Slightly exhausted on the last day of Christmas, the Grapevine made it out to Laugardalshöll for a corporate-sponsored, all ages concert, which, were it not one night before the biggest concert of the year, would have had a standout line-up. Not that the crowd exactly knew this: few of the 2,000 or so on hand were over 16, and as I interviewed them, none could identify which bands had played or were playing, except a universal recognition of the reggae band Hjálmar.
It was to be an awkward night. The stadium, only one-third full, felt as lonely as something Gus Van Sant might portray, and the crowd, while for the most part well-mannered, admitted that they were there because there was simply nothing else to do. As much as it may have been 13 years too late, for all practical purposes, we were watching the filming of Smells Like Teen Spirit, the crowd too bored to even mumble “entertain us.”
Hjálmar did their best with the crowd, and had the easiest time, though they never cut loose or allowed for sing alongs or even full vocals. A good deal more surprising was the fact that the usually dark and sophisticated Bang Gang fit in like an updated Beavis. Joined on stage by members of Ensími, the extended line up went a long way to transform the ambitions of Barði Jóhannsson’s low tempo melodies beyond their sinister moody feel. While it failed to impress the crowd, this at least allowed for some brilliant rants from Barði – he brought the act of the idiot savant to perfection, and managed to further alienate what looked to be the most disengaged crowd of teenagers in the world.
Mínus closed the night. Despite, or even due to, their long lay off, Mínus held back on the musicianship. In fact, the tightest band in Iceland seemed a bit clotted. It was therefore a surprise to see Krummi, the often slightly jaded and reclusive lead singer, take such complete control of a crowd that had otherwise lost its will to even be bored. Krummi demonstrated a vocal and emotional range that we’ve never seen from him – often over-shadowed by a stand-out band, the rested Krummi is flat out as good as it gets in hard rock.
Again, it may have been lost on the crowd, who called for an encore after Mínus’s third song, but got more interested in fighting each other by the fifth.
By Sveinn Birkir Björnsson and Bart Cameron