Kvelertak @ The Studio At Webster Hall 5/17/2013
Words like “party metal,” and “beer metal” come to mind when talking about Kvelertak, Norway’s black ‘n’ roll export, but a more accurate descriptor would be “sweat metal.” Or, if we we’re really going for accuracy, “fluid metal,” because it wasn’t just sweat that was soaking the stage and crowd at the Kvelertak show on Friday night. The band played the Studio At Webster Hall, a claustrophobic basement under Webster Hall Proper in New York’s East Village that always seems to be more packed than any fire marshal could ever allow. They were in town for a sold-out show in support of their well-received new album, Meir, and they brought the waterworks.
This was my second time photographing Kvelertak. The first was the boat show that Michael mentioned when he announced this show back in April. On that shitshow of a cruise out and around the Statue of Liberty and back, Kvelertak and friends (Skeletonwitch, Tombs, and Psychic Limb) raged through three hours or so of pure pandemonium in a small, confined space that had no business hosting a couple hundred fans, four guys with guitars and a singer with little regard for the concept of personal space. It’s good to know some things don’t change because Kvelertak used the same formula for Friday’s show.
After Atlanta’s sludgy and thrashy Black Tusk and Canada’s punk and hardcore-inspired Cancer Bats set a distinctly raucous vibe, Kvelertak took to the stage at the Studio — an impressive feat, given that I overheard more than a few people wondering how all six of them could fit. From the opening chords of what I think was “Spring fra livet,” there would be almost no letup until an hour and change later, after singer Erlend Hjelvik dumped and spewed water and beer on the crowd, handed his mic off to a fan for a few minutes to go crowd surfing, and generally tore the place up.
Drummer Kjetil Gjermundrod sat the tour out due to an arm injury, and former Against Me! drummer Jay Weinberg ably filled in. He played furiously and with a rabid look in his eyes, pummeling along like a man possessed. As can be expected from Kvelertak, there was plenty of team guitar work, with all three guitarists lining up for some epic riff-alongs. A roadie spent most of the show running back and forth onstage pushing floor monitors back into place as they were repeatedly hit by the crowd and the band, repairing mic stands that fell and at one point mopping the floor with paper towels that I believe he snagged from the bathroom after Hjelvik took a spill on the soaked, slippery stage.
The band ripped through an insanely energetic set that included “Mjød,” “Bruane Brenn,” “Sjøhyenar (Havets herrer),” “Evig Vandrar,” “Nekroskop,” “Ulvetid” and more that I would remember if I hadn’t been too busy fighting to stay vertical. They had a penchant for climbing and used the lighting rig above the crowd like a set of monkey bars—bassist Marvin Nygaard started the trend, showing off a pretty sweet “TOO DUMB FOR NEW YORK TOO UGLY FOR LA” shirt in the process. He returned to the lighting rig, bass guitar and everything, for a second go later in the show before crowdsurfing over to the bar about forty feet away where he continued to play. One of the guitarists, inspired by his move, followed soon after. I caught a knee to the nose when another guitarist, Bjarte Lund Rolland, jumped for his go on the lighting rig—not complaining, just trying to give a feel for what it was like. After an encore that included “Kvelertak,” and “Utrydd Dei Svake” the band was joined by some of the guys from Black Tusk on stage. Some instrument swapping ensued, and Weinberg handed out drumsticks to the crowd and the Black Tusk guys and Nygaard held up drums for the crowd to bang. A girl got on stage and was handed a guitar that she strummed. The whole thing devolved into a big, fun mess, and Rolland ended the show by handing out small Norwegian flags.
Moving from one basement to another, a good number of people made their way over to Idle Hands in Alphabet City for the Stereogum- and Roadrunner Records-sponsored after-party that was DJed by Kvelertak, who played a decidedly un-metal selection that included the Ramones and, if I remember correctly, some Springsteen. It was good times all around, but I’m not sure any after-party could have lived up to the party that preceded it.