Jakobínarína and Weapons
Bar 11, Thursday August 18
Jakobínarína, aged 16 and winners of the local Battle of the Bands this March, know how powerful a high-pitched guitar riff, a funky bass groove, and fast disco beats can be when employed correctly. Though they may not have the best vocalist in town, or melodies catchy enough to complement the tight backdrop as a good hook should; they do have raw power and an understanding of what makes today’s music so good. Their show at Bar 11 was a fine example of this, leaving the mostly underage crowd dazzled (save Jónsi, the singer of Sigur Rós. Dazzled he was, but not underaged).
Mid-tempos are Weapons’ trade, and they allow their guitars to breathe between rhythmical start-stop riffs. Vocalist Hreinn could be identified from a mile away, his singing style not far detached from a woman in labour or someone having a particularly bad stomach day.
Bob Justman and Miri
Gallery Lobster or Fame, Friday August 19
Bob Justman is most famous within Reykjavík for being the best DJ in town under the name KGB—in seeing him perform an acoustic troubadour set, we were able to see what makes him such a good DJ.
The man is blessed with perfect pitch. Performing a 45-minute set, Justman, a natural tenor, finger-picked his way through poppy but legitimate-sounding seduction songs. Occasionally, the sound was the smooth acoustic that you hear during romantic comedies and decide to buy the soundtrack to hear the tune again. Balancing this poppy feel were a few numbers that didn’t quite hit their stride, but demonstrated Justman’s ranging tastes, including one tune called My Way Home that riffed on an obscure Foo Fighters track. Justman met with us before the set and told our reviewer that he had never in his career gotten a bad review—while we usually take this as a challenge, we left the show understanding the Justman is that rare troubadour that disappoints nobody.
Benni Hemm Hemm
Sirkus, Saturday August 20
When Benni Hemm Hemm was booked we didn’t realize that it was on Culture Night. We didn’t know either that the sun would be shining and that the garden by Sirkus would be crowded. We also didn’t realize how much Icelanders had fallen in love with Benni’s heavily orchestrated take on country pop.
Throwing in a cover of Elvis and renowned (and deceased) singer Haukur Morthens’ heart-wrenching Til eru fræ, the performance was destined to be a hit. Benni himself sings in a very deep voice and strums his guitar quietly during the verses but is usually aided by a full brass band during choruses and often epic outros. The Sirkus setting was fitting, the ten-piece looking precious on the barely four square-metre stage.
Dýrðin and Vonbrigði
Bar 11, Thursday August 25
It’s quite strange that Dýrðin and Vonbrigði actually share members, the bands practically being opposites. I overheard a conversation between two friends just before Vonbrigði came on. “I’m leaving as soon as Vonbrigði are finished. I hate that fucking pop band Dýrðin, it’s rubbish” would be a rough translation of what one of them said, the other nodding in approval. Vonbrigði were founded in 1981: in the eye of the post-punk hurricane. The show lacked power and credibility to begin with, the image of a 40-year-old singer sitting miserably on the brink of a tiny bar stage not helping at all. But Vonbrigði really picked up and the latter half of the show exhibited a tight and sometimes surprising band wise in accordance to its years.
When it was time for Dýrðin a large portion of the crowd left, including my explicit comrade and his bearded friend. It’s a shame, because in my opinion Dýrðin were the better band that Thursday night. Dýrðin’s childlike pop/rock has instant appeal even though singer Hafdís was having constant problems with hitting the right notes, definitely the poor sound system’s fault. I wasn’t familiar with Dýrðin before they packed their computer and hired a drummer and keyboardist, but their current line-up works, even though I’d like to see a bit more movement and stage presence from the male half of the band.
Gallery Lobster or Fame, Friday August 26
“We’ve never had a band playing here with guitar stands,” gallery owner Einar Örn said when Shadow Parade showed up with their own sound system for a gig at Gallery Lobster and Fame. In this spirit Shadow Parade delivered a very professional set, with a tight and clear sound. Presenting rock very similar to an American Radiohead ca. 1996, their epic crescendos are often reminiscent of a hormone-driven sexual experience, complete with acne and that awkward moment when you need to ask her for help to unhook her bra.
Sirkus, Saturday August 27
Helgi Valur delivered an impressive performance the first weekend of autumn to the crowd sipping beer by Sirkus. He repeatedly commented on what an unusual crowd this was for him to perform for, sharing his nervousness with the audience. This could not be heard in his flawless vocal performance, which included a few originals, a David Gray B-Side (which, remarkably, was one of the highlights of the concert), Coen’s Hallelujah, and The Door’s The End. The true highpoints were his renditions of Snoop Dogg’s Gin and Juice and 2Pac’s Life Goes On. By the end of the concert loads of bypassers had taken a seat in the garden and I’m positive that Helgi Valur earned some new fans this chilly but sunny Saturday.