Four young Danes huddled tightly on a tiny stage while noise-inflected dance beats throbbed from the sound system. It was their first live show but you wouldn’t know it from the three girls swooning in the front row while Elias sang the words “hold me in your arms” over and over. VÅR (formerly War) has built-in notoriety thanks to it being the pet project of Elias Ronnenfelt of Iceage. The project also includes Loke Rahbek of Sexdrome and the tape label Posh Isolation. Their single, “In Your Arms (Final Fantasy)” has already made the blog rounds, from Pitchfork to NPR, receiving the same mainstream hype Iceage initially did, but much like Iceage they seem to be trying to balance high-profile opportunities with gigs closer to their heart. VÅR is currently in the states recording an LP for Sacred Bones in a small studio in the back of a Brooklyn record store and they chose to have their live debut at a secret show at Wierd. No matter how popular Elias or any of his projects may be, there is still a conscientious effort to maintain a sense of control over the music, how it is received, and who they play to, hence all previous VÅR releases being only available on a limited basis via cassette.
Live, VÅR was, for the most part, a study in stoicism. The keyboard player and the drummer had no interactions with the audience. When Loke took over vocal duties and left the stage to join the crowd his movements were slow and deliberate and icily aggressive. Occasional emotions cracked the surface—when Elias was on vocals a sense of pleading urgency came out of the speakers and the room was heavy with sexual tension. The set ended with an instrumental track coupled with a lengthy tender embrace between Loke and Elias. It was apparent that the visual impact was nearly important as the aural one and the pair deftly manipulated the crowd without losing an air of earnestness that prevented the entire thing from feeling dishonest.
If you missed their show at Wierd you’ll have another chance to see VÅR at Sunday’s Sacred Bones showcase for Northside Fest. It’ll be at Glasslands which is a small enough venue to recreate some of the magic that happened last night at Wierd, but it won’t be the same as seeing them in a crowded basement under a blanket of smoke.