Emerging upstairs at Faktorý for the Grísalappalísa album release concert was like entering a man cave: hazy lights, musky smells and low growls issued from the front of the room. The scene was overwhelmingly male.
The lack of females was surprising since vocalists Gunnar Ragnarsson and Baldur Baldursson are regulation Icelandic hotties. But don’t let the sweet-faced baby photo on the cover of Grísalappalísa’s ‘ALI’ album fool you; this is angry music.
As the sound began to swell, I realised that just as females often berate males to share their feelings but turn heel as soon as they unleash their inner demons, there are few women who tolerate angsty discordant shouting about some chick named Lísa. Luckily for the all-male band, a few female attendees were clearly willing to sooth their masculine woes.
The primal shouts and percussion started raging and a wave of caveman energy surged through the crowd, polished by the ‘80s style backing featuring a nonchalant saxophone. Young men pulsed to the beat, as if it were their lifeblood.
Even to a non-native speaker it was obvious the Icelandic lyrics spoke to these men on a deep emotional level or at least a deeply drunken one. Chants of “Grísa! Lappa! Lísa!” rose up periodically and whipped the crowd into a testosterone-fuelled frenzy.
At one point a man stuck his hand into the speakers in an attempt to connect with the music quite literally. He wore a pimp style fur coat and a fedora. When he wasn’t sloshing his gin and tonics over his neighbours he held up a burning joint to the band like a ritualistic offering.
A bare-chested man held his torn shirt in his hands and thrashed to the music, while Gunnar and Baldur looked crisp in contrasting black and white ensembles: white tuxedo shirt and skinny jeans versus black sparkles and suspenders. Grísalappalísa consists of effortlessly stylish men, emanating equal parts rage and charisma.
In between jumping up and down and sneering on stage, Gunnar would enter the crowd, which rush to meet him. His style as a front man was more jovially insane than Baldur, who brooded darkly in the background. The two represent a nuanced yin and yang of apathy and conviction reflected in the music.
The songs blended well from one to the next and when I wasn’t edging away from the mini-mosh pit or the half-hearted crowd surfers, it was easy to embrace the orchestrated chaos. The concert ended with a defiant feedback loop that lost its effect when the band obligingly returned to the stage for a final bow at the crowd’s behest.
Although I could not personally reap the group therapy rewards of affirming my own masculine crisis, the Grísalappalísa experience is one I will not soon forget. Playfully transgressive and aggressive, Grísalappalísa live is all the rage.
Check out their album on bandcamp