After the Króna reached a new low – vamping up a settlement-style quarantine that imprisoned penniless and puzzled Icelanders in the process – it has proven to be an unavoidable activity during the summer to attend some of the heaps of hyped-up festivals going on in rural villages in Iceland. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a music feast, an artsy carnival or raunchy nastiness disguised with euphemistic façade; it’s simply a must. If you fail to attend, your Facebook will be mocked for the lack of flipped out-pics, you won’t be able to contribute to bar conversations and may even face social excommunication. In that spirit, I visited the infamous LungA festival in Seyðisfjörður. It was a blast.
Berlin of the North?
Seyðisfjörður has obtained a status as a haven for artists who assert that the town possesses inspiring muses of some sort. Since Dieter Roth started hanging around the spot many years back, flocks of artists have taken residence in the small town. Some go as far as claiming its culture status so high these days that it deems comparison to Berlin rather than Reykjavik. Because of my photographer’s somewhat romantic nature, I had some alone time to shed a light on these claims by myself.
The workshops the LungA council operates every year were in full motion when I started snooping around, and if you crept up against the right walls you could hear stomp symphonies led by Gísli Galdur and Davíð Þór and enthusiastic sketching sounds from the pupils of Grapevine’s very own Hugleikur. Even more apparent were the drama kids with red noses running all around, or the Henrik Vibskov herd that he led behind him in a religious manner boasting different and more absurd outfits every day, getting up to more and more ludicrous activities every moment.
This culture filled town could easily live up to the hype, at least during their week of havoc. But it wasn’t only the workshops that made the tiny town seem metropolitan. On the contrary, with a population just over 700 they manage to operate four pubs, a dozen galleries, a breakfast diner, an artsy café/cinema (something that cannot be found in Reykjavík at all), plus some hilarious artwork, like the neon lit “Hollywood” sign on the mountainside (courtesy of Goddur, the town’s patron).
After looking around, I could conclude two things: while “Berlin of the North” is maybe somewhat (ludicrously) boastful, Seyðisfjörður sure is something. Secondly, I’d had enough playing the lonely tourist: partying down was the order of the day. Thus, the Kimi tour couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
Dingy Crowd and Drowsy Cops
This peaceful village I’d grown fond of over the last two days – so nurturing to the arts and wonderfully calm – underwent a makeover that Friday night. 5.000 hooligans, raising tents and filling up moonshine containers, joined the 400 festival attendees that had been there for the week. The local Kaffibarinn, Láran, had borrowed every single drop of liquor from other fjords in the vicinity; everything headed towards drunken oblivion.
After having boiled out the previous day’s rather minimal sins in the town’s excellent sauna, buried in a dungeon-like basement with the hot tubs, there was nothing left but getting some buzzes on. Reykjavik! kicked of the Kimi line-up after warm-ups from several non-Kimi touring acts. Grapevine’s editor along with his Reykjavik! comrades fired up the dancehall with bulletproof ravers that set the bar high for the subsequent bands: Sudden Weather Change and Swords of Chaos. Nevertheless, they kept on delivering in the same manner, so it was hard to exit the concert without being soaked in beer and a pesky static in your ears.
Outside the venue, it seemed like the buzz hadn’t prompted the same euphoria in everyone, ‘cause some of the locals had begun acting aggressively. An attendant from Reykjavík had apparently infuriated one of Seyðisfjörður’s dames. In turn, the debutante had gathered a flock of valkyries around him that stood yelling obscene words at him and hitting him repeatedly. After quite a while of this foul game the local police chief, who had been watching the whole mess, shouted over to the leader: “My dear, haven’t you had enough? Shan’t we move over to some other business?” Talk about synergy in these small towns! When a local guy dressed in a lady’s dress with a wrestling mask on tried to make me touch is fur-surrounded pecker, I decided it was time to hit the hay.
Founding of Molabola
The day after, all the workshops revealed what they’d accomplish over the week. As soon as people had their fill, most of the crowd moved over to the small island in the fjord, where the fashion designer Mundi and artist and fire-horse Snorri Ásmundsson had established a new free-spirited state called Molabola. The transportation option was only one and a rather iffy one at that; people dragged them self over on a tiny raft with a small rope that had been strung between the island and the dock. People were bound to fall in. The founding ceremony consisted of people renouncing their citizenship and being baptized again as citizens of Molabola. Later on, there was a big party.
Back at the concert venue, tonight’s show was about to go off. Skakkamanage, Jagúar and many more were meant to play. I saw a few good pieces by the aforementioned acts, but after going out for a smoke before Gusgus, the doormen took the strange decision of locking the house, even though the final band hadn’t even begun. Yes, us smokers weren’t meant to see the headliners.
There was little to do but take the tragedy with a stoic calm, but it was stupid and pissed of a lot of people. And so we went back to the state of Molabola, where such fascist spur of the moment rulings are rare. After having witnessed what looked like a 13-year old bolt down a litre of moonshine and smoke a joint down to the roach, strident groupies begging a former member of XXX Rottweiler to rap his signature song and some people being scared off the island by its king, a Chihuahua called Wolf, I decided to leave the scene.
As I dragged the raft over with some other unfortunates, the worst thing imaginable happened. You guessed it: we all fell in. In retrospect, no other event could have as fittingly crowned my unique week in the culture town of Seyðisfjörður. And although wet, smelly and drunk – I stepped on to the bus on my way home with a smirk on my face.
Sigurður Kjartan Kristinsson
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