The Night Horny Electronica Lostto the Horny Countryside - The Reykjavik Grapevine

The Night Horny Electronica Lostto the Horny Countryside

The Night Horny Electronica Lostto the Horny Countryside

Published August 26, 2006

“You know you’re at a Sveitaball when someone is vomiting outside and the show hasn’t even started yet,” a friend and veteran country boy informed me around 11:30 p.m., 30 minutes after Trabant were supposed to take the stage.
Surprisingly enough, though, nothing was happening. The concert space, a massive “riding palace” for horse competitions, was empty and freezing cold. We sat in brown leather chairs at one of the 20 long wooden tables set up beside the stage where small Christmas candles, along with the stage and the bar’s refrigerators, provided the only light in the dusty grey air. So far, I had counted more bouncers than people, all dressed in black t-shirts of varying degrees of tightness, stationed at every door and corner of the building, including a nook at the far end of the barn where the stage lights couldn’t reach.
The Selfoss locals slowly spilled in, and a few stragglers wandering in alone headed straight for the topmost rows of the benches standing ten metres above the ground along the wall opposite the stage. There, they sombrely surveyed the room until a familiar face, or group of faces, loudly arrived. Hovering around the tables in tipsy excitement, these familiar faces collected people from all directions like magnets until the 50 or so kids in attendance had been consolidated into four or five groups. It felt just like a school dance.
As the bouncers dutifully reminded us at every turn, exiting the building was highly frowned upon, since re-entry would not be granted once you had come in contact with fresh air. Yet between trips to the bar, the bathroom and the aforementioned dark abyss past the stage, people kept busy. They sat, sang songs, enjoyed being drunk. In the background catchy eighties dance hits shuffled on a short repeating list. An older couple, in their 30s, got up to do an awkward back-and-forth shuffle as the last notes of the climactic “Morning Train” by Sheena Easton banged through the speakers. After the song ended, they continued on blissfully in the silence as the playlist hesitated, searching for its next one-hit wonder, then deciding suddenly to abandon its eighties theme and burst out with Silvía Night’s “Congratulations Iceland” before beginning the list over again.
It was as my two Reykjavík-local friends, returning from the crowd now accumulating in the lobby, enthusiastically reported to me that they had just met the coolest local guys, “They knew every Raggi Bjarna (eternally youthful 70-year-old ‘country’ entertainer) hit ever made!”, that the show began.
Sprinklings of electronic synths began floating from the stage, singing out like trumpets announcing the band’s imminent arrival. About three people recognised the overture for what it was and stumbled towards the stage just as the five members of the band strutted into the barn each waving sparkling firework fuses in the air with one hand, looking up at the golden lines they painted in the dark, seemingly in tune to the synthetic waves raining down all around them. It was the majestic entrance, and even more triumphant return, of Trabant.
“Welcome all you horse people,” singer Ragnar began onstage, drawing confusedly enthused cheers from a few in the crowd. He exuded an irresistibly amusing confidence, swaying slightly before the microphone with a bewildered smile on his face. The crowd was spread thinly over the large floor, keeping a safe distance from the stage. “Yes…” he laughed and looked around him at his bandmates with a mischievous smile, “Welcome horse enthusiasts and, well, Jesus, this is just like a David Lynch film.”
He chuckled. The audience muttered. Ragnar fell to the floor of the stage in an exaggerated fit of laughter, as his bandmates grinned behind him. Half-apathetic, half-confused, the 30 audience members in the front stared at him blankly.
Close by, huddled around the tables, a hundred kids were eagerly and inebriatedly engrossed in each other. In the lobby, a slightly smaller chorus of men held the attention of dozens more kids as they sobbed their way through a series of Raggi Bjarna songs a capella. About five metres from the stage a pair of women in their 40s quit talking to each other and looked up at the man dressed in white from head to toe.
The smile had not left Ragnar’s face. Not half as confused as he was entertained, he continued, “Indeed, thank you all for being a part of this David Lynch film. Now we’re going to play a song about love.”
And so Trabant launched unabashedly into their electronic hurricane of a set. Instantly juiced up by their music, everything about their presence onstage was heightened, every move dramatised, every glance eroticised. Through their exaggerated heartthrob pouts, the five of them practically glowed with bliss.
Trabant’s delivery is so self-indulgent and drenched in enthusiasm that, even as their stage antics border on embarrassing and downright pervy, every minute of it is enthralling. Half-naked and soaked in glitter and confidence, the five members of Trabant have found their element onstage where, performing as if their every note had been hand-picked from the mouth of God, they effectively exploit the importance of a passionate stage performance, amazingly enough, without looking or sounding cheesy.
Ragnar steadily lost articles of clothing, champagne was sprayed and spit, tubes filled with confetti exploded, lewd gestures were made, and for the most part, the small crowd was loving it. When it came time for Ragnar, by now wearing nothing but a gold-sequined Speedo and white tube socks, to mimic oral intercourse on band member Gísli Galdur, the ridiculousness was almost too much for them to handle, and, for a moment, both they and the audience hesitated. As Ragnar, now on his knees, drew closer to Gísli, the two performers couldn’t help but laugh. The audience opened up their eyes wide.
If David Lynch had been there, I think he might have stifled a tear.
After managing to translate the silky radiance of their catchy electropop into an equally radiant performance, the band spit out their last glittery note. The dance had nearly tripled in attendance since the beginning of their set, but the audience on the actual dance floor had remained humbly fewer than 40 people. Still, the set was, quite literally, golden. Once they realised just what level of seriousness the show best deserved, the audience, and, as it seemed, the band members themselves, started to remember just how alive a live show could be.
The rest of the population of the barn was far away, about ten metres in fact, from that realisation. In the sitting area, most had much preferred socialising to taking part in the concert, and a few, I found, had instead taken to writing in my notebook. Among other things, including a short poem about a bunny rabbit, I found the following note scribbled in sloppy handwriting with my blue pen: “Mummi Þjöl (a bouncy country-dance-type song about a man who owns a mandolin and becomes a fisherman) is the most genius creation known to man. Take a record with Hemma Gunn with you when you go home, wherever that is in the world.”
When Stuðmenn took the stage, the crowd reacted immediately. “Welcome lesbians, welcome gays,” lead singer Egill Ólafsson began, making obscure reference to the fact that today was the beginning of Different Days (or Gay Pride) in Reykjavík. He then mumbled something about how this was a remarkable day, and how much Iceland is improving itself, “Now Halldór (Ásgrímsson, former Prime Minister and Progressive Party member) has quit, and soon Guðni (Ágústsson, Minister of Agriculture and Progressive Party member) will be gone and things will get even better!”
But people weren’t listening. In drunken bliss they scrambled towards the stage, falling over themselves and each other at every opportunity. Egill continued rambling, every once in a while stumbling into comprehensible territory with interjections like, “It’s best to be hot and sweaty!”, spoken with a poetry-slam-type dramatic pause between every word. Meanwhile, the crowd had formed a giant pit. And somehow, in the midst of this excitement and burst of poetic and political creativity, Stuðmenn began their set.
It seemed almost embarrassing that what Trabant had half-mocked, Stuðmenn embraced wholeheartedly. Looking at them, I had no doubt in my mind that they thought they were gods, but somehow, when Trabant had acted that way, it had been enjoyable.
“I feel like suicide,” my friend from Reykjavík said as he stared in horror at the scene unfolding. I looked at Birgitta Haukdal onstage with a permanent look of delighted surprise on her face as she clapped her hands and shook her shiny maracas at random intervals, smiling so wide I could count all her molars. Something was wrong here.
Noticing my distress, my country boy informant jumped in, “You have to realise that this is a meat market, everyone in here is just looking to meet someone, the rest is just, whatever.”
Apart from the four of us, not a single person was sitting at the tables. Right in front of us, not able to make their way into the mob of people in front of the stage, a few older women were dancing, moving their hips quickly from side to side while mouthing all the words with a look of serious concentration. Maybe the point was that everyone knew the words. Maybe they couldn’t help it.
“For those of you tonight, out there looking,” Egill shouted into the microphone, “aren’t things coming along?” And the crowd cheered.

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