Published November 11, 2016
Below Bankastræti, at the intersection where cars idle waiting to turn onto Lækjargata, is a public restroom known as “the zero.” At least, that’s what it was known as in its heyday, for reasons we’ll leave to the imagination. The restroom was opened on June 17, 1930, “a big year for Iceland,” Reykjavík’s go-to music scholar, Dr. Gunni, notes. “It was the 1,000 year anniversary of Alþingi—a big celebration. So they open public restrooms. Hótel Borg opened, and the national radio began…” On November 2, 2016, the restroom door opened again, onto a different side of Reykjavík history: Behold, the Icelandic Punk Museum.
As Reykjavík’s de facto music man, Dr. Gunni has written three books chronicling the history of Icelandic rock. Having collected and assembled the photos for these books himself, he’s got a sweeping knowledge of what’s available. So when Finni (of Dr. Spock) acquired the restrooms a year ago and came up with the idea of the Punk Museum, Gunni was an easy go-to.
Through a quilted outreach effort, Dr. Gunni has stitched together photos, posters, videos and, of course, lots of music. “I was in a secondhand shop and some guy was working there and he said, ‘I took some pictures back in the 70s and the 80s,’ and those turned out to be really good, unseen pictures from the Stranglers concert in ’78,” the good doctor tells us. “On the same trip I found a can of glue which was the drug of choice back in the day. So it was a good trip to that junk store.”
The content will focus on the period between 1978-1992—beginning with the first Icelandic punk group Fræbbblarnir (“The Staaamens”), which began as a joke at Kópavogur College, and ending with the disbanding of The Sugarcubes. On December 1 the Museum will stage a concert at the newly re-opened Hard Rock Café with Taugadeildin, Jonee Jonee, Fræbbblarnir and Q4U. Welcome to below the block, Pönksafnið Íslands.