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Iceage: A night at the Opera House and the dawn of a new chapter

There are artists who crave the validation of an adoring crowd, and then there’s Iceage, a band that made their bones spitting in the face of obsequious performance. Led by frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, Iceage are equally as happy playing to a willing audience as they are to bathe in the chaos of a show in flames. It’s that embrace of disorder that ironically fuels the cult following surrounding the Danish act, whose music transcends the labels arbitrarily tagged to it (which, over the course of their career, seem to vary from dark hardcore to country rock).

“It’s amazing when you walk out and you feel an energy and adulation, a willingness for the audience to cooperate, and they want to see you. But we’ve had so many years on the road and also at places where that would never happen, so our skin is rough. We used to seek rejection in playing, so that also gives you some chops, in a sense. I don’t think I need goodwill on the audience side to pull it off, but I might be more prone to taking things into the area of a train wreck.”

Rønnenfelt smirks when recalling if he’s ever intentionally sabotaged a show. “It has for sure happened, but it’s not the best thing to do…I suppose.”

It’s most likely not going to be a train wreck when Iceage perform in Sydney over the weekend, alongside some of their closest acquaintances as part of a showcase for VIVID Sydney presented by Scandinavian label Posh Isolation. Organised by Mitch Tolman from local group Low Life, Iceage will play The Studio at the Opera House before heading to dates across New Zealand and to Melbourne’s RISING Festival.

“The whole thing was mainly put together by Mitch, who plays in Low Life…I’ve known him for many years, and he DM’d me on Instagram: ‘Do you wanna play at the Opera House? I think I can fix this.’ I was like, ‘Do your worst.’ I had very little faith that it would actually happen. Then he wrote me again after some silence and had set everything in motion and I was like, ‘Holy fuck, you pulled it off’. 

“This two-day thing is a mixture between some people from Copenhagen that have always had a link with a hub of Australian people. There’s been a kinship that’s been present over the last decade. It’s a representation of this Danish-Australian bond…at the Opera House, of all places. It’s like playing the…fucking Eiffel Tower or something. It’s a landmark. I have no idea what the Opera House looks like on the inside, but I imagine kind of pretty.”

“It’s a representation of this Danish-Australian bond…at the Opera House, of all places”

What curator Mitch Tolman has done with the lineup over two nights at the Opera House not only consummates the Danish-Australian relationship but magnifies the unique chemical makeup of the Copenhagen scene that spawned not only Iceage but also their contemporaries like Lust For Youth and Croatian Amor. Seeing those artists on the same bill outside of Scandinavia is a sight to behold, and pays homage to collaborations of the past – like VÅR, which saw Rønnenfelt team up with Posh Isolation founder and Croatian Amor’s Loke Rahbek – and Marching Church, the latter being a moniker of Rønnenfelt’s which seems to have been laid to rest after two full-length albums.

“All other projects are dead,” Rønnenfelt laughs. 

The saying goes that things fall apart so that other things can fall together. Among the latest entries to Rønnenfelt’s discography is likely to be a solo album born out of the pandemic, which Rønnenfelt is currently putting the final touches on. Fed up with Iceage not being able to tour, the frontman took matters into his own hands.

“I was just sick of that and I was like, ‘How can I still do what I do?’ I did an Instagram thing and made a public email and said, ‘I’ll play anywhere. Just write me, I’ll play.’ I had a summer where I was travelling alone all over Europe and playing all sorts of unforeseen places. I realised that with these acoustic shows, on the road, I could write and play it the next day. So, a collection of songs formed. They were meant for being played acoustically, but I built them out from there.

“It’s a whole record, and it’s at that phase where you can see the finish line and that everything is starting to make sense, so that’s nice. I’m gonna finish that when I return from down under.”

Anyone who has caught a glimpse of Rønnenfelt’s acoustic set already knows that a full-length is a hell of a prospect, and fans won’t be starved of having a record to spin for much longer. Rønnenfelt’s experiment has also fed into what the post-pandemic rebirth of Iceage will sound like, which, interestingly, sees the pendulum swing the other way.

“I feel like there’s been a surge in ideas for Iceage,” he admits. “That has for sure been sparked by having worked on this record…There’s almost a need to rediscover the power of Iceage…the explosiveness of it. I’ve been dealing with something that’s quite stripped back for a minute, so I want to see the loud and aggressive nature of what Iceage is capable of again. But I don’t know, fuck knows, it’s still early in the process so it could become many things.”

Posh Isolation Presents at Vivid LIVE

Saturday, June 3rd
HTRK, Lust For Youth (SE/DK), Croatian Amor (DK), YL Hooi
The Studio, Sydney Opera House
Tickets: Sydney Opera House

Sunday, June 4th
Iceage (DK), Low Life, DX
The Studio, Sydney Opera House
Tickets: Sydney Opera House

RVG, Iceage and Batrider at RISING

Wednesday, June 14th
Forum, Melbourne
Tickets: RISING Melbourne