The atmosphere was strange at Grand Rokk. The New York band The Gang didn’t seem to attract a large audience. Most in attendance were there to see Æla and/or Benny Crespo’s Gang.
Æla started off the night with sheer brilliance. There has been a steady buzz about the entertainment value of an Æla concert. And I hoped I wouldn’t have to pluck the wings off that bee and stop the buzz. I had been told that Æla played punk so I was surprised to hear good rock music that consisted of well-harmonised guitar riffs. The singing was really charming and I thought to myself, this is what Einar Örn has been trying to do for all these years with poor results. Halli Valli’s stage presence is reminiscent of Nick Cave or Elvis Presley. He’s tall, but to emphasise his stardom he placed a chair in front of the stage and every time he would take a solo he’d stand on it. Sveinn, the bass player, did all the talking for the band so that frontman Halli Valli could keep his cool and mystique throughout the gig. And keep his cool he did. He remained cool when he broke a string and when his guitar strap fell and he was even cool when he dropped his guitar and broke it. Now that’s punk. They could be criticised for writing short songs but I’m not going to. Nuclear Assault wrote songs that were all 15 seconds. Now, that’s too short.
After a short wait The Gang took the stage and started to play something that could be defined as music. Personally, I favour a narrower definition of the term. What followed was disappointment after disappointment. I felt like a child who is promised a trip to Disneyworld but is then taken to the dentist. You just sit in the chair thinking, “Is he gonna pull out all my teeth?” And the pain I felt that night listening to The Gang was much greater than having all of my teeth pulled out without sedation. They had all these instruments, a crowd, probably years of practise playing their instruments and what do we get? Mediocrity redefined. They went far beyond mediocre into a whole new category. It saddened me that while the Icelandic music scene is growing and boasts world-class performers, international acts with the talent of a hamster can come here and play in front of a full house. May you reap what you sow, for thy seeds are poisonous.
After 45 minutes of mild melancholy I cheered up. The reason: Benny Crespo’s Gang. I have to admit I am somewhat biased when it comes to Benny Crespo’s Gang, for I feel they are one of the best bands in Iceland. Their sound ranges from At the Drive-in to Blonde Redhead, trip-hop style. The band is characterised by versatility; they can do anything, and as a concert band they have no competition. Most of their songs are masterpieces and the ambition of every member shows as they change instruments and play two keyboards, or bass and keyboards at the same time. Helgi, the singer, thanked the other bands. He should have thanked The Gang for warming up. The first song was about ten minutes. I just fell into a trance and was whisked away to an epic wonderland. Everything in their performance was first rate and professional, which is not to say that they lacked passion (which was abundant). The word “mania” came to mind. What Plato talked about as the artistic nature of man. Benny Crespo’s Gang were in a state of Platonic Mania. When Loo Loo the guitar/keyboard player sang her solo I felt almost numb from the charisma that was pouring from the spirit of her singing. Oh what beauty we humans can possess! The only bad thing about Benny Crespo’s Gang is that there is a small New York band, that sucks, that is also a Gang.
Despite my disappointment with The Gang, this was an excellent concert. Iceland, Iceland Über Alles. Let’s learn from this experience and pick Icelandic. We are the best in the world! At least per capita.