From Iceland — Three Days of Love and Chaos

Three Days of Love and Chaos

Published June 16, 2006

Three Days of Love and Chaos

Due to wildly conflicting schedules, journalists from the Reykjavík Grapevine were only able to catch snippets of Friday’s program. What we did see is that the crowd did not show much interest early on Friday, as the first acts played to a nearly empty tent. Former Gus Gus leading man, Daníel Ágúst, performed songs from his solo album to an incredibly indifferent group of 20. Benni Hemm Hemm secured a similar fate.
Hjálmar, the world’s northernmost reggae outfit, had better attendance, and by all accounts played a reasonably well-executed set. The girl clique Ladytrone did not spark very positive comments from anyone the Grapevine spoke with, but having not seen them in person, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Apparat Organ Quartet, on the other hand, closed the night with a brutal organ attack, leaving the audience to ponder the question, why organs have not long since surpassed the electric guitar as the main tool for pop creativity.
Now let’s turn the action over to Helgi Valur who took in the rest of the weekend’s action. (Editor)

Walking towards the Reykjavík Trópík tent placed just a step away from the university, I heard the buzz of the opening act Skátar. They had just finished playing to an empty tent when I finally arrived. Nobody had shown up yet, then again, it was only 15:30.
The Foghorns started playing to an equally empty tent. The singer could be the illegitimate love child of Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell. The distortion on the electric guitar troubled me because I had a hard time making out the lyrics but I think they were mostly about how Iceland sucks and that he wanted to go home. I liked it though.
Enter Jan Mayen, with their walk-on-water superstar attitude. Now people started to stream in, maybe because of the time of day or maybe because of Jan Mayen’s magnetic pull. One of the few good guitar rock bands in Iceland, Jan Mayen seem to only get better with each year. Their new songs were awesome, showing versatility and musical growth. There’s always something exciting going on in a Jan Mayen song and their guitar riffs are no acts of chance. Valli is now one of Iceland’s best rock singers.
I was told Stilluppsteypa were a pioneering electronic band. I’ve never heard of them and really don’t care about their past victories. They sounded like an imitation of the sound of a refrigerator on cocaine.
You never know what to expect from Úlpa. They were in good form that day. I got a nice floating feeling that fit well with the atmo of the festival that could’ve been a post-hippie event. I felt like a stream flowing into eternity. It’s always refreshing in these days of pragmatism to see an artsy band scream and express themselves freely. Also their substitute bass player did a good job and fit well with the band’s look.
People were still shy from the loss of alcohol in their bloodstream, a problem that would soon be solved by heavy drinking, but Hairdoctor became the kings of cool. With a killer combination of deadly beats and a dead handsome hairstylist with superstar qualities and it was the coolest indie voice you’ll ever hear. The only disappointment with Hairdoctor was their announcement that they would retreat from the indie scene and go totally techno.
With a singer who reminded me a bit of Robert Smith and sounds like the goth kids from South Park, Kimono have established themselves as Iceland’s best indie group with a fascinating pool of diverse guitar riff combinations and alternative tunings. I liked their show. Gylfi, their guitar player, performed heroics, finishing the set while in torturous pain as he had a broken collarbone.
If you like Franz Ferdinand and The Strokes you will like Jeff Who? That is if you like copycats. They steal blatantly from both bands and the singer doesn’t even have the decency to try to create his own style of singing. His voice is determined by the voice of the singer they decided to steal from at that time. With that said I think Barfly is an excellent song and I danced my ass off while singing along with everybody: “Lalalalalalala.”
The Leaves were up next. Their keyboard-infused sound didn’t inspire me much either way, but at least I didn’t leave.
I’ve always said that the members of Supergrass are so ugly that they must be genius musicians and artists to have made it so far. From the moment they started, it was obvious I was right. Supergrass is for real. I’ve never smoked Supergrass but I bet it would get me really high. Supergrass was getting people high that night. They made the Icelandic acts that came before them look like amateurs. They made no mistakes. The singer was as good as his sideburns were long. They regularly changed instruments, which gave an even more professional feeling. Although it was professional, it was very fun and the crowd jumped and sang along even if they didn’t necessarily know the lyrics. This concert is one of the few concerts I could say was perfect. The only thing that pissed people off was not getting another encore. But like the amputee said while playing poker for body parts, “You should always quit while you’re ahead.”

Due to legal (and religious) reasons, the Reykjavík Trópík festival did not get a permit from police authorities to use the bit tent as a concert venue on Whit Sunday night, showing their disrespect for the music industry as a whole. Instead, the festival’s organisers managed to conjure a last minute plan B, which involved relocating the final night of the festival to NASA, and combining it with a previously scheduled Sleater-Kinney concert.
I was upset to learn that many of the bands I’d been looking forward to seeing had been cancelled due to the 5-0 fuck up. Nortón, Hermigervill and Ghostigital were among the victims of the reshuffle forced by the Reykjavík Police Department.
Listening to the Forgotten Lores gave me faith in Icelandic hip-hop. Their live band was excellent and the MCs did a good job of commanding the attention of the audience. Nice flow, nice music, nice rap. There is hope for Icelandic rap after all.
I was hoping that Jakobínarína’s singer had gotten some singing lessons. I was not in luck and to my amazement he had choreographed some new dance moves. I think they’re called the anarchist’s non-random steps. Then they played a song called Nice Guys Don’t Play Good Music. Apparently they are all very nice guys. With Jakobínarína being Iceland’s biggest export, I hope it shows how primitive the Icelandic music scene is.
Skakkamanage’s music was as easy to decipher as their name. Maybe the members have matured way beyond my infantile musical growth, maybe they see beyond the clay and maybe they’re just like most of us: lost and trying to make up for it with crap disguised as relevant music. I’ve had enough of crap.
Out of nowhere came (Billy the) Kid Carpet, the fastest shooter in town. Nobody had anything on The Kid. It’s always a joy watching an individual who commands the attention of the entire audience. Kid Carpet played around with toy electrical devices, a toy cassette recorder and toy guitars. He had beats, sang and screamed like a British Zack de la Rocha. Most of all, he set the mood, entertaining and connecting with the audience, touching them with his heart-warming love ode to his girlfriend (who was in the audience). He showed a softer side to his crude character. Later that night his girlfriend told me he didn’t exactly write it for her. Kid Carpet was the hero of the day. He entered the stage as a nobody and exited it shining like the star that he is, gaining the admiration of every soul in the audience.
Masters of showmanship and sound, Dr. Spock always deliver, and are highly influenced by Mike Patton and his bands like Fantomaz and Mr. Bungle. Contrary to common opinion, Dr. Spock did not invent the wheel. Yet their wheel is not much used and drives really well. Keep on rolling Dr. Spock. On a personal note, Rampage is probably Iceland’s best song ever.
ESG, not to be confused with Icelandic BSG, is an American band of five black women. Yes the soul comes from the black man. What did the white man give us ? New metal and hardcore. Every person could feel the soul of ESG who played sexy electronic soul music. All kinds of percussion played, for the beat is the black man’s child. They even barked in the tradition of Odessa. ESG were the shizznizzle whizzle. The crowd got into it, responding to the brilliance of ESG by applauding like maniacs after every song, securing them an encore usually reserved for the later acts.
Following Sleater-Kinney, the rock outfit Trabant took the stage. They dedicated one of their songs to the police department. The lyrics went, “I could fuck you, but I’ll never love you.” Only thing needed was a Tupac style fuck 5-0 chant. Trabant were good although I’ve seen them in better shape. HV

The Riot Grrl cum prog-punk threesome Sleater-Kinney, out of Olympia, Oregon, had previously been scheduled to headline their own show on NASA, but now suddenly found themselves as one of the many acts co-billed on the three-day Reykjavík Tropik music festival. The sudden change of events was a two-edged sword as ticket sales for the gig had been fairly slow, but one problem S-K were now facing, however, was that the poppy Reykjavík Tropik festival’s target audience was not really the punk-rock crowd that was likely to be drawn to see the girls from Sleater-Kinney. The fact that by the end of the show the girls had managed to win over a part of the patrons in attendance is a testimony to the band’s strength. Of course, matters were helped by Corin Tucker’s confession that Iceland was a very special place for her, as she had gotten married here six years ago.
Mostly drawing on material from their latest release, Sleater-Kinney played a furious set. The distinctive instrument set-up – the trio makes use of two guitar players rather than the usual one bass, one guitar set up – gave the sound an unusual, but rather vibrant guitar driven edge. Carrie Brownstein at times showed capabilities that would put her alongside almost any ax-men in the business, serving up lengthy guitar solos and strumming chords with frantic energy. What impressed me the most though, was the thunderous drumming of Janet Weiss.
After an hour-and-a-half, Sleater-Kinney brought their show to an end. Admittedly they did not receive as wild and enthusiastic an applause and stomping that had greeted ESG, but playing in front of a crowd that had mostly not turned out to see them, but rather witness the pop-antics of the likes of Kid Carpet, they managed admirably in turning people on to their indie-prog-punk-rock fusion. SBB

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