From Iceland — Reykjavík Art Museum – Friday

Reykjavík Art Museum – Friday

Published October 17, 2009

Rex Beckett

The Reykjavík Art Museum is a beautiful large space with a black, arched ceiling and clinical, mental institution-esque design. It‘s no wonder this place is known for hosting some of the most insane shows of the festival.
The nine-piece <3 Svanhvít! start off the night, coming onstage wearing dunce caps and garbage bag dresses. A gentle piano and string melody washes over as they call the audience to come closer, and once they are good and close they kick into a punk beat with a wild, screaming rap over the same pretty instruments. There’s something very Talking Heads about it all. Barely two songs in, a beach ball is bouncing through the 40 people in the audience and the group starts shedding  their layers – both in vestment and musically. I hear someone next to me say “This is the best band ever!”
This band is actually hilarious. They repeatedly have the audience move from one side of the room all the way to the other and instigate a crowd wave. It is hell of fun. Their music isn‘t necessarily the most mind-blowing thing, but their group dynamic and command over the audience is undeniably awesome. Unfortunately, this is their last show ever, and they end on an anti-climactic note. You will be missed Svanhvít, I <3 you.
The Drums keep up the energy that <3 Svanhvít! set as they rush the stage jumping right into dancing while their wild tambourinist flails about and their backup singers (in matching pencil skirts!) do synchronized shimmies. Their new wave surf pop, somewhere between the Ventures and the Psychedelic Furs, translates beautifully as a live entity. The singer‘s Pretty in Pink hop-around dancing is clearly infectious as I can see from the balcony that the audience is shaking and bobbing around merrily. Their drummer is much more controlled than the one in the first act, making it so much nicer to hear the full instrument and vocal balance. They sound great.
This is basically the best high school crush music ever. Like that scene in the movie when the girl walks down the hall and the boy she likes is walking towards her and they lock eyes and it‘s all hormones and fear – IN SLOW MOTION!!! I love that part.
After they finish up I run downstairs for water and experience the massive in-and-outflux of people coming for the next band. I get back to my seat right in time to see Casiokids start their synth driven tunes with dreamy boy harmonies and twangy, New Order-ish guitars. I‘m noticing a trend with the first three acts: energetic tambourine players. This is a good thing.
Musically, these guys hold their own and work their instruments like it‘s nobody‘s business, but the overall stage presence and audience connection is a far cry from the previous acts and something feels lacking. (I was still more captivated by them than I was by the group of drunken screaming assholes in the Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir room behind me.) Something good starts happening when the band is suddenly standing in near darkness, backlight by a creepy green light. Instrument switches also keep things exciting and allow the audience to see where each member truly shines the most. The crowd below looks real happy and one person has climbed onto their friend’s shoulders, starting a trend for the night. Lots of clapping and shouting along. By halfway through the set they feel like a totally different band than when it started.
And then, the piece de resistance. Someone bum-rushes the stage in a gorilla costume! They chuck gigantic balloons into the audience and make a dive into the audience. Surfing gorilla! Once they get back to the stage, the mask comes off – it’s the singer of KAKKMADDAFAKKA! He stays on the stage for the final songs, leading the audience into a frenzy of clapping, chanting, jumping and general awesomeness, while the band closes up with a mass of disco beats, cowbell, overdriven synth and deep bass. Holy shit, Casiokids. Well fucking played.
Huh. Micachu & the Shapes. Hm. This sounds (and looks) totally different from the Micachu recordings I have heard. Compared to the three wild, stage-pwning acts that preceded, the immobility of the current band is fairly irritating. There is also something about the vocals that sounds irritatingly pre-recorded. In fact, I can’t really tell which instrument (or performer) is making what sound. It’s unsettling.
Their music is… interesting. I guess there is nothing wrong with it, per se, but it’s just not my cup of tea. I think I would maybe appreciate it more in a smaller, darker, dirtier setting. Oh well. At least it doesn’t last too long.
In matching t-shirts and huddling around one keyboard, Metronomy finally appear onstage. They kick off a dark electro triplet intro over a spaghetti western guitar, setting an air of anticipation in the room. They all run to their instruments and kick into disco-laden, bass heavy dance grooves. Woah, what the fuck? Their shirts have orbs on them that light up in time with the music. The bassist kicks off a clap-along and the energy set by the first three acts is quickly brought back from its short vacation. Between the outfits (white pants!), the flashing chest-lights and the highly catchy synth-pop, this is the perfect way to wrap up the night.
I really wonder who is controlling those lights on their bodies. They might have busted out A Thing For Me a bit too early, but the rest of the set is super solid and they don’t suffer from it at all. How could they? THEY HAVE CHEST ORBS!
I do wish they had an energetic tambourine player though…
By the end, the museum looked more like a rave than any indie music festival I’ve seen. People dancing everywhere like they are on E, ridiculous and amazing outfits left and right, endless lines for the bathroom. Throw in some glow-sticks and an awkward Tiger Balm massage and I’d be having flashbacks!
Photos by Ingvar Högni Ragnarsson

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Show Me More!