CULTURE

Norwegians back to break more ice

Norwegian rock band Madrugada, whose rising popularity around Europe, including Greece where the act’s particular fame has led to two visits over the past year, will be returning for four shows this week, beginning with Larissa and Thessaloniki, tomorrow and Thursday respectively, followed by back-to-back shows in the capital on Friday and Saturday. The group’s two dates in Athens had been originally intended for a new venue, the Gagarin 205 club, which Madrugada were to launch, but delays in final preparations have forced a last-minute switch to another venue, Club 22, a spokeswoman at Astra Productions, the event’s promoter and owner of the new venue, said yesterday. We were a little too optimistic about the time required for the final preparations, Astra’s spokeswoman said, adding that, without being definite, Gagarin 205 would most likely be ready for its next scheduled show, the Thessaloniki-based rock band Xylina Spathia, on December 21. Other upcoming shows at Gagarin 205, for which the club should be ready to operate, include Cousteau on January 25, Spiritualized on February 15 and 16, and the Walkabouts on February 24. When it finally does emerge, the new venue, a refurbished old cinema whose history dates back to 1940, promises to add a little variety to the capital’s confined club scene catering to touring contemporary acts. Besides concerts, Gagarin 205, which is located on the outskirts of downtown Athens, next to the Attiki train station along the Kiffisia-to-Piraeus line, also plans to host film projections, DJ sets, as well as selected theatrical productions. The renovated venue, billed by its management as one with a capacity to hold 1,000 persons, comes as a slightly more compact alternative to the Rodon Club, which until now has essentially served as the capital’s sole concert venue for the indie scene since its emergence in 1987. A significant step for local standards at the time, the arrival of the Rodon Club opened the country’s doors to a flourishing contemporary scene of mostly post-punk/new wave bands. On their previous visit here several months ago, the second in less than a year, Madrugada launched their second album, The Nightly Disease, with an acoustic promotional show at a pint-sized rock club in central Athens, a venue far too small to hold the group’s expanding following here. Madrugada’s brooding sound, one whose dynamics range from pensive to hard-hitting, began attracting a following in Norway with the release of their 1999 debut album, Industrial Silence. It earned the band its country’s equivalent of a Grammy award for Best Rock act, and has sold over 50,000 copies in Norway alone. Besides putting them at the forefront of Norway’s contemporary scene, the album introduced the act to European audiences, which have received the band enthusiastically over the past couple of years. Madrugada, whose lineup consists of Sivert Hoyem, Robert Buras, Frode Jacobsen and Jon Lauvland Pettersen, a quartet that gelled about five years ago following some early reshuffling, traveled to New York to record their second album. There was an American connection to the band’s debut album, too. Industrial Silence had been mixed by American John Agnello, who has produced work by numerous compatriot indie acts, including Dinosaur Jr, Mark Lanegan, also frontman for the Seattle band Screaming Trees, and Steve Wynn, nowadays a solo performer since the demise of his band, the Dream Syndicate, over a decade ago. The Norwegian band’s strong links with various components of the US indie rock scene reflect both the band’s sound and wider approach to music. In older interviews, Madrugada have often cited American acts, as well as the country’s culture in general, as their primary influence. At their shows, the band often pays homage to its mentors with covers. Acts thus honored range from rock ‘n’ roll heroes such as Lou Reed to more obscure artists like the Gun Club, a defunct post-punk/blues band whose run ended several years ago following the untimely death of its frontman, Jeffrey Lee Pierce. Though Madrugada’s musical influences are mostly imported, the band’s wistful style does reflect its homeland’s melancholic landscape, which makes its approach authentic. Pensive acts, like those of seasoned artists Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, tend to do well in icy Norway. Considering their success, the younger Madrugada are the latest addition. Tomorrow (December 12) at the Mylos 1927 club, Larissa; Thursday, December 13 at Mylos, Thessaloniki; Friday, December 14 and Saturday, December 15 at Club 22, Athens. -On smaller sizes, IVSs has fixed M/V Brahms, 33,700 dwt, built 1986, delivery S. Africa Dec. 10-19, redelivery UKC at USD 6,000 daily.