Year in Review: The best concerts of 2011

The InOut team remembers our best live shows of 2011

Matthew Grant Anson’s Picks:

1. Kvelertak (Lille Vega, December 12)
“You either love them or hate them” is a phrase used more often that necessary, and yet it still falls short of describing the effect Kvelertak has had on the extreme metal community. KvelertakÂ’s divisiveness creates one camp that is absolutely enthralled with the bandÂ’s party black metal, and another that abhors the bandÂ’s violations of their genre. And make no mistake, KvelertakÂ’s headlining show at Vega only further solidified this divide. KvelertakÂ’s appeal is based on hardcore punk-tinged black ‘nÂ’ roll that was made for the live setting. With three guitarists and a fat vocalist that performs shirtless and drenched in sweat, KvelertakÂ’s live show constantly feels like itÂ’s one bad stage dive from falling apart, and yet it never does. ThereÂ’s unseen control to their danger, and the result is a live act that will be spoken about for years to come. (Full review here)  

2. Wolves in the Throne Room (Beta, November 12)
The recently renovated and redone Beta looks great, but its hardwood floors and clean accoutrements donÂ’t make the best setting for an Oregon band that writes 20 minute tracks about sustainable living and the spirit of nature. Luckily, Wolves in the Throne Room came prepared, as artificial lights were given the night off and the bandÂ’s kerosene lanterns served as the only illumination for the evening. The black metal band did their four albums justice behind a live act that was as ambitious as it was satisfying.

3. Clutch (The Rock, November 19)
Lead by their infectious frontman Neil Fallon, the Virginia stoner rock/metal act treated the sold-out crowd to a lesson in southern rock ‘n’ roll. Marred only by a teenage boy that proved that there is, in fact, such a thing as one too many Tuborgs (“In twenty years that’s the first time that’s happened,” Fallon said about the vomit splattered across the stage), Clutch put on a show that oozed energy and class in equal amounts.

4. Hjertestop and Skitkids (Ungdomshuset, December 3)
They say itÂ’s hard to say goodbye, but in the hardcore punk community saying goodbye to Hjertestop and Skitkids at their final show meant inflicting as much good-natured abuse on the person next to you as possible. The hardcore punk bands concluded their underground mastery with fire-blowing and stage-diving to a crowd that showed its remorse by sending the bands off in true hardcore punk fashion.

5. Ajuna, Hexis, Hombre Malo (Rock Island, September 24)
ItÂ’s all but guaranteed you were not at this show. Sometimes that best things in life are spontaneous, and when local extreme metal acts Ajuna and Hexis were joined by NorwayÂ’s Hombre Malo, their impromptu show in the Hexis rehearsal room on Rock Island for less than 20 people was one that epitomized energy, intensity, and the strength of the Copenhagen underground.

Justin Cremer’s Picks:

1. Russian Circles + Boris (Lille Vega, July 15)
A lot of musicians talk about losing themselves in their music. Though I donÂ’t have anything even remotely approaching musical talent (Guitar Hero doesnÂ’t count, does it?), I experienced something as close to that as IÂ’ll likely ever get as Russian CirclesÂ’ pounding music completely washed over and consumed me. That their performance was followed up with their weird, experimental rock of the Japanese band Boris, made this an easy choice for the best gig I saw in 2011.

2. Band of Horses (Tap1, February 19)
This performance was clearly a band fully confident in itself and hitting its stride. Band of Horses brought their flannel-clad bearded rock to a highly appreciative audience in the new music venue, Tap1. The band was clearly having fun as they ripped through their back catalogue and even debuted a new track. By the time they ended with a triumphant ‘Is There a Ghost’, they sent the crowd fully satisfied into the cold February night.

3. Kurt Vile + The Violators (Store Vega, August 30)
Kurt Vile’s Roskilde set was sandwiched between Mastodon and Portishead, so I only was able to swing by for a brief minute. I therefore really looked forward to giving him my undivided attention at this show. Playing a set that was heavy with Smoke Ring for My Halo tunes, Vile and his backing band, the Violators, seamlessly transitioned between subtle, understated performances and even what Vile jokingly called his ‘thrash set’.

4. Mastodon (Orange Scene, Roskilde, July 1)
Mastodon was seen as a weak Roskilde headliner by many. Even as a fan of the group, I too wondered if they really qualified as legitimate festival headliners. But if the Atlanta foursome caught any wind of that criticism, they certainly didn’t show it as they blasted through a hard-charging, growling set on the Orange Scene. Since their Roskilde gig, Mastodon has since released ‘The Hunter’, giving fans new live material to look forward to when the band plays at Vega in January.

5. TV on the Radio (Arena, Roskilde, July 2)
Gearing up for my first Roskilde Festival, I had many people tell me that the festivalÂ’s real beauty was checking out bands that you wouldnÂ’t normally bother to see and then having them blow you away. ThatÂ’s what happened with TV on the Radio. I was only marginally familiar with this heavily-hyped band out of New York when I decided to check out their set. After a sweaty, inspired show that filled the short window in which July actually felt like July, I came away a fan.

Allan Mutuku-Kortbæk’s Picks:

1. Reptile & Retard (Junior Pavilion, Roskilde, June 26)
Reptile & Retard’s concert at Roskilde’s junior Pavilion takes the crown for the best concert of the year purely on account of the manner in which the audience were flung into a roller-coasting two hours of sheer mayhem that culminated in the lead singer clambering onto the pylons supporting the stage before hurling himself into the crowd below. It’s seldom one sees a concert of such proportions and if it’s anything to go by, Reptile & Retard are definitely a name to watch out for in 2012.

2. Yann Tiersen (Rust, May 29)
French artiste Yann Tiersen was at his best at his performance at Rust back in May. The concert featured an intriguing blend of instrumentation that saw him showcase his penchant for multi-instrumentation, leaving the audience in a state of star-struck euphoria as they were treated to a blend of his older work combined with tasty snippets off his latest album, Skyline, which hit the shelves towards the end of the year.

3. When Saints Go Machine (Store Vega, November 5)
WSGM’s catchy fusion of the chaotic and the dreamy was executed with perfection and panache at their concert in Vega in November. Lead singer Jonas Kenton had the crowd in the palm of his hand as his falsetto vocals connived synonymously with layer upon layer of decadent drumbeats and roaring riffs.

4. Charles Bradley (Odeon, Roskilde, July 1)
The 62-year-old ‘Screaming Eagle of SoulÂ’ gave one of the best Roskilde performances of the year, a soulful journey that saw him leave the stage in tears of elation and raw emotion. Bradley’s life story, a rags to riches fairytale that’ll touch most people’s hearts forever, shines through at his gigs, and at Roskilde, this was no exception.

5. The Strokes (Orange Scene, Roskilde, July 2)
In a festival in which the Orange Scene was something of a stranger to the spotlight, Julian Cassablancas and company were one of the few acts that played at the venue to truly set it alight. Their fourth studio album, Angles, is a pearl in itself and featured quite prominently in the course of the concert, a show that stitched the old and the new seamlessly together.

Peter Stanners’ Pick:

1. James Blake (Cosmopol, Roskilde, July 2)
The soft-spoken tea-drinker is one of the most remarkable and unique artists of the moment, blending classic music with body-bursting bass. His show at Roskilde beneath a thunder cloud was a pure, profound and utterly breathtaking experience.

2. KIDD (Distortion Festival, June 2)
In two short months, Kidd went from being a nobody to having one of the most viral Danish rap videos of all time. And while the haters were quick to downplay his success, his show with Top Gunn, Klumben and company on Blegdamsvej drew thousands of pumped young men and women to bear witness to the reawakening of Nørrebro through slum rap and narcissistic self-reference.

3. Kenton Slash Demon (Trailerpark Festival, July 30)
The late-night show at Copenhagen’s biggest boutique festival drew only a couple of hundred, but Kenton Slash Demon’s live electro show demonstrated that these two young men – and half of When Saints Go Machine – are one of Denmark’s best dance music acts.

4. tUnE yArDs (Lille Vega, September 8)
Led by the zany Merrill Garbus, the  tUnE yArDs gig at Vega seemed like a private party. No sooner had they emerged on stage than people were dancing, infected by GarbusÂ’ childlike I-donÂ’t-give-a-damn-attitude. A special and intimate show.

5. Aphex Twin (August 20, Tap1)
Described as ‘the most inventive and influential figure in contemporary electronic music’, I spent my last cash to buy the ticket for this show. He may be past his heyday, but the show in Tap1 was still unbelievable. A rare, special and HEAVY show.