Sunday, June 17
Better than: The NBA Finals.
To call last night’s set by the Danish band VÅR a “concert” would be generous. In tune with the promise of expanding beyond music and into a multimedia project when they changed their name (the Iceage offshoot was formerly known as WAR), the four-piece danced and wobbled its way all over Glasslands stage during their allotted time at the Northside Festival’s Sacred Bones showcase—at least, it seemed like they did. Their eerie silhouettes moved monotonously behind machine-made fog, their bodies almost phantom-like, shouting and screaming.
To kick off their set, the band members marched onto stage carrying a oversized white flag, which displayed what appeared to be a giant black X. After a minute, the flag dropped and VÅR launched into their music, all rumbling beats and blaring synths. But the band members, curiously, didn’t seem to respond to the driving music; instead they stood there, sturdy and proud, as their sound cascaded over the crowd.
Splitting up frontman duties, Loke Rahbek and Elias Bender Rønnenfelt each carried his own stage presence. The towering Rahbek lurched forward each time he took the mic. In front of the Glasslands stage, he shook his fist at the crowd with each syllable, acting more like a drill sergeant than a vocalist. Rønnenfelt, on the other hand, took a more introspective approach. Through strands of shaggy black hair stuck to his forehead, he howled and yelped through each song, often staring straight at the ground as he crooned. Initially, these stark transitions and performances felt a bit forced—or, at least, slightly gimmicky. But as the concert continued and each member of VÅR committed wholly to their act, it became obvious that these guys, albeit a bit earnestly, were making genuine art.
The highlight, at least before the end of the set, came during the performance of “In Your Arms (Final Fantasy),” which appeared on Sacred Bones’s Record Store Day compilation Todo Muere vol. 2. Live, Rønnenfelt’s vocals come across more like shouting than singing, but that added to the intensity. “Hold me in your arms, in your arms, you hold me in your arms,” he yelped as behind him, another band member pounded on a single, red-lit drum. By the end, Rønnenfelt had practically collapsed, placing the microphone down as he absorbed the room’s emotions.
Then, the real highlight came: Rønnenfelt and Rahbek dropped their instruments and collapsed into each others’ arms, ferociously kissing. At first, this outburst caught the crowd a bit off-guard. But after a moment, seeing these two dudes passionately embrace and hold one another, creating a beautiful moment, seemed like the only logical conclusion to the set. After a few minutes, they broke and lifted the flag into the air again—but then, as the crowd cheered, they dropped it on themselves and, again, started to kis. This moment—full of so much chaos and fear and love and acceptance—seemed to represent all that VÅR is.
Critical bias: The play count on “In Your Arms (Final Fantasy)” in my iTunes is over 100.
Overheard: “Wait, are they making out? They’re totally making out. This is awesome.”
Random notebook dump: This is getting scary.