From Iceland — Great Show, Crappy Backline

Great Show, Crappy Backline

Published October 14, 2011

Great Show, Crappy Backline

Amsterdam is a pretty nice Airwaves venue. You get club atmosphere; it’s not too big, but you don’t get crushed by people as there is a corner in the front, where you still can elbow your way through when it gets packed.

Amsterdam is a pretty nice Airwaves venue. You get club atmosphere; it’s not too big, but  you don’t get crushed by people as there is a corner in the front, where you still can elbow your way through when it gets packed. The sound is also okay for a pub, and the stage can be seen pretty well from every point. It kind of is a typical Airwaves venue in size and atmosphere. Also, you can get a snack pretty fast when you want to skip a show, as Reykjavík´s finest fast food establishments are right round the corner.

Thus, I was looking forward to go there for the night after my disappointment at Harpa Norðurljós yesterday. When I arrived, The Wicked Strangers had just opened the evening with a good dose of rock ‘n’ roll music. Actually the band lost themselves in fussing around with guitar licks again and again, which took the verve out of it pretty much. On the other hand the drummer had a snakeskin-styled snare and I decided to like them anyway as a good start to  a loud and noisy evening.

Unfortunately I had to wait a while for get for more high energy music, as the subsequent Súr lost themselves in psychedelic Doors tributes. Sure, these guys are talented songwriters and good musicians, but this sound is absolutely not my cup of tea.

Porquesí were up next and presented an entertaining thirty minutes of instrumental post rock. This genre has been strained for quite a while, with countless bands popping up without any new additions to what has been said before. If you were feeling evil, you might remark that bands who can’t write decent songs all start making these endless instrumental dirges. Porquesí don’t quite merit such claims; they brought some nice drama in their songs and managed to surpass the interchangeable heritage of their chosen style by adding some up-tempo here and there and trying out some complex rhythms every once a while.

The absolute contrast to this epic and melancholic half an hour were the next band, Bárujárn, who have made quite a name for themselves in the Icelandic music scene as a ’70s influenced surf punk band. Their sound, which comes to you as right from a Quentin Tarantino flick, brought some up-tempo to Amsterdam . People had been dancing before, and they did now. However, somehow the band failed to connect with the crowd. I guess this is great party music, but the part, where the band cheers the party by interacting with the audience was totally missing. I would have appreciated some more interaction and less complaining about technical difficulties.

The next band, Mr. Silla, is a good example for Icelandic band culture: People play in many bands at the same time. In this case it is members of Seabear, Kimono and múm, who together make Mr. Silla. The concert overall was pretty impressive, not only because of the awesome vocals of singer Sigurlaug, but also because the band was very tight. It was fun to see and hear them play. The only bad thing was, that they, like Bárujárn, had technical problems that were as annoyingly persistent. This would even become worse later.

After a short break I tried to go smoke a cigarette and this was quite a challenge. Amsterdam is built like a hose: it is long but narrow, except from the space right in front of the stage, where the room opens again. This is why it gets quite hard to get out, if there is a certain amount of people in the club, because you have to make your way through the crowd. From another angle, this proved that the evening was in full swing, with people standing up to the entrance, drinking and having a good time.

I actually had thought the crowd might change after Mr. Silla were done and Fist Fokkers took over. But it turned out that many people stayed at Amsterdam for the long haul. Fist Fokkers came on to a packed club. I have seen them play a handful of times, and stopped wondering about singer Úlfur’s stage outfits pretty early.  Today was his crowning achievement in that regard,  with his bare breast and leopard coat,  fairy lights around his neck and a red blinking headband. The band openied the concert with two of their own, exploding, overcharging trash-punktracks  (surprisingly there were technical problems at the beginning). Then they started playing cover songs. The hilarious result were own interpretations of No Doubt’s Don’t Speak, Kelly Clarkson’s Since You Been Gone and – as a tribute –  Compares 2 U. Finishing with a cover of Beastie Boys Sabotage, the crowd went crazy, ringing in stagedive and encore action.

The final band of the evening were Norway’s Deathcrush. Despite what their corpsepaint press pictures might imply, this trio is part of the ’80s wavepunk revival that has been going on for a while. The problem I had with this band at Amsterdam wasn’t even the music. I like distortion. Deathcrush had tons of that, especially on the bass, which I think is totally awesome. I also like hypnotic and heavy guitar parts. The double vocals actually fit in there very well, too, although it was quite an effort to get two microphones working. During the set, the sound system finally collapsed completely, so that there was no vocals at all. Amsterdam should work on that.

After all, I will hardly become a fan of these guys anyway. Like in a postmodern nightmare, Deathcrush piled up a huge pile of clichés on stage: from their behaviour like incarnations of women on Manowar cover paintings, to the singer’s black metal shirt to the sinister punk sound to the drone feedbacks – Deathcrush were all about the joy of playing with metal references – unfortunately without the pinch of salt it would need to be really funny (see: Fist Fokkers). Or let’s say, their joke wasn’t good enough to be told twice. It gets rather bland and boring without the substance.



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