Basshunter brings Boten Anna to Iceland. Show opened by XXX Rottweiler and Dr. Mister & Mr. Handsome
The first thing that greeted my companions and I when we entered the sometime-concert venue Broadway on that fateful Tuesday night (after being dutifully frisked by the security staff, of course) was the sight of a dead-drunk 17-year-old boy vomiting furiously on the table he lay on. A colourful mixture of vodka and Red Bull, half-digested pizza slices and god knows what else flowed relentlessly from his young gullet while his vacant eyes betrayed signs of confusion and embarrassment. After a short while the not-much-older-than-him security officers (of which there were plenty) noticed the troubled youngster and proceeded to manhandle him out of our sight. Hopefully, they took good care of him, although the behaviour those self-important boys were to display later that night (and the rough, rough way they grabbed him) doesn’t give much merit to the theory.
Several metres to the vomiting boy’s right was a drunk, crying teenage girl, mascara stained and sobbing over something that probably seemed important at the time, panties and cleavage prominently displayed. Close by, a fight was breaking out between two bleach-blond boys wearing extremely tight white t-shirts. These sights would repeat themselves in exceedingly short intervals as the night went on.
There was also a stall selling pizza slices and energy drinks, 300 ISK for the slice, 200 for the drink (I sampled both, and while the drink was warm and the pizza was not, they made for a strangely satisfying meal, completely befitting of the surroundings). And then there was some sort of coin-operated dance-off machine that seemed really fun in a perversely wholesome kind of way. And there was, of course, a plethora of advertisements. And then there was the concert that drew them all there. And that seemed fun too, if not wholesome. But wholesome does not appeal much to the young. After all, teenagers live forever.
The spectacle in question was a concert by Sweden’s latest techno-pop export, the dumbfoundingly named Basshunter. Supporting were lapsed Icelandic hip-hop pioneers XXX Rottweiler and some “Very special guests!” This was the second concert of the night, lasting from 22:00 ‘til 01:00, and was meant to accommodate 16 to 20 year olds (the night’s earlier show served the younger breed of teen). Aside from what state law implies, the socially accepted drinking age in Iceland has been, and always will be, 16, and this is regularly mirrored in this age group’s social functions: people in the process of finding their drinking legs are usually prone to falling down a lot, just like those who’ve been using theirs for too long.
Making our way through a crowded stairway that led to the dance floor below we could hear the intro tape to XXX Rottweiler’s impending blast-off. I quite looked forward to the show, as XXXR used to be one of the most exciting live acts operating in Iceland: however, this was not the case that night. The reasons were all too apparent, even through the murk of lasers, smoke machines and the kind of bass that rumbles your insides they simply weren’t into what they were doing. And that is always a sad sight. The only time the band members seemed to truly enjoy themselves was when presenting songs off their respective solo endeavours.
And then there was Basshunter. The glorious reason we were all there, Basshunter makes music for people who really don’t care about music all that much – but do care about impossibly contagious hooks and incessant dancing. And that is fine by me, those folks need entertaining too, and entertain he did. Taking the stage after two of the most annoying presenters ever to grace a stage had finished their shtick, Basshunter appeared to the roaring applause of a crowd revelling in the sultry decadence of teenage drinklust and disposable pop.
Basshunter is a scrawny 22-year-old Swede, a self-proclaimed computer nerd, although not of the pimply, Jolt Cola drinking variety, but rather the looks of a model and a sculpted ass to boot variety. He reportedly started making music on his home computer back in 1999 and released his début album through his webpage in 2004 – a DIY move if there ever was one. Warner music quickly snapped him up, however, and it was through that respective label that he released his sophomore effort, LOL <(^^,)>, this summer, scoring a huge hit throughout Scandinavia with the first single – Boten Anna – a catchy ditty whose lyrics supposedly pay tribute to an IRC-bot. Basshunter was to dispel this myth that night: before he played it for the first time he explained that it was actually about some girl named Anna and her butt, as far as I could tell. The crowd loved it. They would have.
Two so-called Bassgirls accompanied Basshunter; low-cleavaged teenage girls who shook their titties in appropriate fashion to the music. As far as I could tell, their dancing wasn’t really synchronised, a fact that would reinforce my belief that they were simply a couple of attendees who had been hand-picked to strut their stuff on stage. And it must be said, Basshunter is an extraordinarily polite and pleasant young man. He repeatedly asked the crowd to cheer the Bassgirls on, stating that they were the most beautiful women he had ever seen and that attendants should be grateful for their presence. Really, he treated those girls with the utmost respect. Then, when the first fistfight of the night broke out in the crowd, resulting in flood-lights being turned on and security rushing the mass of people, the computer nerd seemed genuinely upset at the fact, pleading: “Please. It’s much better to love than to fight! Why this rage? Why not enjoy yourself and hug your partner?”
The main attraction was only to perform five songs that night, although he did play two of them twice (his big hit Boten Anna was actually played twice in a row – the crowd went wild both times).
I had some very conflicted feelings about the show in general. On one hand, I was appalled that these kids were being tricked out of their money just to take part in a spectacle that was more reminiscent of the donkey-carnival in Pinocchio (with ads!) than any wholesome youth gathering I’ve witnessed, and I’ve been to more than a few. They were all strapped with their cell phones, designer jeans and alcohol, all those things the powers that be try and convince us we need to have in order to properly enjoy ourselves. I was appalled at the low amount of respect the promoters showed the kids, appalled that this was what our extravagant consumer-culture has tricked us into believing substitutes for a good, meaningful time, appalled that many of the kids didn’t really seem like they were even enjoying themselves all that much, rather giving off the impression of screaming temper-tantrum brats that finally get the lollipop they only thought they wanted. I was appalled at a lot of things.
On the other hand, the sight of a group of teenagers dancing to their favourite song, boasting exuberant smiles and just being happy to participate in such a social event made me think otherwise. Witnessing such clear and unbridled joy in action reminded me that I should never be the one to judge if anyone is having a good time or not – and kids need their good times. Being one is hard enough as is, and if this is what they want, then by all means, let’s give it to them. The providers of such entertainment should, however, try and treat their target-market with a modicum of respect and dignity, like actual persons maybe. Appealing to ones baser needs may often be necessary, but exploiting them to this extent is just plain tasteless.
Which brings us to the last act, of the night, the “Very special guests!” Those were, predictably, the current kings of exploiting base needs, animal urges and no restraint whatsoever: Dr. Mister and Mr. Handsome. Introduced to great applause by the inane presenter duo, Dr. Mister stumbled to the stage to his very own Dr. Mister theme song. He introduced the rest of the band. “Where’s Mr. Handsome? Oh, I guess he’s backstage, fucking. Well, it’s me! The most famous junkie in Iceland. It’s true!” Handsome showed up minutes later, hitching up his pants. And Mister continued introducing his band.
Dr. Mister and Mr. Handsome are mean looking dudes and all their songs are about various combinations of cocaine and fucking. I’ve seen them put on some great, scary shows, oozing attitude and self-destructive cool, dancing relentlessly around on broken glass to broken beats, proudly proclaiming their violent love for all things shiny coke.
That night, they just sucked. It soon became apparent that Dr. Mister had lost his voice. And the band members were, for the most part, wasted out of their minds – in no state to perform in front of a paying audience. While stumbling drunks are often entertaining to watch, they are not very fun to dance to – which was the general idea. Naturally, the dance floor cleared up pretty quickly after they started playing, only briefly regaining its former glory when they played super-hit Is It Love?
Then a fight broke out and the bouncers rushed in and some girls started crying and another teenage boy threw up and some dude climbed up on the stage to dance with his heroes but was promptly kicked off by the very security that was supposed to protect him but instead opted to brutalise him to a shocking degree before dragging him backstage, perhaps for some more brutalising. It just sucked.
One of the lessons this dreary night provided is that the problem with coolness is that once its thin veil drops, and it will, it’s just laughable. Attitude and ‘cool’ are always laughable in the end. They are what we resort to when we get uncomfortable with who we are, or concerned with our status or standing in a social hierarchy. And, as anyone of any markable wit or wisdom has attested to – and this whole night certainly did – those are empty, unsatisfying and in the end futile pursuits. Here’s hoping that there’s more to life than the animal urge to conquer or prevail.
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