There were eight shows of varying quality and styles showcased at Gamli Gaukurinn on the big Saturday night. First up were Skepna, a rock band that just released a self-titled album. I had listened to said album several times and tried to enjoy it, but it was frankly uninteresting, like a long intro to a song that never really went anywhere. The same could be said about their live performance. At first they seemed to be considerate of the visibly tired crowd, but once they got people’s attention they didn’t do anything with it.
The Icelandic and British band Fears, on the other hand, had a lot to offer. The guitarist was animated, playing several wonderfully structured riffs, the bassist was ever-present and confident, the drummer solid, and singer the singer sounded like Chester Bennington singing Muse songs. Fears played similar music as several Icelandic bands, but they come from a different cultural background which led to a categorically different execution of their genre.
Sign completely filled the venue, which is unsurprising given their cult following in Iceland. Playing a not-so-original kind of alternative rock, Sign were considered one of the coolest bands in Iceland’s early noughties by their fellow Generation Y teenagers. It was clear the crowd was enthused through the duration of their gig. It would be contentions to call Sign anything other than cheesy, but with spot on delivery and a great connection with the crowd, it was safe to call it the good kind of cheesy. Nü-metal has come and gone, but crowd still enjoys the singer of Sign taking his shirt off and falling off the railing.
If Sign are stuck in the past, Legend was looking forward. The trio’s atmospheric gothic industrial synth rock washed over the crowd and left none wanting. They sounded like Nine Inch Nails stripped down to drums, a synth, and a punk rocker’s gnarly voice. And there was plenty of punk to be found; frontman Krummi was on the receiving end of a hurled glass, and his immediate response was to tell the chucker he’d fuck her up! If I were ever to host a massive warehouse party, Legend would be the first band I’d call.
The Danish Shiny Darkly had come recommended to me, but the pop-rock outfit turned out to the festival’s first act I walked out on. They had good elements to their show, but they felt scattered brained and didn’t manage to keep people’s attention. Maybe this performance wasn’t representative for the band, but it felt charmless.
The Canadian poppy Canadian band Royal Canoe borrowed equally from Flaming Lips and Jamiroquai, rocking a disco vibe of their own. Their attractive and groovy sound was filled with morphed vocals, twangy guitars, and electro-pop keys. Their well-received tunes were also catchier than chlamydia, which is saying a lot in Iceland.
Absent the perfect sound system and tall barricades of Harpa Norðurljós, Muck seemed perfectly in their element. Their previous show had received both solid and lacklustre reviews, but this was their sixth gig during the festival and they were visibly exhausted. Their previously refined sound gave way to a cruder and rawer sound, with the band’s chainsaw-like guitar riffs taking centre stage. Shortly after a mosh pit formed the singer informed the crowd he didn’t want to play guitar any more, ditched it, and joined in on the chaos with his corded microphone in tow, entangling fans and himself in the process. People were drunkenly stumbling over, and I am absolutely certain one fan which face-planted must have come away with a minor concussion. It was an incredibly fun show, but the fun was not over quite yet.
The Icelandic punk group Æla (“vomit”) were plagued with both technical difficulties and a troll who vomited on stage and tried nicking the band’s instruments, but they nonetheless delivered a mean set. Their songs challenged homophobia, talked about ditching responsibilities, and the dangers of wanking off bulls. The unrefined music struck a chord with the intoxicated crowd and led to numerous stage dives.
During the set, singer Halli Valli ripped off his shirt, revealing a strapless dress underneath, and continued as if nothing had changed. This act, he previously informed the Grapevine, was a feminist statement that gender portrayal did not change the music they played. The band and crowd existed in beautiful energetic symbiosis for the whole set, but like with all good things it eventually came to an end.
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