Some may consider this bizarre, but I love going to shows almost blind. Not knowing the music beforehand helps me to focus on showmanship and musicianship. Don’t get me wrong; seeing shows where you’re familiar with the artist is awesome too, but there is something special about discovering a great band in a live setting. This was the case Monday evening when I saw three bands I was not familiar with – except Refused, whom I knew only by reputation.
Openers Racetraitor and YOUTH CODE put on solid, if musically underwhelming, opening acts. Racetraitor drummer Andy Hurley, of Fall Out Boy, is a surprisingly versatile musician who can hold a solid blast beat.
Both openers offered solid, professional performances, but people were there to see Refused. This classic band started out in 1991 in the remote town of Umeå, Sweden, some 637 km North of Stockholm. Their story is fascinating; one can only imagine the obstacles these guys had to overcome as communist hardcore punks to make it big in the music industry. They are also humble and professional on stage, taking the time to talk to the crowd and express gratitude.
YOUTH CODE, a duo from L.A. combining harsh noise with punk, puts on a relentless, intense performance that felt monotonous to me. Lead vocalist Sara Taylor performs with 110% intensity, hitting her head with her microphone à la GG Allin along with synth programmer and backup vocalist Ryan George who puts on a compelling performance featuring some excellent moments of call-and-response. However, with this act, there is no volume knob. Their performing and musical style is all-in, all the time, to the point where it caused me hearing fatigue. The light show was also too harsh, forcing me to look away regularly.
Their performance went a long way to explaining how they pulled off such an unlikely rise to fame. Refused is tight, brutal, energetic and sexy, all at the same time. Opening track “Blood Red” sets the tone well for Refused’s lyrical and political themes. In the following string of tracks, singer Dennis Lyxzén showed off impressive dancing skills as well as a superb propensity towards acrobatics, with microphone trick after microphone trick. He dropped his mic at least two or three times, but we all forgave him for it.
Another highlight of seeing Refused is getting to see drummer David Sandström at work. His jazz-like sensibilities add finesse to the brutality of Refused’s sound. Somewhere between songs five and seven, I lost count, because Refused are excellent at blending songs into one another seamlessly – another positive point! I love that.
In the second half of their set, Refused pulled off a really fun rendition of their classic “The Shape Of Punk To Come,” with excellent playing and dancing. They even teased the riff from Slayer’s “Raining Blood” during this song! Refused closed off an excellent night of music with a new song during their encore, “about feminism and the destruction of the patriarchy,” called “Destruction #3.” It was a killer show!
Written by Henri Brillon
Photography by Marc-Antoine Morin
*Edited by Dominic Abate