From Iceland — Sunlit Halls

Sunlit Halls

Published July 24, 2009

Sunlit Halls

Eistnaflug (translated ‘Flight of the Testicles’, ‘TestFest’, or, worst of all, ‘Flight of the Testes’) is a metal festival held annually in the small eastern Icelandic fishing port of Neskaupstaður. The Grapevine, diligent as always in the monitoring of high culture, sent an observer to bear witness to the drunken insanity that occurs when pretty much all of Iceland’s metal subculture gathers in a tiny town to watch thirty bands play the most extreme Iceland has to offer musically. The observer, as fate would have it, was me.
To best capture the impossibly chaotic and unpredictable nature of Eistnaflug, or indeed any large outdoor music festival, I have decided that an ad verbatim, unabridged and uncensored transcription of the A6 Moleskine notebook I acquired somewhere and jotted down random observations in would be the best way to re-experience the festival. They are however, for the reader’s convenience, proofread.
Bear in mind that the following opinions expressed are not necessarily truths, nor even opinions I hold today. I feel, however, that this makes them all the more effective: an account written after the fact would only be tainted by wisdom I’ve gained or lost since, and would be too focused on discerning a purpose to all the lunacy I experienced. Not one word has been added or omitted.
Thursday, 9th July.
The first fourteen notes are not timed, but they were taken, to the best of my recollection, between 4:30 and 7:30 P.M. All other untimed notes are impossible to place correctly.
Senior citizens: “Heavy metal.” There is cold beer at the back of the car. (Ford Focus) Everywhere is warmed by sunlight shining through windows.
I watch first band Skítur play. There are 33 people in the room. Everyone outside is too drunk to communicate; inside, everything is too loud. Some guy’s girlfriend pushes his hand away as he tries to hug her. They walk towards the bar.
Skítur is asked for an encore, but the singer needs to take a piss. The afternoon sunlight is intensely uncomfortably bright outside. The bouncer thinks my notebook is alcohol. We exchange awkward grunts.
Everyone is drunk and half-naked and everyone reeks of sweat. I lie and smoke a cigarette in some grass. Someone quotes HAM’s version of Airport.
“Ég fíla þessar kringumstæður þar sem að fólk tjaldar bara til að geyma draslið sitt í og sefur bara þar sem það deyr.”
It’s ten to seven and someone falls over drunk and vomiting. The sun beats down hard. It’s so impossibly beautiful here and I don’t understand this place.
It’s only the first day and already the consistency of crumbling, dry mud permeates everything. Tomboys are everywhere.
It’s 19:35 and we’re debating whether or not someone’s shitty Peruvian reggaeton sounds Japanese. Everyone is drunk.
It’s 20:01 and the campsite applies temporary tattoos to each other. The sun drops behind the mountain.
It’s 20:17 and the sky is incredibly blue. I’m thinking of going to see a band or two. Someone is throwing up close by. The hollow crunch of someone stepping on a beer can has become commonplace. Almost none of the girls are wearing bras. A circle of garbage has begun to form between the tents.
My photographer groans multiple times as he takes a sip of whiskey, as if he’s been stung by something. The dusk shadows the mountain in an indescribably intricate way. No-one notices. Someone notices a slab of barbecue is on fire.
21:03 and everyone smells of campsite undergrowth. People are lying down on the pavement. I reach the venue and everyone is sweaty and disgusting and happy. A band has just finished. Someone feeds his girlfriend pizza. I look at someone’s face too long, I have to nod to them. Do it twice, I have to talk to them.
I stand around a car that has Butthole Surfers blaring out of the stereo. Another car, a moving one with a local driving, beeps at a drunk guy with a guitar case. The shadow of one mountain moves over another. A girl dances atop a Toyota SUV and the car alarm goes off. She skitters into a crowd. No-one believes I am who I say I am and some girl says she was born in ’98.
I stand alone and drink beer by the venue entrance. I think Plastic Gods are playing. Punk may not be sexual, but metal is. “I’ll give you 1000 ISK for a blowjob,” someone says to a girl.
Plastic Gods are hypnotic and amazing in every way imaginable. The bass strap comes loose in one song. No-one cares. The bassist screams into his mike. The most interesting music in Iceland is played here three days a year. Everyone here knows that.
I’m on my way to the pier to piss off of it, and someone yells at me, “Hey do you have a light?”
“No, I don’t smoke anymore.”
“Really? Not even… magic?”, he says, brandishing a very long rolled-up cigarette.
“Uh… yeah, sure, I smoke magic.”
It’s 22:56 and I’m higher than god. The music drones on inside, but my beer is too valuable to pour out, so I’m stuck outside for now. A guy smacks my ass as he passes me and I spy my photographer stumbling over the street with some rolling tobacco. I enter the venue and a band is trying very hard.
“Who is this?”, I ask someone.
“I don’t know.”
They speak accented English as they leave the stage. I ask someone else. I can’t hear a word he says. I ask again.
“Actress. From Germany.”
A pause.
“Thanks,” I add. I stand by the exit. Every five minutes, somebody hugs someone they haven’t seen for years.
It’s 23:53 and I’ve sort of lost track of events. I run out of the venue and walk around town.
Friday, July 10th:
0:34. I sit in my tent and debate whether or not to leave it again. Someone calls my name; it’s for someone else, just a coincidence. There are more single girls here than last year. Someone talks about Star Wars, someone else keeps yelling my name. I think I’m about to leave my tent.
01:14 Someone is breakdancing atop the lavatory crate. He falls off. Everyone cheers.
It’s 01:52 and I return to the lavatory crate. 4 people are camping out on top of it, hurling obscenities at passerby. Everyone is listening to metal.
The time is indeterminate. I can’t find my allergy medication and my hangover shows no mercy. I’m going back to sleep.
Read the stunning conclusion to Sindri’s Eistnaflug coverage in our next issue.

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