When I emerged into the unwelcome exposure of 4:30 AM light on Sunday morning (a continuation of Saturday evening), I should have been ashamed of myself. My tights were torn, my lipstick was long-faded, and my hair was slicked back with sweat, tighter than an Army cadet’s. My shoes were caked in beer and what appeared to be sand, and each step crunched and flung small shards of glass that had wedged themselves into the treading. My eyes were puffy. My shirt clung to my beer-sloshing belly. I just wanted a waffle. So why was I not cowering in a corner? Not racing the daytime back to my bed? Because I had just emerged from Night 2 of The Reykjavík Music Mess, and my condition was a collective one.
Well, I should clarify. I had emerged from the after party of Night 2 of the Reykjavík Music Mess. Two and a half hours earlier, when the Mess lineup had come to a close inside Volta, the scene was significantly less messy. But the state of the crowd—shockingly composed for a Saturday night—was in no way an accurate reflection of the evening’s bands. Inside the venue, the drummer of Australia’s DZ Deathrays pounded on his drums with such force I thought he might pound his life right into them and keel over. The lead singer of Iceland’s own Mammút let out a 25-second long scream that negated any innocence and charm that her small, blonde physique may have suggested. Oyama wailed on a saxophone. There were simultaneous keytars, a trombone, even a cellist got involved at one point.
But despite a buffet of quality music and stunning stage presences, the crowd remained consistently contained. Necks bobbed, but hands remained pocketed. Knees bent, but feet remained in place. The formation as a whole resembled the pattern of the moon over a month. It began as a crescent with a thin layer of people adhering their elbows to the bar. By about 23:00 the lunar crowd unpeeled from the walls and began to fill in, from back to front, carefully maintaining the half-circle of open floor between themselves and the band. By the time the final band came on, things started getting a bit more personal. The venue was full (though not max. capacity) and hips swayed…but movement remained minimal. And with the last chord the crowd quickly waned and greeted the night, ready to “get started,” at about 2 AM.
A mere 40 steps away Harlem greets the flow with open doors and an even more open dance floor. Magically, even though the music is less live and the beers are more expensive, the tables quickly over-satiate and the dance floor brims up. Not 40 minutes later and you have to proceed with elbows out, bouncing on your toes just to reach the bathroom. How did this happen so quickly? The man who never even took his coat off at Volta throws his arms over his head approvingly to the upbeat music. The girl who spent Muck’s entire set sitting cross-legged on the ground now swings her blonde locks shamelessly from side to side.
I am still baffled by this delayed Cinderella syndrome, and I want to emphasize that the crowd’s lack of enthusiasm should not reflect the bands on stage. Some especially notable energy emanated from Friday night’s Bloodgroup and Saturday’s Mammút. Boogie Trouble and Good Moon Deer let out some exceptional sounds at KEX in the earlier parts of the evenings, and Monotown shut down Sunday with style and groove.