As I sit down to accept the gauntlet of tonight’s bands, I pause to consider the price of the alcohol that is being served to me. Although we have published that Cafe Amsterdam is a place to get cheap beer, 800 ISK is certainly not what I would call cheap. As I stare at the receipt, I look out of the window knowing I could get cheaper at Bakkus and Sódóma. Sigh…
And I and 15 other people wait patiently, when a couple of guys get up from a nearby table. Imagine my non-surprise when they turn out to be the first band, Buxnaskjónar. They certainly don’t look like a punk band, at first. The bass player looks like a young Bob Mould whose movement range is ‘place weight on one foot’ followed by ‘shift weight to the other foot’. And the singer, with his clean white shirt and bow tie, looks like he was press ganged from FM Belfast. But their music is fast and shouty with songs taken from the Innvortis and Morðingjarnir textbook ‘Punk Pop for Dummies’. But I can’t really hear the bass lines over the thumping kick drum which is a shame. Also, the same thought keeps repeating itself: Why are their instruments so shiny? I think their parents must have bought them for their birthdays.
Sjálfsprottin Spévísi is a slightly different proposition. At least I can hear the bass being played this time, from a guy who resembles a hipster Johnny Depp. They have a very tight knit post-punk sound with a very heavy ska/reggae flavour. Some songs remind me a lot of guys like XTC and The Young Knives. One of their songs even brings forth the classic ‘Lip Up Fatty’ by Bad Manners. Overall a good band and one that that had me nodding a fair amount in appreciation.
After this upturn in musical fortunes, things take a crash to earth with Morning After Youth. Looking all like a bland pub rock band, they certainly did disappoint. The place is now 75% full, but their songs were neither interesting nor powerful enough to keep my interest. One song threatened to become something rather more enthralling but they must have realised this, so they quickly stamped down on it hard to kill it so it resembled mystery meat pub rock again. The elderly barman loved it though.
Thankfully things are saved a bit with Fönksveinar. Even as a non-Icelander, I could tell from their name that a certain amount of funk is involved in their sound. But as they start their brassy vibe, I have difficulty hearing them over the people chattering next to me. This has the effect of rendering their sound to nothing more than background noise. And their jazz funk sound is great, but more of a meandering cafe jazz style than James Brown funk, with no really punchy staccato lines. But compared to what’s been on before, and thanks to the expensive beer I’m imbibing, I find myself getting into it.
By now one of the barmen clocks that I’m reviewing the gig and hands me a CD by the next band. ‘Hey Man this is by The Vintage Caravan. They’re really great and they’re only 16!’ One of these statements is true. From the start, they play their blues rock as if someone has found the way to possess the souls of the members of Cream and transplant them into Icelandic teenagers. This must surely violate some kind of medical ethics code or something. But what can you say about their music other than it’s what you’d hear in every back room bar in the UK and US. Heavy guitars, but plodding and pedestrian. The sort of music your dad will love. At least the bar is packed and a lot of the crowd seem to like it.
After taking a break outside to prevent my head from becoming Swiss cheese, I return inside to see that Sing For Me Sandra are up on stage. And my word there are a lot of people up there. However this is a problem as when you count three guitarists but can’t really make out what each instrument is actually doing, then perhaps you need to perform a necessary cull. And with the music being produced it certainly doesn’t seem like a massive reward for all their efforts. Pretty much straight-to-DVD indie rock. But again the crowd saves their blushes and there are a few people jumping up and down in their climax song. Aww bless them.
It’s nearing the end of the night and Nóló are ready to play. And with only three people and simple direct songs, they are the antithesis of Sing For Me Sandra. While some of the tracks from their album ‘No Lo-fi’, don’t translate exceptionally well on a live setting, they have a woozy, spooky psychedelic sound and I find that I write in my notebook ‘A chillwave Ozzy Osborne’. As their hypnotic keyboards and witchcraft bass turn my brain into mush I step outside into the cold wet air to get a hot dog, only to find that the stand is closed.
I turn to the night sky and curse this world and my nemesis at the top of my voice. And I go and get a kebab instead.