It was a sweaty mess of thickly packed bodies inside Denver DIY art space, Rhinoceropolis on Tuesday night. The windowless venue/warehouse/living room/flophouse was turned into a steaming oven filled with humanity expressing reckless joy, its center flinging around the room with those on the periphery blocking flying bodies with defensive stances – it made for the most bona fide moshing I’ve seen since the 90s. (Yikes, moshing and the 90s in one sentence really made me feel old.) Surprisingly, this was my first show at the infamous Rhino – deacon of Denver’s underground, experimental art community tucked in the far northern corner of town. Ironically (and on some level, sadly) it was for a band whose home couldn’t be further away from Colorado. I was drawn out for a late show (Iceage went on half past midnight) on a school night for Danish punk sensation Iceage.
The story of Iceage hits three major points, which while all true, serve as fuel for the hype machine’s thirst for a perfect story. The band is very young, all under 20 with most reports placing the average age of an Iceager at 18. They play precision perfect punk married to East Coast noise and and infuse it with a darkness indicative of Scandinavian black metal (without being so) and goth imagery alike. The music is unforgiving and edges seldom dulled, knives out on all fronts in the assault. Conscious or not, nods to seminal underground groups from the late 70s and 80s richly dot the entire landscape of debut album, New Brigade. Iceage gets the most of just 24 minutes of music stretching over 12 tracks through serious depth of textures in otherwise short songs. Third and final point, Iceage is awesome.
Hype is a lot like cliches, in that the principle characteristics of cliches, at least on an honest, non-cynical level, is their inherent redundancy. It is precisely because a certain event happens often that the referencing cliche exists. As for hype’s machinations, it is precisely because a certain elite opinion all agrees on something that hype perpetuates. Hype thrives on the type of inevitables that present themselves with such sensation they become too irresistible to ignore, good or bad. In the aftermath of hype some acts will register positively in the long term anyway, living up to lofty artistic expectations, but in the end they might fall short of whatever “all the hype was about” due simply to the bitch that is high expectations. Rarely do you get a great artist that wraps together all the divine desirables and exists strongly on their own, almost in spite of the warming waters of anticipation threatening to boil over them. For a band to be so non plussed towards the modern rules of the music game professed by those firmly stuck in the struggle makes it that much more perfect. For the band to be this young and from a relatively exotic locale it’s that much more real.
Whether this post’s words end up stuffed along with past and present volumes of filler from the spewing fingers of music writers is a topic for a geeky, alcohol-fueled bar argument. I don’t think it will come to that though, as these kids seem like the real thing. Otherwise, if 18 year olds can pull the wool over our eyes this well, we have bigger questions to worry about than being concerned with yet another failed promising act. Starting with why aren’t more young, American bands playing with this level of integrity and put-togetherness? Maybe we should be asking that anyway.
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Iceage played their first US show on June 17th in Brooklyn, reportedly their first jaunt outside the country. That they played Denver a mere six weeks later is great. All too often our isolated metro area is overlooked during the upward trajectories of promising bands. It’s nice to get involved in the conversation from a position of first hand authority. Serves to temper the temptations of lifted Internet narratives and become another echo referencing the same sources.