From Iceland — Idiot Culture for the Masses

Idiot Culture for the Masses

Published August 24, 2007

Idiot Culture for the Masses

The rambunctious howls of Ljótu Hálfvitarnir, or Ugly Idiots, greeted me mid-brisk-walk towards the big stage at Miklatún Park early during Culture Night day. Upon the sound I happily slowed my pace a bit and checked my watch to see I was only four minutes late. Although the show had clearly started preposterously punctually, I found myself trailing behind a steady stream of family folk racing towards the giant block of a stage.

The self-described “cross-eyed entertainers from the north” were a huge hit among what I could see of the hundreds of people sprawled across the park’s vast grassy knoll. The crowd consisted, and continued for the rest of the day to consist of, what I can’t help but call “older people,” their sugar-high children, and their dogs. I sat down on the warm grass and tried to think good thoughts. Much to my delight a dog sitting next to me, watching the stage, started squealing.

A band called Vonbrigði, or Disappointment, took the stage and proved once and for all that irony is in fact dead. Sitting in front of me an old lady whispered to her friend, “probably just horrible noise,” before promptly standing up and leaving once the horrible noise began. The crowd, enthused by the sunshine and a chance to get out of the house and drink beer for an evening, were lapping up this most recent disappointment, a hard-rock band with the same line-up and wardrobe as from their founding in 1981. Their drummer ripped off his shirt, flaunting his grey chest hair. The crowd nodded with pleasure.

Pétur Ben was the show’s clear highlight, and I mean this from a personal standpoint, not the crowd’s. Until Pétur demanded from it some acoustic sensitivity, I had hardly noticed the horrible sound quality emitting from the monstrous speakers. Through feedback and mixing that alternately drowned out and completely cut off his vocals, Pétur’s enchanting sound wedged its way out, managing the day’s best set.

My first Mínus experience was similarly rendered obsolete thanks to the shitty sound system, which was spitting out a clutter of noise that was far beyond what the band could possibly have been responsible for. AMPOP were the show’s headliners, and were granted a longer set, as they had clearly been deemed the most generically pleasing of the acts. They did their shallow pop thing and it finally dawned on me that this was not in fact a concert I had been witnessing for the past two hours, but a ceremony of mass gratification. Quantity of sound was clearly being emphasized over quality, as its highest aspiration was not to do the bands any justice, but rather to reach the furthest ear in the park.

The concert ended as ludicrously punctual as it had begun, and although now it had cooled, and the crowd consequently decreased by half, it was clear that the day’s objective had been reached. What horrible, horrible family fun.

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