Joensuu are brilliant at creating a mood, and allowing their songs to grow in stature and intensity...
It’s snowing, we’re wet, a bit pissed and feeling our age. Plus, knowing our luck we’ll miss the last train, and will have to face the horrors of the Utrecht – Amsterdam – Leiden night train, a veritable moving Land of Nod, which has been known to transport its sleeping inhabitants on multiple round trips through Holland. We should go home. But… but Joensuu 1685 are playing. Bugger it; if they can get here from Finland, we’re going to the gig, however late it starts. A snap decision, get a hotel, go to gig. Nice one…
Inside Club Radar, Belgium’s Isbells are playing. Now Incendiary gave their LP a fairly good reception, their music is quiet and dreamy stuff and very much in thrall to the homespun country sound that made Crosby Stills and Nash’s name, but heck, that’s no bad thing if done well. A quick saunter into the main hall and it’s apparent that the same laid back vibe is carried on in Isbells’s live shows. Effectively it’s a band not in their first youth, sitting in a row, and playing acoustic guitars. I find these sorts of shows difficult to watch. Luckily De Helling has a magnificent café bar where the music is piped through, at sound desk quality no less, and to there we decamped and enjoyed Isbells’ ethereal Californian vibe. Nice show, even if I didn’t see much of it.
Now for the main event. Since digging their LP back in 2008, and being blown away by their show in Amsterdam’s Overtoom last November, Incendiary have become rabid Joensuu 1685 fans. There’s something very artistic and precocious about them, despite the furious wall of sound they can conjour up. The gaucheness is never contrived; rather it’s as if the band really hasn’t adjusted to doing the rock circuit. Still, gaucheness or not, Joensuu are brilliant at creating a mood, and allowing their songs to grow in stature and intensity. Tonight’s show is billed at 40 minutes so we should get some long wig outs, and there’s a fair crowd of people in, albeit standing way back.
After a pretty guitar-led new song, the band step up a gear with aplomb. Tracks like Nothingness and You Shine Brighter Than The Light are so much more powerful than on the LP. Nothingness in particular is allowed to build up in an increasingly claustrophobic spiral only to find release in a shattering guitar riff that seemingly can’t be stopped. Singer Mikko adds to the sense of abandon by screaming indecipherably into the mic. The audience shuffle cautiously forward, Dutch style, in the realisation that they are witnessing something special. Some start to groove along, especially to the magnificent elegy White Sound and the groovy, Spacemen 3 strut of Sick City, a real highlight. Nothing, however, can prepare the audience for the magnificent cover of Springsteen’s I’m On Fire which must go on for a good ten minutes and pulls the rafters down. When the crowd realise what the song is (as there is a considerable, pounding introduction), there are veritable whoops of delight, as much for the extraordinary metamorphosis the song has undergone as for implicit Boss worship. Not content with leaving on that note, the band smash out the burning, bruising portal to another world that is Crystal Light. No staring into strobes for Mikko this time, rather he leads a bass-led tom thump that has de Helling half petrified, half transfixed.
There are three other bands on the bill, and I’m sure they are all great. Thing is we just can’t see them, as there is no following Joensuu in this mood. Incendiary decide to call it a night and head off to that hotel room.
Pics: Mariska van den Hoven