All the cool kids are here. The kids who think they’re cool are at the Lou Doillon show, wearing their $400 haircuts and denim jackets, Instagramming pictures of Doillon’s 38’’ inseam along with comments like “#goosebumps” and “Ooh LaLa!” Right now, they’re eyeing each other over, standing in heels, ranking themselves in a falsely perceived hierarchy of what matters. But as I cross the threshold of the Acheron, a black-walled room in Bushwick with no circulating air, I pass the handwritten sign screaming “THIS IS NOT A CMJ EVENT” and I know that yes, this is definitely the place.
[Disclaimer: The fact that I am here does not mean that I am cool. In fact, this story will attest the contrary, my unworthiness to exist on this planet entirely.]
All four barely legal members of the Danish punk band Iceage take the stage, looking already bored and lazily venomous. They’d break your face if they wanted to; they’re just –meh – tired right now. Christine hands me a pair of earplugs and we stand behind Jack and Billy, having already been warned of the moshpit that will inevitably form.
And then the screaming starts. The noise coming out of the speakers is an assaultive wave, rendering language indecipherable. By comparison, listening to their records at home is like bearing witness to a neutered rage. A two-dimensional thinness, albeit an excellent one. But here, in this room, it’s all blood, sweat, tears, and an exceptionally good-looking group of young angry men.
Lead singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt lurches forward in an oversized leather jacket, green eyes empty, the silver of his necklace catching the light. Beer sloshes out of his cup and onto some dude in the front row. Johan Wieth, tall and blonde, with circles under his eyes that suggest incurable insomnia, sends his fingers flying along the neck of his guitar with a dizzying, obsessive compulsion to speed. Drummer Dan Kjær Nielsen’s white tanktop becomes gray and filthy looking with sweat, his head down and banging away, a pair of thick eyebrows occasionally coming up for air. And then there’s Jakob Tvilling Pless on bass, diligently working, eyes downcast.
They don’t look us. That’s the rule. With the exception of some weird moment when Elias glances down at the audience and blows a kiss into the pit, they do not engage. They could give two shits if the room was filled with three people or three thousand.
I know I should just be here for the music, but it’s hard to get past the fact that they are all beautiful, shining with the alabaster, never-seen-the-sun glow of the Nordic regions. Blue and red lights shift over the milky skin of Elias as he stares blankly into space, yelling over our heads as men throw each other around in some testosterone fit. Watching them play, I can’t help but wish I had been born a decade earlier, and that I had been sluttier and cooler and would later invite them all home to my apartment.
“Lead Singer Crush Syndrome” is boring and cliché, but Elias is worthy of all the slavish attention in the world. As his sweaty, shiny, stick-straight brown hair hangs in front of his face, I am struck with the realization that – in addition to channeling some major Ian Curtis vibes — this is the second coming of Leonardo DiCaprio Christ circa Romeo & Juliet. It’s a shit reference considering who we’re talking about, and if Iceage ever read this they’d be furious, but since that film, the world has been on a desperate search for that painfully brief moment of human perfection Baz Lurhmann so brilliantly captured — that utterly absurd beauty of a young man.
This band, in no short amount of time, is going to be massive. Massive in a way that makes me feel privileged to have been here in this hot room filled with 100 people, to have been hit in the head with a plastic cup and rammed against by some dude in a backpack, to be – with my cameras filled with blurry pictures and my shirt drenched in sweat – a part of musical history. Of this I am certain.
When the show is over, it’s over. There is no “This is our last song” announcement, no “Thanks for coming out.” The audience, in an effort to maintain its own dignity, makes no plea for an encore. Elias and Dan hop off the stage, into the audience and out the front door while Johan hugs his guitar, reverb still buzzing through the speakers.
And this… this is where the testament to my uncoolness begins.
“How do I tell him I want to do an interview with them tomorrow?” I ask Sarah when we’ve made it onto the sidewalk.
“He’s right there, just go ask him.”
Ordinarily, when you’ve seen some show of rather epic proportions, the band immediately heads backstage or to some other untouchable place. But much to the annoyance of Iceage, they’re forced to stand bare and exposed on the sidewalk, arm-in-arm with all the people they just performed for. As it turns out, the whole “You go there and I’ll go here” scenario is a preferable one, in that it keeps the band mysterious and aloof, and you less painfully awkward.
I fumble around for a business card in my purse and immediately regret their design. They’re four years old, covered with childish drawings of buildings and giants and other stupid shit. The back of the card leads to a website that is now defunct, and I’m not positive the email address even works.
Elias is standing against the wall of an adjacent bar, tattooed arms folded across a sage-colored button-up, dragging on a cigarette while his hair falls into his face.
“Hey,” I start, “I write for _____ Magazine. I’d really like to interview you guys tomorrow.”
He looks at me with the bored contempt of a very beautiful, very rich girl who doesn’t need anything from anyone. I hand him my stupid card with the buildings on it and pray he doesn’t look at it until I have left.
“We gone tomorrow,” he says, his voice thick with a foreign accent, a lazy tongue. A shorter boy who I think is Dan appears to his right, grinding me into a pulpy mash of nothing with his eyeballs. Right now, in front of some punk bar in Bushwick, I am getting decimated by two kids nearly ten years my junior.
“Do you know _____ Magazine?” I ask, stupidly thinking that perhaps he didn’t hear me the first time, sure that if he knew what magazine it was, he would jump at the chance for an interview. Didn’t he see what I saw tonight? A healthy bank account of Kroner? Hedi Slimane-shot Saint Laurent campaigns? World domination?
He looks at my card and shakes his head. “No,” he says.
“Okay, well, if you want, we could do a phone interview or something before you go? I mean, we’ll run a piece tomorrow anyway, but it would be nice to get a quote or something…”
My problem is that I have made a miscalculation of massive proportions, expecting the surly demeanor that’s been rammed down my throat over the course of the last hour would dissipate, like it would drop like a role from an actor after a play. The boy who I think is Dan keeps his eyes on me, thinking I’m whatever the Danish word for “wanker” is.
“Maybe you guys are into that?” I continue, shifting from side to side, feeling like someone who has been cast as a journalist and is failing miserably. My head is a massive tornado of doubt, wondering questions that have absolutely nothing to do with journalism, but his empty gaze cuts me to the core. Am I old? Is my mouth too wide? Is my hair too big? Does he know my sweatshirt retails for $800? Oh my god, am I a complete asshole? Would he believe me if I told him I got it for free as a trade for a modeling job? Such an asshole… Does he know I was wearing earplugs through his set like a little bitch? What the fuck am I doing right now?
This is what insecure people must feel like in high school, mustering up the courage only to wait for the moment they are shot down like an old, crippled dog. Bang! Bang! They shoot you, but they miss your head, and instead get some bullshit anatomically insignificant part that means you’re going to live, to suffer the rest of your life with the knowledge of this precise moment. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being totally cool and 10 being totally not cool, I feel like 23.
Elias looks at me, this wounded, affected, beautiful animal with green eyes, his skin more translucent and vampiric without the blast of the stage lighting.
“Yeah,” he says, “we probably won’t be into that.”
In true punk style, I have been slaughtered. I say something to the effect of “Okay, that’s cool” and walk away, tail rammed right up between my legs. It doesn’t make me any less of a fan. As it turns out, I like my interview subjects like I like my men: Good looking and unavailable for comment.