words by Phillip Pantuso, photos by Fred Pessaro // BBG
Iceage @ 285 Kent
Iceage blew into 285 Kent last night (1/25) in the wake of an actual snowstorm, but if the inclement weather deterred any from venturing out to see the Danish post-punk band, you couldn't tell by the room. 285 Kent was overpacked, the usual cigarette-and-sweat melange augmented by dirty slush tracked all over the floor. Anticipation was high, and you couldn't move for being thrown to the ground.
Deformity got things started with a raw-as-fuck set of scalding punk, the drums hitting like a combo move. Raspberry Bulbs were next. Over a 25-minute set of fuzzy, blackened punk--cut one song short by a malfunctioning amp--the band destroyed eardrums. The bass, distorted and aggressive, was louder than on their record, choking the low end while corrosive twin guitars squalled above it. Faint intimations of melody ghosted beneath the noise and frontman He Who Crushes Teeth's abrasive vocals.
Nomad upped the ante and left the room broken and bleeding, no mean feat given that they played a ten minute set. There is nothing that can really prepare you for Nomad, and it seemed that many in the crowd, having come for Iceage, where not prepared for the hardcore audial assault of the NYC three-piece, nor for, say, a dude in a helmet cannonballing helmet-first off the stage, which happened about thirty seconds into their set. Their songs are holocaustic rippers that sound like your brain being cleaved through the corpus callosum; all you can feel is the hot blade.
Then, ah: Iceage. They crawled out from somewhere looking like beautiful enfants terribles, buttoned all the way up, babyfaces touched by no razor. The heraldic manumitters of the angry and disenchanted youth of today. When their debut album, New Brigade, blew up eighteen months ago, it was as if the music media machine had turned over a new log and voila, Iceage were the brightest beetle. After that came the flood: Iceage were nebulously connected to an underground Copenhagen scene centered around the Youth House, a music venue and rendezvous point for various leftist groups before it was demolished following a police-enforced eviction in 2007. The swirl of hype crested with questions like, "Are Iceage the Saviors of Punk?" and write-ups in outlets like The New Yorker, the New York Times and the Guardian. And there's been controversy, too, primarily about racially-loaded imagery in the band's music videos and a fanzine called "Dogmeat", illustrated and published by frontman Elias Rønnenfelt. Defenders and detractors came out swinging on both sides of the debate. Now they're signed to Matador and readying the release of the second record, You're Nothing.
But you know all that. You're also angry and confused at the state of things, or you used to be, or you're just curious about this band. In the presence of the storm, the crowd at 285 Kent last night immediately bifurcated into those who throw firecrackers and spin-kick in the middle of the pit, and those who press to the sides with an admixture of fear and awe.
Iceage pummeled through a set culled almost entirely from You're Nothing, two exceptions being "New Brigade" and "You're Blessed" from the first record. During the latter cut, a burly figure leapt on stage and then tackled Rønnenfelt into the crowd, kicking the heads of the unsuspecting on the way down, thereby collapsing the opposing punk rock impulses to both terrorize and protect the stage into a single meaningful move. Rønnenfelt seemed unfazed, though. He might have been rendered insensate by drink or just the tumultuous noise; it seemed as though he might pass out at any moment, and I'd guess that little more than half of his barked vocals actually made it to the mic. He wailed on the platform like a pipsqueak Henry Rollins, incautious of his own safety. A stagehand wisely removed the mic stand after two songs.
Iceage played loose and brazenly apathetic, often turning their songs into chaotic barrages of masochistic squall. They're too musical to be called punk, too clangorous to be called post-punk. When it cohered, as it sometimes did, you experienced an ecstatic fever dream of power. Dan Kjaer Nielsen's furious drumming had the same effect on the guitar and bass as a blender has on whatever you put in it. The crowd responded in kind, or some of them did anyway, meeting violence with violence. Firecrackers, flying beer cans, etc. I have a jacket that might forever smell like whatever hot, cinnamon-y drink the tiny girl next to me was drinking when it was body-slammed from her hands.
The set was assaulting, furious, sloppy and aggressive. When it unceremoniously ended after thirty or so minutes (a long set by Iceage's standards), the audience filed out to the Williamsburg waterfront, bruised and vertiginous. At the eye of the hypestorm Iceage have generated is the blackthroated, hook-laden punk of New Brigade that's still irrepressible. The glimpse we got of album number two suggests we're in for more of the same.
Catch Iceage again tonight (1/26) at Home Sweet Home with Pharmakon and Dream Affair. More pictures (unfortunately none of Nomad) and Iceage's setlist, below.
[Pretend their are Nomad pictures here where they would be if I didn't lose them. oops]
ICEAGE SETLIST 1/25/13
Dew de Dew