Odenses Rock'n'Roll Resurrection

Odenses Rock'n'Roll Resurrection
Story | Written by: Jakob Cæsius Krohn | Translated by: Laura Malahovska | Friday, July 14, 2017

”The day the music died …”

On July 14th six years ago, I became aware that Buster Krogsgaard Svendsen from Odensensian shoegaze band Dorias Barracca had died. All of his young friends had probably already heard it on the day he died - June 16th, when an avalanche of “Buster is dead" text messages started circulating. He left this world a couple of weeks after he turned 19. But I went on living in happy ignorance of this fact for a whole month until one morning I went on his Facebook profile and got shocked and overwhelmed by reading all the condolences and memories. The song ”Åh, Buster” had an almost prophetic sound to it. But what moved me the most were the words Buster's girlfriend wrote; words that turned out to come from one of Buster's own lyrics. His last lyrics, in fact, in the sense that the song was released posthumously as the only one from the album that should have marked Dorias' breakthrough. The song is called "Shaky Dreams”:


”… turn out the lights”

Being a hopeless romantic, I interpreted the message as a form of liebestod, but I will let producer Jonas Munk's entire dazzling, cold-as-a-winter’s-day Odense compilation speak for itself. Newspapers published a fairly vague story about alcohol and medicine as the cause of death late that night. I do not know about that, nor the circumstances, nor am I interested to hear more about it. It is enough for me to know that Buster had a happy private party with his girlfriend that night to mark that they were moving to Copenhagen a few days later, and that Stine was by his side at his last moment. Reality is too unbearable, so I feel better off if Buster’s death is surrounded by a certain mystery a la the Dionysian rock icons, Morrison, Thunders etc., and the substance that (shaky) dreams are made of.

Buster and Stine

”I never thought that it would end like this”

To make matters worse, I had of course missed the funeral by then. I would have loved to shake the hand of the man who served as a mentor of sorts to young Buster while he lived in Vordingborg, namely the priest who also led the service. Maybe not one of God’s best children - or that was what I had accidentally heard from a lifeguard at DGI-byen. As the daughter of a high-ranking policeman, she could tell me that the pastor was just barely on the right side of the law. At a private music night at Buster’s place, Buster had told me that his plan was to study religion. On that same evening he showed me the LP sleeve for ‘Loveless’ by My Bloody Valentine, onto which he had glued a photo of Stine. And he said the words that stuck in my memory: “Jakob, make no mistake about it; all my songs are about love."

Jonatan, first meeting

”We’re going down in the history, we’re going dooown”

Let’s go back to 2009-11 when Odense’s underground scene peaked: Golem and Phono both in the pioneering phase, Urban Art Project, the acting school's privately owned stage Karsten Fasan, Off the Hook, BobZ and hashc ... , I mean, studios like Grow and Roots. And then there was Momentum, where Peter from Ecletic Moniker was in charge of the music. It was here Buster introduced me to Jonatan K. Magnussen. It is lucky that I always carried a camera in those days, because I do not really remember the night. But my buddy, Stoffer - with his back to the camera in the photo - told me that the conversation was about NOT "becoming anything". About being or not being fully dedicated to the music, or in other words - being ALL in when it comes to the art. It clearly was something I, with my former punk ideals, could talk about, although being too punk or sloppy to think about career plans that day!

Buster, first meeting

”You spit on those under 21 …”

When I first met Buster, he was only 16. I met him and bassist Simon at Kizzers Klub alias Grow, where we talked about shoegaze and where a couple of weeks later I attended the pre-release of Dorias' debut EP ”Handsome Melting Point”. After that I sought out the band's concerts every time I could get away from home, being a single father. It's with great pleasure I cite Lou Reed’s, or rather his teacher, Delmore Schwarz’s, wise words above, however I make an exception in the case of this band (and my children!). Dorias Baracca were extraordinarily talented. Their EP was released by an English record company, they played abroad, got a fair share of airtime and were featured on Karrierekanonen. And they also made this video from an Odense that no longer exists, featuring lots of teenage kicks, but also winterly melancholy:


”Wash me in the blood of rock’n’roll”

Buster and Jonatan were classmates. I've also heard that they both performed at Minival in Dalum, and -according to the organizer - hey Joe! - who had lent them their equipment - left blood on the drum kit. But even at their young age they had grown apart from each other musically, I heard. At that time, Jonatan and his band, Balloon Magic, represented a more polished sound that to novices might sound like The Smiths and The Cure, but was actually inspired by Scottish and Australian groups. Today, after a few replacements, the band embodies the crazy American tradition of The Gun Club and beyond. Under the new name The Love Coffin, however, all possible genres are at play. Just like it was some years ago when an Odense band of a grammatically similar-sounding name, The Live Museum, wanted to revitalize the best of rock history.

Record cover: ”Handsome Melting Point”

”You get older – not me”

The reason why I to clicked onto Buster’s profile on that summer day in 2011 was most likely that my girlfriend and I were on our way to Aarhus, where I would introduce her to the band that my youngest friend in all his youthful enthusiasm has proclaimed nothing less than ‘world’s best’ - Balloon Magic. Through a rainstorm accompanied by window wipers’ constant clatter, we listened to Dorias' Melting Point EP ’s spherically dreamy and thunderous loud rock while listening to Buster's ill-boding words like the ones cited above. This particular trip will always be in my memory, also due to the fact that, just before the Balloon Magic concert, I visited another musician Jakob for the last time before he died in a similarly sudden and meaningless way. In his last Facebook post, my namesake, the son of a priest, like me, wrote: "Why is happiness so unreliable?"

From the cemetery, 17/7 2011

”… a burning ring of fire”

But the Aarhus odyssey also marked a new beginning. It was here that I not only heard the phenomenal Balloon Magic, who released their debut EP "Mornings" through an American record company later that year, but also got to know the singer of the band: the evening ended with my girlfriend and I letting Jonatan sleep at our hostel (maybe because I remembered having run into Buster sporting the world's biggest black circles under his eyes - or was it eyeliner?! - heading home after a Dorias concert in Aarhus, where he had slept at the train station). During the drive to Odense the next day, Jonatan and I found out that despite the age difference, we had a common weakness for many of the bands I had heard at Rytmeposten concerts in the 90's organized by Jan Aaskov and his best friend, my third dead rock-friend, Gert V. Andersen from the earlier mentioned band The Live Museum. Another full circle.

Record cover: ”Mornings”

”Something better change, change, change …”

You might think that both Buster and Jonatan had been schooled by a father, uncle, or music teacher with the same taste as me, but no. Their primary inspiration came through peers and was a reaction to the fact that there was nothing for the youth to do out there, and in response they stayed at home and listened to music until sunrise (see my old TIO article "It's alive”). Here I think the young Nikolaj Bruus must have played a major role on the scene as an awesome rock professor. On his list of the 150 best records in 2015 year, no. 19 is "Veranda", the debut EP by The Love Coffin! Nikolaj is also the main man behind these short YouTube documentaries with clips of Dorias and Balloon Magic, where the son of the aforementioned Gert, Tim, speaks of better times as a counterweight to the impression of Odense as a weird time pocket filled with freezing eighties gloom.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=nz0J9SnICdI (youth music culture of Odenses (part 1)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E18n4CDe9VQ (part 2)

”I stumbled into town …”

But then the sudden wake-up call came. And I should state plainly that Buster's rock'n'roll lifestyle, like Baudelaire’s famous "to the bottom of the unknown to find the new" belief, was a double-edged sword. Our first meeting (exempting Kizzers Klub), for example, took place in the summer of 2009 where I bumped into him at Smagløse: he was headed home around midnight, because his teacher had threatened to throw him out of school unless he handed in an assignment the next day. I also saw him a couple of time in the morning on his way home from 'a hard days night’ out. I could tell many similar stories, but it is not really funny anymore. Buster was thrown out of gymnasium, and production school was the next step. "It's a kindergarten," he said to me one day at Flakhaven; he needed an adult conversation.

From Studenterhuset

”Things always seem to end before they start”

At the Phono festival, Simon pulled me aside and told me that the band had a massive problem and after a concert at the old student house, Buster confided in me that they were struggling to geth through the sophmore slump and that he was afraid he was going to be the last man standing. At this point he was back in school, but after I had promised to help him out with a music assignment, but was unable to reach him for hours and then found him at The Smagløse once again, my relationship with him soured a bit. For what turned out to be the remaining months of his life, we did not have much contact. The last words I remember from him were uttered during a concert, where Buster came over and stood next to me in the back row, while the band played their last song. I stood with crossed arms and my face turned toward the stage, and Buster said something like: "Well, I'm gonna go have a beer with the others.”

Havnekulturfestivalen 2011, with Dorias Baracca and an unidentified policeman (You're looking for the wrong guys!) 

”Happy birthday – not for me”

Fortunately there was one last meeting. It was at the Havnekulturfestivalen in 2011, when Buster turned 19 and the city's underground culture peaked, never since reaching the same dizzy heights. In the old, pitch-dark, graffiti-framed industrial halls, the music collective Off the Hook was on the program, resulting in concerts with both Buster and Jonatan. Dorias' last ever cacophonic concert, immortalized on YouTube, ended with the members throwing themselves onto each other in a giant, chaotic - but also loving - mosh pit, while Jonatan joined the sound wizard Jens Aagaard in his solo project The Dove Is Dead, alongside guitarists Kristian and Lasse, who are the other two front figures in The Love Coffin today. As you can see in my strangely ghostlike picture, there seems to have been a spark between them already:

The Dove is Dead and Jonas Munk from Havnekulturfestivalen 2011.

”New morning light”

In the latest video by The Love Coffin, we're back at the scene of the crime: The Memcorn warehouse where Dorias performed has been levelled to the ground, but Odense harbour still stands. And I am sure I am not reading too much into it when I say that there is resurrection symbolism here. But also an urge to put the ghosts of the past (and pink elephants!) behind and move on - over the bridge, over the rainbow, to Copenhagen, where The Love Coffin has a solid base today and from which the band has toured though Europe to a dedicated audience. The band has also been hyped by the underground-guru Lorenzo Woodrose, as well as received great reviews, for example in Information, for their two EPs and finally for a fantastic concert at the Roskilde Festival. It is time to open your eyes and realise that if not the world’ s then Denmark’s best band is from Odense!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1N6UuOov9g (”New Morning Light”)

”… a worthy epitaph”    

It has been six years since my dark day; it took quite a while before I could write this article. I could be accused of being pathetic and morbid, indeed. But someone should pay tribute to Buster K. Svendsen, and when his mother tragically died of cancer last year, I felt the calling. And actually, I can, after all, offer you a very happy ending. I’ve just heard from Stine, who had spoken with Jonas Munk, that a record label is about to publish the follow-up to Dorias Baracca’s debut, from which we’ve so far only heard "Shaky Dreams", and that it may already be out later this year. This means that a lasting testimony to one of Odense's most uncompromising artists finally sees the light of day.  
Let us in the meantime remember Buster with this strong portrait by the famous French photographer and fashion designer Hedi Slimane:

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