From Iceland — Grand Rokk Friday

Grand Rokk Friday

Published October 17, 2009

Pontiak Pilatus literally amble on stage and start their set to about six people (including myself and Grand Rokk’s staff). This must be what bands refer to as the 7th circle of hell, when you play you little hearts out in a major festival, only for two old alcoholics and a dog on a bit of string to hear it. Their sound is a mixture of R&B and blues-rock that Lenny Kravitz could shit out on his solid gold toilet when he needs a B-side. Also they had their own “Bez“ character who spent his time prancing around the stage banging a tambourine and generally looking like a total cockweasel with his stupid sunglasses and wearing a jacket with no shirt. They finish their last song to absolute silence and after a long pause; start to pack up to a dozen people. The anticlimax was so painful, I actually felt for them.
Next on is the band Miri, the new side project of Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age (note – I have since found out that the lead guitar player is NOT Josh Homme just because he is very tall and has strawberry blonde hair). Their post rock sound was perfectly listenable and enjoyable. Their stage moves were slightly intimidating at times. The bass player made some disturbing faces and moved as if he had some vibrating love beads up his bum while playing. But kids, this is not a bad thing! Actually I secretly hope he did do this because that is what I expect from my rockers and would at least make him a sleaze god in my book. They finish their set to 15 people.
While Miri are playing there is a thin, weird looking man approaching the bar and I think I may need to call Kleppur to check if one of their patients has escaped. Imagine to my complete non-surprise when he turns out to be a member of DLX ATX. This is the first of “Iceland’s three noisiest bands in existence” playing tonight. For a duo they play their noise rock impossibly loud. So loud in fact, that my nipples start to bleed in pain. The sound engineer even shows me that he’s switched off the PA system and all the noise is all coming from his speaker stack. WELL FUCK YOU DLX ATX! FUCK YOU RIGHT IN THE EAR! You know you are clearly playing way too loud for 15 people to absorb that noise and you just didn’t care. And you don’t have the songs or sounds to compensate for it. You instead violated our innocence and spoilt it for everyone. DLX? BLX more like. Their set is finished to 12 people clearly in pain. I go outside and weep in the gutter for 5 minutes.
At least Retrön resurrect the night a little. They too play stupidly loud but at least they’ve managed to tone it down a little so it’s bearable. And they are fun to watch. With the cape, ironic poses and face paint, this is 80s cock rock in Excelsior. Obviously the outcome of an unholy coupling of Iron Maiden and Ultramegatechnobandið Stefán. But yet they are playing to only a handful of people. Where is everyone? Truly Grand Rokk tonight is where Icelandic bands have come to die. But at least Retrön want to die a glorious death in battle so they can be whisked to Valhalla to spend eternity listening to Mötley Crüe´s ‘lost’ album while getting oak blowjobs from lovely Swedish transsexuals.
Swords of Chaos come on and again they are loud and screaming. They are ok to watch, but I’m now chatting to the lead singer of Retrön, whose face paint has literally melted to look like Gene Simmons after an emotional breakdown. We chat about particle physics and keyboard sounds while Swords of Chaos toil away. I find it amazing that the singer can make so much noise from those little lungs of his. He looks so cute like a fluffy puppy, I want to pick him up and take him home to give to my wife as a Christmas present and feed him pizza and Henry Rollins records.
Darling Don´t Dance are the first foreign band of the evening. And it shows. They are truly streets ahead of everything that has come one before. Their sound harks back to 90´s grrrl rock such as the Breeders, Hole and, Babes in Toyland. But they provide the power and the intensity without needing to sandblast your ears. And they have this little understood thing called melody. Icelandic bands, listen. When people ask you what do you sound like and you go “oh we are loud”, NOISE IS NOT A SOUND, IT´S A VOLUME! Listen to DDD and take note. This is how it should be done.
At the bar, some disgustingly pretty people who smell very nice gather. These turn out to be Yumiko and they start their set like Kraftwerk. All motionless poses and big staring eyes. And then the synth kicks in and actually jolts several people by surprise. Their electro rock has been compared to Depeche Mode and Massive Attack, but their continental flavour gives it a sound more in liking to the Young Gods. Like the band, it’s smooth, sleek and sounds impossibly clean.
When Foreign Monkeys turn up there is now a proper crowd. They come from the Westman Islands, and I certainly don’t hold that against them. I find their rock sound intense and hammering, if a little unoriginal, but at this moment in time I’ll take what I can get for my pleasures.
By the time Úlpa take the stage I’m finding it difficult to distinguish sounds. I’m drowning in a sea of trebly noise. But their mildly threatening synth rock proves immensely popular with the crowd. I even find myself nodding my head in subservient obedience to the sound for a while. But I’m getting nosebleeds from all this fun so I escape into the cool air of the night, scaring strangers in the street with my drunken rants on Icelandic bands and making weird grunting sounds. Go Airwaves!
Photos by Julia Staples.

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