I figured a festival dubbed a ‘music mess’ would serve as a nice introduction to the Reykjavík music scene on my first Thursday night in the city. Here come the mosh pits, here come the deafening choruses, I thought.
But the mess – the second annual Reykjavík Music Mess that will feature 18 bands over four days – was far too tidy.
Tilbury, a folk pop group that released its first album this month, was among the four bands to hit the Nasa stage Thursday night. A buzzworthy band plus an iconic music venue, mixed in with a weekend festival of local favourites; I braced for a swarm of music devotees, and I wanted a sweet first taste of Reykjavík rock.
But a half-empty room and vacant dance floor tempered my expectations. Hipsters head-bobbed and nursed their drinks, diverting attention from the poppy quartet who played six songs off of their debut album “Exorcise.” The band rolled off songs like the toe-tapping “Sunblinds,” chord-heavy “Eclectic Bungaloo” and critically accalimed “Tenderloin,” displaying a versatile mix of breezy tunes made for relaxing on a patio and those that make you want to jump around.
The band deserved better than the patrons sitting on the sidelines, relegating the girl in a blue summer dress awkwardly dance alone in the middle of the floor. A drunken bearded man tried helplessly to get the crowd into it. At least he tried.
Tilbury, made up of members from other bands like Hjaltalín, Valdimar, Sin Fang and Amiina, has been called a supergroup of Reykjavik staples. The group’s first album, ‘Exorcise,’ has generated talk around Reykjavik music circles for good reason. The record weaves easy melodies from track to track. The live performance was weakened by founder Þormóður Dagsson’s hushed (and somewhat strained) vocals, which hold the band back from stirring any drama in their self-described “dramatic folk pop” sound.
The good vibes that the group generated were a fine lead-in to the rest of the Reykjavík Music Mess, an independent festival that will continue Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Kex Hostel and Faktorý. Other bands like Cheek Mountain Thief, Reykjavik! and Benni Hemm Hemm will hit the stage throughout the weekend—and hopefully draw stronger crowds. The crowd makes the festival.