When you identify your band as “rock,” you’re automatically recognizing your own fated mediocrity in a way. It almost predetermines the kind of grungy shows you’re designated for and just how big (and eclectic) your fan base will get before either a) your sound matures or b) you break up. It is an indulgent genre, with simple chord progressions, rhythms, and an altogether lack of musical patience and restraint.
Café Amsterdam offered the worst of the rock genres last Saturday night – the self-defacing Pub rock, the abysmal Nü-emo, and borderline OK “indie rock.” The surprising variety of the musical vacuum didn’t suck in a surprising number of people; I don’t think the crowd exceeded 50 the entire night.
I entered maybe one song late into the set of the ambitious Vafurlogi. It became clear after just a few songs that Vafurlogi had a formula: a simple chord progression, change the rhythm maybe once, and then add a guitar solo with a new effect pedal for each song. Repeat for 50 minutes and you’ve got a Vafurlogi set.
The Nü-emo Ten Steps Ahead speak the teenage language of sweepy bangs and eyeliner – the yelling, the My Chemical Romance, the bass player’s skull bandana. It was all too much for me and I had to go ten steps outside for a bit. I still have to hand it to these guys for playing their hearts out – and there’s always something to be said for the sincerity and authenticity of emo music. It’s just not going to be said here.
When headliners Wulfgang came on, the crowd had dwindled to around 40 people, who were either friends of the band or members of Vafurlogi. I speculated that Ten Steps Ahead must’ve inspired everyone to look at their watches and hit the bars, and it was clear that the boys didn’t even stay to survey the damage done.
Wulfgang was entertaining enough to watch: frontman The Mind (they’ve all got English rockonyms) shakes and contorts himself in ways that might give him the title the Elvis of Iceland. But, the bass was way too high during the set and it was disappointing not to hear the clever guitar lines that are distinct on their self-tiled debut. Suspecting that it wasn’t Café Amsterdam’s fault, I later received an explanation from one of the band members that the guitarist’s brand new amp had blown just beforehand.
It seemed that the respectable Wulfgang were settling when they decided to play this gig, for their sake I hope that next time they choose a venue higher up on Laugavegur, with much better opening bands.