Live: Iceage and Dirty Beaches Wage Sonic War On (Le) Poisson Rouge


Iceage w/Dirty Beaches, Martial Canterel, RØSENKØPF
Le Poisson Rouge
Sunday, July 22

Better than: Watching Breaking Bad at home.

Sunday nights are for critically acclaimed TV shows, catching up on Twitter, and steeling oneself for the week ahead. For a few brave souls yesterday, though, Sunday night meant beating through feedback bursts and mosh pits and a sense of normal, as provided by Danish punk rock young’ns Iceage to an adoring crowd at (Le) Poisson Rouge. To say that this foursome has a sense of the moment is to be undercutting just how forceful their music is. Think of a speeding train hitting max velocity, and you’ve got some idea of the blasts of noise that they create. It’s not just loud and fast, however. Some of the better moments of the set came within the silence, such as a guitar tuning up and playing a lick of “Purple Haze,” or a drum recalibration halfway through the set.

If there’s one thing to point out, it’s singer Elias Rønnenfelt. Looking nothing like an intimidating feature when standing still, hair over his eyes, it feels like he won’t be able to back up his band’s bold bursts of noise. But then, he starts singing and moving and growling. It’s breathtaking to see him stumbling around the stage, seemingly in contempt of his audience in that teenage-y angst combined with pure confidence. To paraphrase someone overheard during the aforementioned drum break, they really know that they’re the shit. The other three members all perform their tasks competently if not a bit workmanlike. It is clear that they are happy setting the scene and letting Rønnenfelt guide proceedings to a vicious place. After all, he jokingly pushed a photographers camera out of his face before giving a rare smile to the man. They may be ruthless with their sound, but they care more for having a good time. Given the crowd’s enthusiasm, their goal succeeded.

So, the music. Anyone who has taken the 25 minutes to listen to Iceage’s powerhouse debut New Brigade knows what to expect: short punk songs with melodic interludes in between blasts of adrenaline. There was absolutely nothing surprising about their shows, which is meant to be a compliment: no misguided ballads, no guitar solos. In fact, the one flaw that you can point to is length: the band simply does not have enough material to headline a full set. By my count, they played for a paltry 30 minutes, way under what can be expected from a band heading up a bill.

That being said, by how battered the crowd was after the show had ended, maybe 30 minutes is the perfect length.

The Taiwanese-Canadian Dirty Beaches, aka Alex Zhang Hungtai, set the table for Iceage. Coming out with a burst of static and feedback, he jammed out a quick set of his semi-danceable lo-fi tracks, complete with his outburst-style vocals. Lots of jarring WOOs were had throughout, as well as some hip-hop influenced dancing. Not exactly common, but it worked, mostly because Dirty Beaches as a project is unafraid to torture its audience for a while. One song midway through started with what sounded like a high-pitch truck horn for about a minute, then turned into a war-drum march that made many a pair of feet start moving. This came shortly after Hungtai kicked back his chair with force, a king leaving his throne as he rode off into battle, feedback and yells his weapons of choice.

Critical bias: I actually volunteered to cover a Sunday night punk show.

Overheard: “Throw me again!”—one very enthusiastic mosher.

Random notebook dump: “Nice Suspiria shirt, bass dude.”