From Iceland — A Hardcore Seminar In Political Apathy

A Hardcore Seminar In Political Apathy

Published June 16, 2006

A Hardcore Seminar In Political Apathy

Sigurður “Siggi Punk” Harðarson, activist, musician and the show’s organiser seemed hopeful, surrounded by stacks of anarchist and communist literature, including some of his own pamphlets on feminism and social reconstruction. He explained to me that all of the show’s proceeds would become monetary support for the protestors’ camps that would be set up on the soon-to-be-destroyed highlands south of the Kárahnjúkar dam, which will block Jökulsá river once the project is complete.
“Last year the poor bastards ran out of food and had to leave a whole lot earlier than planned,” Siggi told me. “We’re hoping to get it right this time around.”
I hadn’t come to TÞM looking for an organised protest so much as an escape from the hellish realities that had confronted me during the Reykjavík mayoral election, but I was very intrigued by the directness of it. Instead of gunning for something lofty and vague, such as the objectives of Friends of Iceland’s Election Day protest (“The protection of Iceland’s environment, free thought, creativity and initiative towards knowledge (and) education…” the list goes on, but I assure you it remains just as rancid a bag of shit), Siggi’s concert had a much more tangible goal, making it far easier for him to rally support.
As for the music, it was kind of like a seminar on the hardcore-punk scene. You had one band to represent each variation of modern hardcore, and each of them did it very well, although some were more exemplary than others.
Raw Material was decidedly formulaic metal-core, tightly played and hinting at a willingness to experiment with chord structures in several of the songs, but preferring to rely on screamed vocals and well-timed beat changes to do their thing. They also represented the educated and sophisticated hardcore enthusiast: Button-up shirts and wire-rim glasses, short, neatly arranged hair and stoic, focused concentration when it came to playing their instruments. They were well-liked, but they got about as much crowd reaction as any opening band at a straight-edge all-ages show: None whatsoever.
Opting for a slightly more subtle and accessible approach were Finnegan, and although it may have lost them the edge in terms of raw power, the intricacy was impressive. But while the music represented the fashionable ‘thinking man’s metal’, their attitude and stage presence was that of the amateur enthusiast, the kind of group that got together to try and make some music on Thursdays after work and ended up making something interesting almost by accident.
The crowd, consisting mostly of the alienated suburban kids and bored high schoolers who generally frequent hardcore gigs worldwide, remained detached and unmoved, which didn’t surprise me much for the first half-hour or so, but began to bug me immensely after I Adapt started playing. Their well-deserved reputation alone should have kicked people into a frenzy at most shows, but people barely moved.
Oh sure, there were momentary explosions. The powerful riffs and bellowed choruses of their jagged, proto-crust incited spontaneous mosh pits that lasted about 20 seconds each, but for a band as renowned within their scene as I Adapt, this seemed pitifully meagre. Maybe the scene has become so centric, stale and inbred that no one wanted to admit they were being entertained by the same band performing for the umpteenth time at the only venue underaged concert-goers can see them at.
Innvortis, as always, looked rather like the kind of guys who might enjoy beating the shit out of strangers (in appearance, they represented the haggard, unbathed and dreadlocked clique of punks and metalheads), but, as always, sounded like the kind of guys who would much rather stay up all night eating candy and lighting their farts than start a fight with anyone. Their even-happier variation on SoCal punk was as depthless and acridly annoying as one could imagine for such a style, but the simplicity and conviction in their performance suggested that they would be hard-pressed not to make this kind of music. This is always worthy of the greatest respect.
And for a while I thought the stationary crowd might just have been waiting for Innvortis: Suddenly there was movement everywhere. People sang along to the songs, got up onstage, crowd-surfed and formed pretentious acrobatic pyramids in the middle of the floor and basically, often literally, fell over themselves trying to show appreciation for Innvortis. I remember thinking how remarkable it was that such insanely happy pop-punk had carved itself a niche in Iceland’s furious and angst-filled hardcore scene, thanks mostly to the band’s own attitudes and musical sensibilities, and their lack of a home elsewhere.
Changer were the final stage of evolution represented that night. We had gone from uninspired beginners copying their favourites to fairly involved youths attempting to carve themselves a niche to respected acts who had found their calling, one slightly off-peak and the other seasoned veterans grown accustomed to their place on the peak. Now we saw prehistoric-looking beasts of men so deeply entrenched in their music that there was simply no going back. Containing ex-members of local legends Sororicide, Munnriður and Bootlegs, they constituted the high end of the age spectrum that night.
And they were, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the very definition of awesome. Impossibly tight, they were nothing short of pure-bred metal machinery, transforming anguish and bitterness into screaming, blood-curdling hatred in musical form. They punctuated the set with flagrant self-advertisement, encouraging people to buy the copies of their latest EP, which they were selling in the lobby, and seemed to care little for whatever noble cause they were supporting by headlining.
And when comparing the roars of thunderous approval Changer and Innvortis were met with in comparison to the rather perfunctory applause offered to Siggi Punk’s between-set speeches, I became convinced that hardly anyone had actually been there to offer support for any cause. Conversation in the crowd never veered even slightly in the direction of current affairs, restricting itself to the classroom topics of high school kids or whether or not they were going to see the new X-Men film. Which is ironic considering the fact that they dressed like they ought to be discussing suicide and Molotov cocktails.

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