I can only imagine that organising a festival such as Iceland Airwaves must be a logistical nightmare. Not just in getting bands both local and from abroad to be able to put time aside to play one or more gigs over the course of a few days, but also in terms of where to put them all. This can lead to some hilarious combinations, like seeing a young rock band wailing away in the storefront window of a clothing shop, or watching a solo performance in a pizza joint. But when venue and band actually compliment each other – and I realise neither bands nor even organisers have full say over who can play where – it’s truly a glorious thing. That was certainly the case seeing Pink Street Boys play in the basement of Bar 11.
To anyone not fully familiar with this act, a good example of their sound can be heard in the above video. They are straight-up, no-bullshit, unadulterated punk. Their music is the soundtrack playing in your head when you get in a whisky-fueled fistfight with your landlord at three in the morning, or when you decide to be the one who breaks from the crowd to throw a tear gas cannister back at the cops.
Seeing a band like this on a giant stage in some arena would defy common sense. Last year’s Airwaves, they played at Kex Hostel which, while technically being a hostel, really bears all the fine trappings of a fairly nice hotel, so while there’s plenty of room and good acoustics, there’s still something a little jarring about the contrast between band and venue here.
Not so in the basement of Bar 11. If you grew up musically in your local hardcore scene, the setting is probably very familiar to you: a ceiling so low it would crack your skull open if you so much as hiccuped, beaten up chairs pushed to the sides of the room, the air thick with the exhalations of far too many people for this tiny space (but mercifully absent of cigarette smoke, although the fact that your eyes and nostrils aren’t burning may strike off some Authenticity Points for you), and the dread, or hope, in the back of your mind that a mosh pit is likely to break out any second, and you feel you should check where the fire exits are.
This is exactly the kind of place you want to see a band like Pink Street Boys. They played a tight, ear-clawing, raucous set that, given the acoustics, was often more a hurricane of noise backed by one of the hardest-hitting psychos in the world of drumming, Einar Björn Þórarinsson. And that suited the crowd just fine. No mosh pit erupted (they’re actually relatively uncommon at hardcore gigs in Iceland), but bodies were moving in the grip of the music. Band and venue became a single entity, and those lucky enough to be in attendance got exactly what they hoped for.
Again, I appreciate the nightmare it must be to get every act that signed on booked to the right location. It’s not a point against the organisers that there are, at times, stark contrasts between band and venue at any given show. But when serendipity smiles upon both band and venue in a perfect convergence, the experience is all the more memorable, and likely to be remembered for years to come.
Posted November 8, 2015