From Iceland — The Festival Where Everyone is a Superstar

The Festival Where Everyone is a Superstar

Published August 10, 2007

The Festival Where Everyone is a Superstar

While 10,000 Icelanders headed to the Westman Islands for the annual national celebration ‘Þjóðhátíð’ during last week’s Verslunarmannahelgi (The Merchants’ Holiday Weekend), approximately 300 Innipúkar (i.e homebodies) attended the annual music fiesta Innipúkinn in Reykjavík. The two-day indoor festival, held for all those who hate Icelandic outdoor festivals (or just happen to be fans of good music), took place at the brand-new concert venue Organ on August 4 and 5. This annual event featured thirteen bands, four DJs as well as troubadours and a happy bunch of concertgoers.

Although the previous two festivals have managed to stuff club NASA – a venue more than twice the size of Organ – by featuring a lengthy programme and some international headliners, the decision was taken by this year’s organisers to scale down and make Innipúkinn a cosy festival anew, featuring only local acts. This year saw a rejuvenated Innipúki in a new venue, organised by the grassroots crew behind the original festival.

The organisers’ wish-list of favourites was quite a diverse mix of pop, indie, hip-hop and hard-rock, and before arrival I really wasn’t sure how it would all work out. I mean, having calypso masters Bogomil Font and Flís play a set right before hard-rock band Mínus who bring a much louder sound, or making hip-hop group Forgotten Lores follow noisy punk-rockers in Æla. But it worked! There were no opening acts and no headliners. Every single band was huge for the weekend.

Forgotten Lores Hit the Spot
It was evident that the organisers had put their heart and soul into making this the best event it could be. The new venue looked amazing and artist Lóa Hjálmtýsdóttir (who also sings in FM Belfast, who finished off the festival a little over thirty hours later) had even made a colourful art-piece featuring the names of all the bands playing and hung it in the ceiling. A very clever move, especially for those who weren’t sure about the schedule.

The first band to get the party seriously started were the uncrowned kings of Icelandic hip-hop, Forgotten Lores. Not to say the previous performance by indie-punkers Æla, where singer Halli Valli screamed his lungs out and climbed on almost every piece of furniture available, wasn’t something to remember. But when Forgotten Lores jumped on stage at 22:00 sharp on Saturday night, their energetic presence immediately grabbed every single soul in the crowd.

The fearsome foursome, Byrkir, Class B and Diddi Fel on the mics, Benni-Bruff on turntables, kicked off with the song ‘Sprettur’ from their latest album ‘Frá Heimsenda’ followed by ‘Hellulagðar Hæðir’ and ‘Fíling’. The three rappers sure didn’t betray their fans, and put on one-hell-of-a play on stage, while the audience waved their hands and bounced their heads to the beats, demanding an encore. And what a better way to conclude a kick-ass set than with ‘Takk Fyrir’ (‘Thank You’). I can only say that it’s a shame for all those non-Icelandic speakers that Forgotten Lores only rap in Icelandic, as their lyrics and genuine music are truly one of the best-kept secrets in Icelandic music. Luckily for the following acts, DJ Apfelblut and the extremely cheerful host of the night, made sure the mood never went downhill.

A New Venue Reviewed
By now, Organ had started to fill up nicely. The anticipation for what surprises the next few hours would bring was growing by the minute, and the bartenders had their hands full trying to work their way behind the new bar and serve beer to the thirsty crowd. Between sets, the party moved to the outside port, where concertgoers would enjoy cigarettes and chat about the previous performances, or even the weather. Of course, the brand-new venue was understandably the topic of the night. Judging by the comments I heard, people loved the place and everything it had to offer; its design and downstairs lounge-room, and the sound.

“This is a cool place. Crazy design and just a perfect venue. I love the fact that you can see the stage while waiting for your drink at the bar!” one guest told me. “This place can really house any kind of music, everything from a sweaty hard-core band to a woman playing the harp, alone on stage. The possibilities are endless, it’s just what this town needed” another commented. This weekend, packed with incredibly diverse bands, proved to be possibly the best trial-run the bar’s owners could have asked for.

At around 23:00, Ghostigital hit the stage and played a handful of unreleased noisy electro ditties, followed by Jeff Who?, who mixed familiar pop-tunes from ‘Death Before Disco’ with five new songs that most of the crowd were hearing for the first time. While they were not as catchy as last summer’s super-hits, the band delivered their set well and looked cool while doing so, before folkmusic group Stórsveit Nix Noltes finished the night with a top-notch performance.

Watch Out World, Motion Boys Are Coming! It didn’t look as if people had been partying hard the previous night by the time I arrived at Organ on Sunday, as the place was filled with lively concertgoers feasting on grilled hot-dogs and beer. It was obvious that Sunday’s line-up was a bigger draw than the night before as the crowd seemed to have almost doubled in size.

I unfortunately missed Mr. Silla and Mongoose, who apparently finished a great gig only minutes before my arrival. The BBQ-master still stood behind the grill in the outside port, where hot dogs had been served since earlier in the day. The party was flaming, and everyone was ready for some more fun.

Sindri, the frontman of lo-fi country pop group Seabear, stood focused on the stage, backed by his band of six, while playing some of the highlights of their stunning first release, ‘The Ghost that Carried Us Away’. The crowd stood in silence, and watched the show with awe, understandably, as with every single gig they play, the sound of the band grows and moves up to another level of brilliance.

The perky super-group Motion Boys were next up. Their gig didn’t start as smoothly as the previous one had ended, and the sound teased them through the first song. But after a little tweak they went flying, and the crowd followed. Although Motion Boys have released but two singles, and the concert at Innipúkinn was only their third gig ever, people already knew the lyrics to their extremely catchy pop-tunes ‘Waiting to Happen ‘ and ‘Hold Me Closer to Your Heart’ and didn’t hesitate to demonstrate the fact. And why should they? These are some great songs. And if you don’t feel the urge to run out to the floor for some dance steps, or even just one hop or a shake when Motion Boys play live, you must be a troubled soul who just shouldn’t attend large gatherings of this sort. In my view, it’s just a question of time when they will be playing some big festivals abroad, seriously. They concluded with two new songs, the heroballad ‘Steal Your Love’ and ‘Misfits’, which apparently is about one member of the band who drove across the US to find an ex-girlfriend. I can’t wait for the album.

“I Was Possessed” By far the heaviest act of the festival, local rock-heroes in Mínus, went on stage just after the calypso group Bogomil Font and Flís had played enough danceable songs to get everyone on their feet. Having recently released a new album, ‘The Great Northern Whale Kill’ and featuring a relatively new but clearly an ambitious bassist, Mínus was in great form that night.

“I’ve never seen Mínus so good and so tight,” a friend of mine said in the middle of their set. I had to agree, and I’ve seen more of their shows than I can count with mere fingers ‘n’ toes. Singer Krummi owned the stage, and the whole room in fact, and with a devilish look on his face led the band and the audience through a rollercoaster ride of pure rock ‘n’ roll.

But then something unexpectedly happened; something that would make their gig talk of the town for days, if not weeks. In the middle of ‘Long Face’, when the show was about to reach its peak, the bass-drum cracked. When noticing this, Bjössi, the drummer, as if in some kind of a trance, kicked the drum on the side, jumped on the floor and tried to fit his whole body inside it. Standing on his hands while half inside the drum, his legs dangled in the air while his band members kept on playing – for a few seconds. The show was over. Realising that this was probably the end, appropriate wows and whoos followed from the crowd. Bjössi eventually stood up and showed his face again, threw the rest of the drum set around the stage before bursting out in laughter. The scene was just too hysterical to warrant fury.

“What a freakin’ ending! These guys sure know how to rock” one chain-smoking, tipsy fan said after the show.

“I was possessed,” Bjössi later explained.

It was pushing 03:00 when crowd-pleasers FM Belfast closed the night, and the festival. Definitely one of the summer’s biggest party-groups, the band eventually sent the swarm of now-super-awake concertgoers out into the night, aching for some more fun to conclude a brilliant weekend.

Although scaled down in size, offering half as many tickets than previous festivals and featuring no international big-shots, this year’s party – characterised by power, high spirits and joyful atmosphere – felt a thousand times bigger than ever.

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