Iceage at Mango's, 6/3/2013
Photos by Nicholas Zalud
Iceage Mango's June 3, 2013
With the sweat and excitement of Summer Fest finally coming to an end, it's been understandably hard for most Houstonians to get back into the swing of things. But routines and normalcy are boring.
Perhaps that's why so many people showed up to Mango's Monday night to catch a show from Copenhagen-based punk act, Iceage.
The quartet took to the stage at 11 p.m., following Back to Back (Houston) and Lower (Denmark), who had both played at Austin's Chaos in Tejas with Iceage. And though the group seems quiet and composed, they launched into their first song with intensity and got the crowd moving.
Iceage is mainly known for their intense live performancess, specifically from lead singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, who is also the type of guitarist to give you intentional monitor feedback between songs.
In so many ways, Mango's was the perfect setting for Iceage. Though the venue is still small, some improvements prompted by the city's tougher noise ordinance made the venue feel small instead of tiny.
In fact, the front patio was turned into an area for gear, and the back windows have been sufficiently soundproofed and covered. There's even a stage, the walls have been painted black, and the tile has been ripped up.
These renovations made it easier for the crowd to move around and still be able to see. And by the time the band launched into their third song, "Ecstasy," off new album You're Nothing, Rønnenfelt had ditched his guitar and took to the front of the stage.
At most punk shows, things tend to get messy. Bands play fast and off-beat, or they're too busy drinking to give a performance their all. Not Iceage. In fact, they were effortlessly tight, and treated each song with as much care and attention as the one before.
What was most fascinating throughout the set, however, was how receptive Rønnenfelt and his bandmates were of the crowd's interaction. Throughout many songs, people were jumping onstage, often grabbing onto Rønnenfelt or hitting him in some way. But instead of reacting, Rønnenfelt just took the hits as they came, and sometimes hit back. However, unlike some shows where moshing often turns violent, this show was emotionally charged.
True, that's understandable when most of You're Nothing is a dark, post-punk album that sends listeners into a sort of spiral.
But as Rønnenfelt was taking hits, Jakob Tvilling Pless (bassist), Johan Surrballe Wieth (guitarist) and Dan Kjœr Neilsen (drums) were all in the zone, and just as accepting of what was going on in front of and around them.
In many ways, Iceage treats the music and stage in ways that other bands with their same aesthetic have tried and failed to do. They aren't selfish with their words, music or actions. It seems that, to the men of Iceage, what they do belongs to everyone tuning in. It's that empathy and understanding that makes their message and music so enthralling.
By the middle of their set, Neilsen needed a new kickdrum pedal. It's not exactly clear why, but it wouldn't be surprising if it was just from how hard and fast the band was playing.
Still, Iceage stayed true to itself. Instead of playing a moderately paced 90-minute set, the band opted to give it their all in 45 minutes. Ending a little before midnight, the set covered roughly ten tracks from You're Nothing as well as cuts from debut album New Brigade such as "Remember," "Burning Hand" and "Total Drench."
The band ended with an explosive version of "You're Nothing," before exiting the stage with a simple "thank you." And though it was apparent that Iceage weren't coming back on, people seemed stuck in their spot, as though they had been struck with disbelief.
We eventually lost count of just how many people said, "That was fucking awesome."
Personal Bias: These are the kind of shows I live for - small, intimate and loud as all hell.
The Crowd: Mostly people in their twenties. A sea of black clothes, tattoos, beards and long-haired men.
Overheard In the Crowd: "That shit is so hot, man."
Random Notebook Dump: This show feels like one from the Mango's glory days - the venue is dirty enough to be punk, but not so dirty that I want to leave. Also, it wouldn't be a punk show without at least one dog.