“It started out as a joke on a group chat on Facebook in July 2016,” says Jón Már Ásbjörnsson, the man behind the eponymous Gleðileg Jón festival. “We’d have some bands play at my 25th birthday party. A bunch of beer, food, and everyone having a good time.”
The joke revolved around the title, which is a play on how you’d say Merry Christmas in Icelandic: ‘Gleðileg Jól.’ It was basically like deciding to throw a party so you could call it, ‘Susan’s Greetings,’ or ‘Happy Ronadon.’ But Jón took the idea seriously and booked bands like Pink Street Boys, Great Grief, Churchouse Creepers and many more, for an all-day free festival at Dillon.
“It was supposed to be a one-time thing,” he explains, “but last year we thought about all the good bands we used to love that stopped playing so we decided to throw a second Gleðileg Jón and get some nostalgia bands to play, such as Celestine, Chino and Shogun.” He smiles. “Now it’s time for round three.”
A trilogy of greatness
This year’s festival is unequivocally on a different level. Jón got another organiser, Aníta Þula Benediktsdóttir Cummings, on board and teamed up with Gaukurinn, Veganæs, Red Bull and Víking for the party. While last year’s goal was nostalgia, this year’s is diversity, both in terms of genre and gender.
The lineup features Bagdad Brothers, Lucy In Blue, Mannveira, Dead Herring, xGADDAVÍRx, and Between Mountains. Rounding out the supporting sets is the long-awaited reunion show of In The Company Of Men, who played at the first Gleðileg Jón. Leeched, a Manchester-based hardcore act, will headline as the first foreign band to ever grace the festival.
Leeched and secrets
Booking an international act—like the festival in the first place—started out as a joke. “Truth be told, Aníta and I were joking around that we’d get Hellogoodbye to come play,” he laughs. They then actually reached out to some international bands—including the iconic emo kids—and found Leeched ready to rumble. “Keeping the secret that Leeched were going to be playing the festival has been killing us,” Aníta exclaims.
There will also be a secret band, about which Jón and Aníta stay tight-lipped. All they will say is that it is not Hellogoodbye, nor is it Trust The Lies, an old Icelandic hardcore act whose reunion has been much discussed and hoped for in the city.
But while the festival has grown, both emphasise that the basis of it has not changed. “There’s still cake and there probably will always be cake,” Jón says. “This could be the last Gleðileg Jón, but who really knows? If we decide to do it again, it will be bigger, and so will the cake.” He smiles. “That’s a promise.”