WhenIceage, from Copenhagen, Denmark
, took the stage (or floor in this case) atRhinoceropolis
last night, there was a palpable air of anticipation and excitement, and certainly the members of the band had a quiet intensity about them that they unleashed in full from the moment they started the set with the colossal and haunting "White Rune."
The press of bodies and free flow of sweat seemed to surge forward as more than a handful of people in the audience knew the words to every song. Impressive for a band whose album, the short and sharp New Brigade, came out a mere few months ago. Fists pumped into the air and you couldn't help but be swept up in the moment, but it wasn't the kind of violent enthusiasm inspired by many of the best hardcore bands because the music wasn't that. It was a cousin to that but darker and more emotionally stirring on a deeper level than the pure expression of suppressed aggression.
What the audience gave to Iceage, the band returned aplenty as singer Elias Rønnenfelt and the rest of the band seemed to channel the heightened emotional energy of the room, with Rønnenfelt, in the end, performing the final two songs without his guitar, giving himself up to the audience and at one point being lifted into the air, crowd surfing perhaps without consciously doing so.
You'd be hard pressed to think of a band that has elicited such a reaction in an audience in recent years. This kind of performance probably couldn't happen in a much bigger space and still work as well, but this show was the kind of thing that changes you if you're used to seeing a mere "concert" or a show where people politely clap to meek music.
This performance challenged your emotional responses and reminded you that music can still be inspiring and is best when it's not merely entertaining. Maybe other people had a different response to the show, but you'd have to be one of the undead not to be electrified by Iceage's first performance in Denver.
At first it seemed as though Iceage would second-to-last, but it quickly became apparent that everyone from Negative Degree had finally made it from work and its evocation of a classic early hardcore sound was legitimate enough to get people in the crowd going into a fit of violent frenzy.
Things started heating up by the time Hot White took stage but the band's eruptive energy and vibe of pure mayhem and unhinged energy wasn't dampened a bit. With such close quarters, the band couldn't spread out as much as it often does but its sound was as savage, menacing and energizing as ever and singer/bassist Tiana Bernard backed into the audience with almost complete disregard for her personal safety -- which is one of the reasons she's always been such a compelling frontwoman.
When neo-hardcore act Civilized (formerly Ego Complex) began its set, things weren't so oppressive with the humidity and temperature either. Seeing Jacob DeRaadt fronting a hardcore band instead of creating innovative sound collages with banks of devices was a bit startling, and for a change, a hardcore band didn't seem to just be playing loud and fast. Civilized seemed to be coming from an honest and ferocious place.
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It wasn't initially as hot as it often is at a crowded Rhinoceropolis show, which suited the sound of opening band, Tollund Men. Sure, not even remotely punk, but Tollund Men brought something unsettling with Neal Samples' heavily processed vocals and synth music backed by fuzzy bass that recalled early '80s Cabaret Voltaire on songs like "Yashar," which recalled the darker, moodier, more avant-garde end of post-punk in a way that was riveting and haunting all at once.