From Iceland — Why Won’t You Dance?

Why Won’t You Dance?

Published October 25, 2012

Why Won’t You Dance?

by Arit John

If I’ve learned anything about Icelanders, it’s that it takes a lot to get them to dance at a gig. I mean really dance. Not the disinterested head bobbing you see accompanying house music, but the reckless hip shaking you seem to only find on a Saturday night at two o’clock in the morning. It’s not that people can’t dance or won’t dance, but it takes certain kinds of music, certain bands and the right atmosphere to get people grooving. Cue me, a social scientist of sorts, measuring the crowd’s response to different bands, the way a kid might measure plant growth in response to different musical stimuli.

Stafrænn Hákon took the stage first and the experiment began. This final Airwaves warm-up was, for the most part, all about rock. Think aggressive guitars and ribcage rattling drums. But not dancing. By the end of their set, which finished with one of those gratuitously long freestyle jam sessions you either love or hate, no one was dancing.

Conclusion: Islandis faktorius enjoys ambient rock, but exhibits low levels of booty shaking or interest in dancing.

And then something wonderful happened, something inexplicable. Hljómsveitin Ég took the stage and took the room back to the ‘90s. The set was repetitive enough that, by the end I couldn’t think of one track I preferred over the others, but that’s more of a personal music preference than a judgment of their live show. The lead singer was especially great to watch—dancing around, pounding on a tambourine and tossing out CDs into the crowd. Excluding a few vocal flourishes, his singing voice leaves something to be desired. But when it comes to live music it’s less about the quality of your singing voice and more about your ability to draw people in.

People were into it. At one point a rare and beautiful creature, the lone head banger, came out of hibernation and proceeded to whip his (her?) hair back and forth near the stage.

Conclusion: I. faktorius responds surprisingly well to straight-forward, no frills rock.

Tilbury fits more into the Stafrænn Hákon vein of rock, and I worried that my I. faktorius would wilt back into slightly off beat head bobbing. It did, but the room got smaller. Intimate might be the right word. From the back of the room (I mean the very, very back, pushed up against the bar, dodging people trying to order drinks) Þormóður Dagsson’s sort of sad, wistful voice still made an impact. Tilbury sings the sort of songs that can get you down if you think about them, or think about all the things you’re not doing that you wish you were.

There’s a possibility of dancing, but I. faktorius prefers to sway to Tilbury, maybe lost in the slightly darker reflections that come along after midnight. On my end, I didn’t quite snap out of it until the audience started clapping at the end of the set and the staff turned the lights back on.

Conclusion: Dancing, while nice, is not necessary to the flourishing of I. faktorius, though hopefully this last pre-Airwaves gig was a sufficient warm-up for the mayhem to come.

Stafrænn Hákon, Hljómsveitin Ég and Tilbury played Faktorý’s final Airwaves Warm-Up on Wednesday October 24.

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