival. MAGNET’s Maureen Coulter reports from the festival.

“I never thought I’d find myself on one of these again,” a festival-goer remarked as we all piled into a yellow school bus serving as the shuttle between the parking lot and the Hudson Project festival grounds. It turned out to be a fitting way to travel to the event at which everyone felt free to unleash their inner child. Nestled in the mountain town of Saugerties, N.Y., far from reliable cell-phone service and the daily grind of work, schoo, and other responsibilities, the mostly 20-something crowd frolicked about in pajamas, underwear, costumes, bathing suits, body paint and mismatched plaid and tie-dye combos.

Like the first day of a new school year, people were excitedly striking up conversations with each other. “Where are you from?” “You pumped for Modest Mouse?” When we arrived at the venue and walked amidst the Ferris wheel, tents and yard games, it was apparent that festival-goers were here to play. A big, burly guy in a tie-dye T-shirt carried around a “Free Hugs” sign. Half-naked girls in body glitter hoisted signs and props such as oversized photos of Oprah and Gary Busey, glowing jellyfish umbrellas and inflatable sharks. A giggling group of friends were rolling down the grassy hill next to one of the stages. And this was before the music had even started.

As dusk settled upon the festival-goers assembled in front of the Empire Stage on Friday night, Modest Mouse played its jilted-yet-melodic brand of folk rock, starting off with the strong banjo riff of “Satin In A Coffin.” Singer/guitarist Isaac Brock spewed his raspy, gut-wrenching lyrics into the microphone like it had pissed him off. He took command of the stage through brute force, rather than by intrinsic charisma. With a polo T-shirt, copious tattoos and a mop of hair, he looked like someone who frequents the local sports bar instead of the front man of one of the most successful indie bands of the past two decades. Wasting little time bantering with the crowd, the group segued into favorites “The View,” “Dramamine” and “Third Planet,” before sending us off with the thunderous “Cities Made Of Ashes.”

Once darkness enveloped the festival grounds, the costumes and props emerged in full force. Glassy-eyed kids in cow suits and sparkly fairy outfits marched to the Explorer Stage with homemade illuminated signs, blinking hula hoops and glow sticks to take in festival veterans Sound Tribe Sector 9, the psychedelic instrumental electro-rock group favored by the jam-band scene. STS9 could barely fit a fraction of its work into the 90 minute set—the prolific band has made 11 albums since it began 10 years ago. Across the grounds inside the Circus Tent, the dance party continued into the night with electronic dub-step artists Savoy and Excision.

Pretty much every day we were at the Hudson Project, we witnessed people having fun with antics that would raise eyebrows, trigger snickers or outright offend in any other setting. As everyone waited for the shuttle on day two, we watched one guy—built like an NFL wide receiver and wearing nothing but a patchwork skirt and muddy Vibrams—play in the parking lot with bubbles while smiling and waving at amused bystanders.

We took in a few second- and third-tier acts throughout Saturday afternoon. ZZ Ward is Adele with a harmonica. If she ever breaks out, parents across the nation will be hearing their teenage daughters belting her songs from the shower. Wearing a fedora and black boots, she buttered up the crowd, telling them how delicious and sexy they looked. However, this was the beginning of the day, when no one’s makeup has melted off yet and their bodies were not yet burnt to a crisp.

Early in the evening, Rebelution, the talented Sublime-esque reggae crew, played to a burgeoning crowd as the odor of pot grew increasingly pungent. Acid-jazz, trip-hop DJ Bonobo and lively hip-hop duo Big Gigantic warmed us up for the later acts.

A downpour around 8:30 p.m. sent festival-goers running for the tents. We ended up huddled with a few hundred others in the New York tent with a mediocre local band that had never seen this many people see the group play even in its high-school orchestra production. However, once the rain cleared a few minutes later, the sopping-wet crowd hauled their signs and props back to Big Gigantic.

Matt And Kim embodied the theme of the festival, living up to its reputation of having a fun, D.I.Y. attitude toward music and basically doing whatever the heck the band wanted to do onstage. Upbeat and party-friendly, the duo is best known for perky 2009 hit “Daylight,” and its songs are in every commercial and movie trailer made in the last five years. Kim, with her checkered pants and Colgate smile, throttled the drums with her Crossfit biceps and couldn’t sit still, climbing on top of the set and shaking her very toned rear at the audience while still drumming. The duo played interludes of club music like Master P’s “Make ‘Em Say UHH” and engaged the fans in the audience in a way that would make Blue’s Clues proud, throwing balloons into the crowd and encouraging dance parties and sing-alongs. The duo was also hilarious. “We are going to play something by a great American poet. You may have heard of Robert Kelly, known as R. Kelly.” Then Matt commenced a group recital of “Bump n’ Grind.” By the end of the set, I wasn’t sure who had the better time—the audience, or Matt And Kim.

On the third day, bleary-eyed and sunburnt festival-goers straggled into the venue and headed straight for the food and beer concession stands to cure their hangovers. Early afternoon was cooler than the previous two days, but rain clouds loomed. We took in a few performances including the Floozies, who played an electro-funk set to a packed Circus Tent. Mid-afternoon, organizers appeased futbol fans by showing the World Cup Final on a big screen in the New York tent. At the 75th minute, an announcement came in over the loudspeaker telling everyone that they were suspending the festival due to severe weather concerns. Not wanting to be conductors of lightning, and realizing that the shuttle pick-up zone could turn into a Titanic situation, we hustled to the parking lot and hopped onto a bus. Other people weren’t so lucky. Packed-up vehicles floundered in the mud, and marooned and cranky attendees left unhappy comments on the festival’s Facebook page.

Despite the less-than-perfect weekend, we still enjoyed two-and-a-half days in a bubble of good music, good vibes and free expression—which is all that folks will remember a month from now anyway. The next time I ride a school bus, I hope it’s during Hudson Project 2015.

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Copenhagen Jazz Festival, 2014

ThurstonMoore

The Copenhagen Jazz Festival is a 10-day summer event that’s especially broad in scope and range. It runs from July 4 through July 13 and has been bringing decidedly idiosyncratic programming to Denmark since 1979. The festival is a humongous behemoth of jazz and beyond, showcasing nearly 1,200 concerts at more than 100 different venues—including indoor, outdoor, large, small, free and ticketed events. From restaurant gigs at places like the Café Sommersko to auditoriums like the Danish Radio Concert Hall, the festival is hosting Danish and Scandinavian talent, cutting-edge European artists and the cream of American musicians trekking across the continent of European summer jazz fests.

Besides local heroes like drummers Alex Riel and Stefan Pasborg and bigger acts like Chick Corea & Stanley Clarke, John Scofield, Josh Redman and Tinarewin (the desert-blues sensation from Mali), the Copenhagen fest puts on a high percentage of avant-garde performances. One such showcase at the venerable Jazzhouse venue was the pairing of Swedish power-saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and avant-rock guitar hero Thurston Moore.

With Gustafsson blowing with gale-force intensity as well as pushing a storming brew of electronic keyboard sounds, Moore was free to scrape, pick and pound away on his guitar, matching Gustafsson in both potency and focus and making their ear-bleeding duet feel like one long improvisational fever dream. Feedback and an array of tonal colors streamed back and forth between the two men, going from soft and contemplative into high, screeching volume. Much of the young audience had filtered over from the nearby Roskilde Festival to see Moore, but even the older, seasoned jazzbos in attendance had to admit that this gig was one breathtaking improvisational experience.

Another unlikely gig of scorching intensity was deranged Japanese vocalist/poet Damo Suzuki—best known for his stint as singer in the German group Can. Suzuki brought his unusual performance narrative to fruition at the stripped-down rock club KB18 in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district. The noise-loving youth of Denmark once again came out for the spectacle, as Suzuki was playing with the reunited Danish outfit White Trash featuring guitarist Jakob Bro and keyboardist Søren Kjærgaard. White Trash provided an appropriately harsh groove while Suzuki ranted, growled, screamed and sang in several languages—none of which I could understand at all. Still the show was downright killer, so there you go.

Let’s just hope for a few more sonic outbursts before the Copenhagen Jazz Festival ends on Sunday.

—Mitch Myers; photo by Kristoffer Juel Poulsen

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