Main Image by Tim Griffin
Let it never be said that Iceage isn’t a draw in Atlanta or that the Danish post-hardcore outfit hasn’t successfully made an impact on American soil yet. It was a rainy Tuesday night at the Earl with the band scheduled to headline, and If the crowd was swayed away from the venue by the torrential rains it didn’t show. The place was packed with a refreshingly mixed crowded of hipster metalheads, lush winos, insecure punks and Instagram model wannabes. With a show bill drawing from so many different sounds, it was bound to be a mixed bag of people.
Iceage, with every album, has moved further and further from their more “in-your-face” noise assault that defined their earlier releases. Once you start bringing in the pianos, the trumpets, the Nick Cave-esque ambiance and the clever songwriting, it’s hard not to get painted into the “it’s still punk but for artsy types” corner. Not that there’s anything wrong with Iceage’s growth as a band and the evolution of their sound.
I’m always going to wonder if they’ll ever go back to the days of not giving a fuck like they did on their sophomore album You’re Nothing, but the critics seem to like the new direction they’ve been taking. There’s a reason a band can charge $16 at the door at The Earl, and change can be good. Their 2014 LP Plowing Through The Field Of Love, the first sign of things to come for the band in terms of there new direction, was a damn masterpiece.
Before Iceage took the stage, the show featured some local talent from Atlanta to open things up. In terms of sheer fun that they put out and the energy they had, opener Material Girls were by far the band that put off the “we want to be here” vibe the most. A strong 4-piece that could be best described as punk-rock cabaret meets the Dead Kennedy's with just a splash of B-52’s, Material Girls set the tone for the night. The requirement for membership into the band seemed to be two things; the ability to sing on demand and to look fabulous as hell. In a band with essential four front-people each song was a unique experience ranging from funk to punk to new wave to a happy combination of all of the above. Do you headbang? Do you fist pump? Do you dance? Material Girls made sure everyone did all of the above and more.
It was a tough act to follow to be sure, and Empath was certainly game to try. A four-piece noise-rock band, Empath served as a stark contrast to Material Girls’ Caligula-esque stage show, opting for a much more subtle approach. That’s not to besmirch Empath. It’s really more of a testament to Material Girls that a loud, noise-rock outfit coming after the show they put, seem subtle in comparison. Empath did a good job serving in the unfortunate middle child role of the night; none of the theatrics of Material Girls and coming just before the headliner of the night.
Iceage themselves attacked the stage, admittedly not with a sense of urgency but a very workmanlike approach. The band made no small talk, no jokes. They just got up, tuned up and proceeded to shred with no breaks through a 15-song set that was heavier on their new material from their latest album Beyondless than I would have liked. The crowd seemed to have been feeling it. But there was a noticeable shift in the air when the familiar notes of their older songs like “The Lord’s Favorite,” “Morals” or the band’s official first hit, “Ecstasy” were heard. It was as if the floor suddenly got way more packed with thrashing, moshing bodies, eager to get as close to the band as possible.
Iceage opened up with five songs in a row from Beyondless to a frenzied crowd. For an album only being out a little over three weeks, the crowd at the Earl seemed to be already quite familiar with the new songs. After playing the title track from Plowing Through The Field Of Love to much fanfare, Iceage closed out the night with one more song from Beyondless, the dreary psychedelic “Catch It.” In a stark contrast to the opening act, there wasn’t a lot of theatrics to Iceage’s set or their performance. And frankly, that might be the thing people are drawn to about them. They create these genre defying, punk-flavored icy anthems of darkness and let their music do all the talking. At the Earl that Tuesday night they did just that.