Debut album release concert from one of Denmark’s most promising hard rock bands
January 14.: I drove four hours to get here – Denmark’s most western city, Esbjerg is the pinnacle of marine industry – although somewhat sleepy, it also boasts one of the most promising hard rock bands in Denmark – Black Oak County.
Black Oak County were supposed to have presented their debut last night on Copenhagen’s High Voltage Rock Club, but it was cancelled for undisclosed reasons. Tonight they’re on, though, and the combination of having their new album on heavy rotation in the Danish FOTF office, and me witnessing the soundcheck, I had high expectations.
The Copenhagen four piece had travelled to Esbjerg to support the local rockers. I’ve seen Libido before, at High Voltage. I suppose it can be a somewhat tough audience for a band from the far eastern Denmark, to come to the most western part. The dialects are different, the humor is different, and Libido seemed to take it very easy as they walked onstage. The 150-capacity room at Huset was about half full, and the audience didn’t seem too keen on the Copenhagen rockers. A little flat’n’sleepy feeling…?
Bear no mistake though: Libido might have been traveling far for this gig, and they might be a little tired, but their no-bullshit 80’s rock’n’roll was as tightly played as ever. Singer Mikkel Løkke did an excellent effort of trying to pull the audience’ hands out of their pockets, a hard job, nonetheless, but Libido played the gig like they always do: Tight and deliberate, rock’n’roll that anyone can relate to, and a solid performance all over. Libido had great success with their excellent “Foodchain” track and music video a while back, and revealed to me before the show that they haven’t played together in a while. I couldn’t tell, guys, thumbs up! Minor embarrassment: Løkke called their hosts Black Oak Country instead of County. He made it sound like it was on purpose though.
By the way: Are we gonna see some new material from you again?
Black Oak County
The main act tonight. This is why we’re all here. Black Oak clearly have a lot of fans here, being their home town and all. The small first-floor venue was now filled, and a handful of photographers (including me), lined the stage front amongst beer-juggling rock fans. It’s no secret by now that I am a huge fan of BOC. Last time I saw them live was the acoustic preview they did at Zeppelin Bar in Copenhagen a few months back, and before this, their awesome performance at Nordic Noise Festival ’16 (also Copenhagen), so I had high expectations.
Black Oak did not disappoint: The way they all clearly enjoy to play live, and the way they effortlessly get everyone involved and get a party started, is a unique skill that many bands, many times bigger than BOC, could learn a few things from.
Lead guitarist Jack Svendsen’s, almost Van Halen-like, jumps and turns, was a show all by itself. While jumping, spinning around, lying on the floor, the quiet West Jutlander still managed to effortlessly play the hell out of those Les Pauls and Marshalls. Ripped the place a new one.
The other members, singer Niels Beier, bassist René Hjelm, and Jack’s brother Mike, were all equally as impressive to watch. Mike Svendsen had a freakin’ drum solo! Mike’s the kind of drummer who would do nothing more than beat the crap out of his drum kit all day, if he had the chance. Jack had a rippin’ guitar solo. Only problem was that it wasn’t very long. Very Slash’ Snakepit-like theme goin’ on throughout.
Beier sings like a man. His deep, raw voice almost barks at you like a Great Dane (pun intended). But it never gets tiring. The ballad “If You Only Knew” was handled by Beier in the opposite way, careful and controlled, a direct counterweight to the rest of the set.
I had personally been looking forward to one of the singles in particular, the album opener “Someone Else”, and if you listen to that track, I’m sure you’d agree. The raw and raunchy riff in the verses is just full steam ahead and just grabs you by the balls, even if you don’t have any, and combined with the finesses and details in the drums, it’s just a real treat.
This was an album release, so Black Oak County had obviously put the setlist together to reflect this, but where many bands just play the album end-to-end, the guys had shaked the bag up good, and presented what turned out to be a perfect balanced set, with seemingly just the right kind of song at just the right time.
Well, as the set progressed and the beer flowed more freely, the front rows became a sea of headbanging and jumping rock fans. The sweat was everywhere. Lead guitarist Jack Svendsen climbed atop a PA subwoofer, managed to grab a guy before he stage dived to injury.
Towards the end of the set, and after having a free-album-and-merchandise-contest (which drummer Mike Svendsen strangely enough had to be disqualified from…who signs up for their own band’s contest…?…lol), the epic-sing-a-long “Save Me” with its endless chorus, had the small venue seem to feel like a much bigger place. Everyone sang along. Reminded me of last year’s Hollywood Undead show in Vega. Same feeling of epic-ness (is that a word?). For a filled 150-people max. venue, I started to forget where I was, and we could just as well have been standing at Store Vega in Copenhagen, in front of 1500 people or more, than the maxed out first-floor loft in Huset. Not many bands can pull a show like this off! I’m not just saying this as a fan, but as someone who have seen his share of rock performances at festivals and stadium gigs, the performance tonight was world class, and Black Oak County should be standing on every single festival stage in Europe this summer.
Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with Niels Beier and Jack Svendsen, where we talk about the new album, and how they’re seeing their future.
Get in touch with the guys on their Facebook page, and visit their label Mighty Music to buy their debut album on either vinyl or CD. They’ve got a few shows planned over the year, most notable at this year’s Nordic Noise Festival, which Flick Of The Finger will be covering, of course 😉
All words and footage by Jakob Muxoll.
Disclaimer: This article is the opinion of the individual author, and may not represent Flick Of The Finger as a whole.