A hustle of commuters, students, shoppers, and wanderers filter into their designated buses. High rises loom above, projecting an array of hues that flicker gently above the city, like newly painted stars of the metropolis while echoes of what Leeds once was remains below.
Somethings dawning. A tapestry of tailored trousers and trenchcoats collide into the fluorescent neon entrance of Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen to be greeted with weeping slices of pizza and symphonic funk dance music. An indescribable atmosphere engulfs the place; afterwork relaxed couples and groups of friends socialise within the waves of hypnotic beats from the DJ, unknown to behold what is about to occur upstairs. In the mist, a few souls wander towards the back of the room and up the stairs….
The night begins with Hull post-punk revival quartet LUMER. The crowd is welcomed by distinct bass driven tracks, tribal drum rolls, and Mark E. Smith melodic rambles on topical issues of minimum wage, English idealistic dreams and western ideologies – hatred. A sound that reminded me of a heavier-Interpol, but if Interpol broke the leash, had fun, experimented a little and objected their clean signature sound.
After 15 minutes, or what felt like a lifetime of the purgatory elevator-music-between-bands, but not the tropical repetitive funk jazz of downstairs, or the call centre annoyance, but minimal electronica, the lights dimmed again, crowds returned and five slightly slouched Copenhagen punks stroll onto the stage, rolling their fingers through their hair, faced down and heading towards their instruments.
A truly immersive and blistering entrance with “On My Fingers” the opening track from their third album “Plowing Through The Fields Of Love”, followed by “Hurrah” the opening track from their fourth album “Beyondless”, Elias Bender Bonnenfelt’s Morrissey-like effortless stage presence guides the slacker rock sound, moving his arms like a preacher and dipping his microphone occasionally into the blurred whirlpool into the crowd where eager fans jump and snatch the mic to repeat the lyrics. A crowd of blurred hair bounces within the tangled lights while drinks are pelted into the air, it is difficult to not be succumbed by the raw infectious energy of the band.
Purple streaks of light fill the stage for “Shelter Song”, the first track from their latest album “Sheek Shelter”, the crowd begin to mellow and participate in the euphoric gospel melodies of the chorus “They beat you from the left, and knock you from the right”. A perfect blend of raw-power-energy to slower swayed melodic arrangements, the Danish post-punks have it all.
Surprised, but also delighted by the lack of mobile phones filming, the crowd are fully engaged with the sheer variety of songs in their set. Fifteen years worth of songs blend within one another and previously unheard songs “Eden Is Earth”, “Life Time” and “Ny Lala” are showcased for the first time. Deviant classics like “Pain Killer”, “Thieves Like Us”, “The Lords Favourite” and “Catch It” are performed and soaked up by the exhilarated cult audience.
Countless bands are currently imitating the post-punk revival sound that’s recycled daily on 6 music radio waves, especially in Leeds, however Iceage don’t seem to categorise within an algothrim of the predictable. Elias Bender Bonnenfelt’s slacker Bobby Gillespie, Shane Macgowan-esque vocals float independently through the melodies, within their own-wave – that represents Iceage perfectly – in their own league, original and incomparable. They really are a breath of fresh air.
A powerful encore saw them return to their roots with “White Rune” and “Ecstasy” showcasing where it all began, the unhinged noise soaked desruptive guitar stabs, hypnotic drums and Elias’s propellent power re-ignited the crowd for the last time ending the set abruptly.
Iceage’s progression from “New Brigade” to “Seek Shelter” remains a remarkable and progressive journey for listeners, a sense of pure enjoyment through all the influenced genres that have come and gone, and the solidified friendships between the band. The musical progression from the aggressive scratchy noise pogo of “New Brigade” and “You’re Nothing” to the country infused “Plowing Through The Fields Of Love”, right into the deep psychedelic interlude and monolithic sound of “Beyondless”. “Seek Shelter” seems to encapsulate it all.
You could say that life is about trying to express your experience of the world, and as you grow, specific experiences change and your view of the world is interpreted differently influenced by your immediate surroundings and influences – this reflects perfectly in Iceage’s discography.
You can experience the cauldron bubbling throughout it all and this is the ultimate distinguished cocktail they have created. The path has been reached, their ultimate platform, the top of the podium they stand. But what a ride it has been, and we can only anticipate what is to come.
The crowd is spewed back out into the streets, a clock stands in the distance reminding us that this sonic filled dreamland is now over, and the reality of work tomorrow morning looms. Knowing that there is a prospect it can be soundtracked by Iceage, I don’t feel so bad and return to the bar to get another drink…