Iceage @ Bodega 27/11/12

Iceage are in a difficult position – unpredictably breaking out from the Danish hardcore punk underground last year when they were all about 18 years old must have been difficult to adjust to. Although I wasn’t as taken by their debut “New Brigade” as most, I’d heard very good things about their live show, and I expected their sound to fit the Bodega brilliantly.

Opening band Plaids were on too early to gather a crowd which would’ve done their excellent set justice. Their frontman spent the whole gig in front of the stage screaming out at his band names, as if to replicate the full-crowd energy that might have complemented their set. If you’re into post-hardcorey emo, make sure you catch them around, they play regularly on the local scene.

Kagoule’s set of disaffected shoegaze made me feel as though I was reliving all the 90s indie rock culture I missed out on. But it was marred by a crowd who jumped the gun and started their inner circle of violent bro-bashing, which totally didn’t match Kagoule’s slow tempos and grungy apathy – this continued even when the drummer’s sprained wrist meant they had to step back for a solo guitar interlude.

That small percentage of the crowd were clearly amped for the headliners, but Iceage seemed at first to resent the attention. Clad in a black military beret and bovver boots, Elias Bender Rønnenfelt (#23 on last year’s NME Cool List) fixed an unflinching scowl on the crowd, spitting as they lurched toward the stage. Iceage’s lyrics are ambiguous enough to be interpreted to befit this worryingly militaristic image. This idea of a “New Brigade” assumes an uncomfortable meaning – plus the band were recently reported to be selling knives at their merch stands. They’ve even been accused of irresponsibly using Nazi imagery (although so have Joy Division and David Bowie, among others). It’s all this which makes witnessing an Iceage gig, with a sprawl of violent white teenage boys asserting their own space at front centre of the crowd, particularly discomforting.

Their set retained the stark, sinewy punk energy of their debut, but they seem to have retired most of that material, test driving for their upcoming new record. The new stuff doesn’t seem much different, and if I detect that it’s more violent than New Brigade, this may be mitigated by the crowd’s misdirected boisterousness. I’ve never been more aware of the moshpit as a form of performance rather than a means of expression. It was completely unwelcoming: whereas I think moshpits can potentially promote an unlikely, but powerful form of kinship, there was nothing positive about this crowd. It just didn’t seem punk.

A vital boundary was broken down when Rønnenfelt finally stagedived, breaking his aloof pose – but not quite enough to remove the disturbing signification of the show that forms my lasting impression.

by Stephen Wragg