From Iceland — Better Late Than Never

Better Late Than Never

Published June 29, 2007

Better Late Than Never

Icelandic/Swedish reggae band Hjálmar set the perfect example of how not to reward their dedicated fans. Let me explain. Hjálmar were due on stage at around midnight but didn’t show until 1:00 am. Although I’m not a longstanding fan – I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard their music until recently – my patience as a reviewer was pushed to the absolute limit. Yeah, I know this is Iceland and people party late, but one hour late, come on! Normally I would expect an established band to be say 15, 20, 30 minutes late but not a whole 60.

In my exhausted and pessimistic state, sitting on the floor with some other punters waiting for the show to start, I was reminded of the time I waited one and a half hours (it may have even been more than two hours, I can’t recall now) for Guns N Roses to come on stage at a festival a few years back. Axl Rose is notoriously late. But when people starting flooding into NASA after 12:30, I realised that either Hjálmar too had a reputation for being late, or the venue staff had given me the wrong start time. But it wasn’t long before others began irritatingly checking their watches.

Around 12:45 people started getting restless and shouting out for Hjálmar to get their act together. By 1:00 am they set the stage. The six piece group, consisting of guitars, bass, drums, keyboards and organ, spend their time between Reykjavík and Stockholm.

The crowd was as diverse as unfortunately Hjálmar’s songs were not. It must be said though that Þorsteinn Einarsson’s melodic vocals (in Icelandic) were a pleasant surprise. But was it just me or did the volume seem to get increasingly louder as the night went on?

What is admirable about Hjálmar, though, is their ability to attract such a variety in their fan base. There were quite a few older members of the crowd; dressed with various reggae accessories they were clearly here to see Hjálmar and not Icelandic rock legend Megas, who was to appear on stage later in the evening. They surely knew the words to some of the songs, anyway.

Singlet tops and bare stomachs were the choice of dress for some girls who clearly thought they were in the birthplace of reggae. But with temperatures of 18ºC earlier in the day, you can forgive them for mistaking Iceland for the tropics. I’m sure this was a slightly different experience for many. The air was, well, unscented. The crowd at Nasa seemed to respect the smoking ban now in place in Iceland. A smoke machine compensated for what would have otherwise been lacking in terms of atmosphere.

Those standing closest to the stage got into the groove and adopted a continuous swaying motion to the chilled out reggae beats. Hjálmar are apparently known for their long sets and were scheduled to play a two and a half hour set. With that in mind – and don’t get me wrong I did enjoy their set – I left after the first hour content that I had just seen (perhaps) the world’s most northerly reggae band in the world.

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