From Iceland — Tjarnarbíó - Saturday

Tjarnarbíó – Saturday

Published October 17, 2010

Photo by Hvalreki
[Maleen Mohr took the first two acts at Tjarnarbíó so that Anna Andersen could go see her brother’s band, Just Another Snake Cult, play at Sódóma. Then she took over for the rest of the exciting evening. Enter Maleen] Tjarnarbíó is possibly the most beautiful venue at Airwaves. The recently renovated movie theatre makes it possible to watch the concert from the comfort of a cosy theatre chair and has sufficient space for dancing in front of the stage.
AMFJ (AKA: Aðalsteinn Mother Fucking Jörundsson) kicked off the night. He walked on stage with his computer, and without warning, he started. At first there was a mechanical sound, that lowered you to the bottom of a mine with a lift, and then a computer voice announced his name several times: Aðalsteinn Mother Fucking Jörundsson. This overlord of the sinister, dronish and noisy underworld produced something really disturbing, from industrial sounds and samples, to his furious shouting and (occasional) heavy electronic beats.
This led to an odd contrast: the lovely theatre on the one hand, this wild guy yelling at you on the other, and an audience which just lets it happen. It was a strange situation as one would imagine something totally different from a concert. It was like an anti-concert, carefully set in a place of one-dimensional communication, a cinema. It could have been an abstract nightmare, as the emotions AMFJ transports are primarily anger and desperation, if there had not been the huge distance between the artist and the people in this huge place. Because the night was still young, Tjarnarbíó had been visited by maybe 20 people. However, they experienced a pretty intense half hour of abstract and experimental electronic music.
The following act Dj Flugvél & Geimskip wasn’t any less disturbing. A sweet young lady with a colourful skirt and flowers in her hair came on stage and started talking to her Casio Keyboards and laptop, as if they were her band mates (no kidding). From then on she delivered the most awkward mix of stories and electronic songs I have ever heard. Her voice eerily rose and fell in a combination of singing, talking, and screaming. Her totally exaggerated character and bizarre appearance was reminiscent of a children’s radio play, although it was a little bit too creepy for children. At the end, she thanked the audience and took a bow and then her keyboards and her laptop had to take a bow as well. Hmm, no comment…
[Goodbye and thank you Maleen! Hello Anna Andersen.] Tjarnarbíó’s theatre seating was perfect for what Sigurður Guðjónsson had in store for the crowd. An image of a small car spewing exhaust projected onto the screen behind the three of them. The car didn’t move though. The damn car looked revved up to go, but never moved. The whole time, I wanted the car to speed off and go somewhere. Alas, there was no driver.
Their act caught me off-guard. The way they huddled over a couple of Macbook Pros deceived me into thinking they were having technical difficulties or were still figuring shit out (like finding the play button for the car video). But, they were on and the show had begun. The sounds they produced are difficult to describe. At times, it sounded like a howling blizzard, or a helicopter buzzing overhead, or a plane taking off, or work at a loud factory assembly line, or all of those combined, or none of them at all. Then there was a constant, underlying, well, just screaming, thundering, rumbling, noise.
I am no experimental music buff, to say the least.  So I spoke to a nearby man who I noticed had been rocking in his theatre seat. “So, I saw you were really digging this,” I said. “Can you explain it to me? I mean it sounded like the Earth was coming to an end.” “Yeahh,” he said, enthusiastically. “That’s what I liked about it. It pushes boundaries, makes you go where you haven’t been before.”
In that case, I think I’ll cross off my list, “being run over by a train” and “dying in the apocalypse.” Been there, done that, broke those boundaries.
Next up, Captain Fufanu. Enter two young boys wearing oversized onesie jumpsuits. They sort of looked like giant red and purple M&Ms ready to go trick-or-treating, although they are a couple of weeks early for that. Or, they were the highly fashionable creations of Icelandic designer Mundi. Anyways, enough about that. These lap top masterminds showed a video montage of scenes from Iceland’s countryside and Reykjavík’s nightlife. No, they did not accompany the video with Sigur Rós or Ólafur Arnalds stuff. They played electro dance music. The video was also far too shaky, jerky and jagged for the formerly mentioned and ever so popular tourist soundtracks anyways. If there had been a larger turnout at Tjarnarbíó at this early show, there would have been dancing. It must have been strange to play House music for a small motionless crowd, mostly parked in the theatre seating. Well, hurrah to the three groupies dancing at the foot of the stage.
Now, back to the whole noise thing.
Enter Biogen. I got thinking about what separates good noise from bad noise during Biogen’s show. It seems difficult to decipher, but I’m going to boldly throw it out there: this was not good noise. There was nothing to it. It didn’t feel like anything. It didn’t go anywhere. Unless, of course, if the point was to leave the audience empty and unenlightened, then it was well done. Don’t worry, I got a second opinion from that same guy who liked Sigurður Guðjónsson, and he concurred with my verdict.
Trying to make something of the video he played to his noisy soundtrack, I concluded that it was an alien encounter with scenes from another planet. Then there was the unintelligible blue and red script that regularly undulated on the screen – written in an alien language, I presume.
The poor guy didn’t look like he was having a good day. Perhaps aliens infiltrated his body. His music stopped at one point. It looked like his laptop froze, but it was difficult to tell. He said something unintelligible. Meanwhile the audience waited undecidedly. Then he put on his hoody, shut his laptop and it was clearly done. Cue audience clapping. He came back to the mic and thanked the audience. Then he said he was playing again, it cost to get in, and after pausing for a minute, he said he couldn’t remember where, and hurried off stage. Poor guy. He had some really cool robot dance moves up his sleeve though. Would have liked to see more of that.
The culminating act of the evening was nearing when the Sudden Weather Change gang waltzed on stage with instruments. Finally, some instruments! Tjarnarbíó was noticeably more packed for this one. So, here’s the premise. Ghostigital challenged this group of seven, who are usually a five-piece alternative rock band, to cover Ghostigital for the evening. That meant a far more dissonant, schizophrenic sound for these guys. They had to leave the comfort of their familiar genre for something that doesn’t fit well into any genre.
It’s pretty debatable whether Sudden Weather Change should go Ghostigital, but it’s probably safe to say that they weren’t planning on going that route. They said it cost them blood and sweat over the last two weeks to figure it out. Fairly impressive. In an interview with the Grapevine, Einar Örn and Curver of Ghostigital said Sudden Weather Change had a hell of a trouble trying to cover them and that they have been trying to figure it out for a while, adding that they cannot even figure it out themselves. I suppose that says something about the music.
Now, for the evening finale: Ghostigital. Enter a seven piece older version of the last act.  If you’re into rare limited edition stuff, then this was a special treat because they played with drums, something they are unaccustomed to doing. So, for starters, if you’re not an Icelander, I’ll point out that Einar Örn, the one who seemed like an escapee from an insane asylum, is a Reykjavík city councilman from the lovable Best Party. I didn’t notice Mayor Jón Gnarr in the crowd, but Best Party’s Óttar Proppé was there to support his fellow artist colleague in government. 
Einar Örn was a true, mesmerizing spectacle. During the act, I started thinking about whether it was wrong to enjoy watching the writhing, convulsing, schizophrenic movements of a paranoid man. His whiney, frightened mutterings were disturbing. They were so real. I’m not sure whether anybody else was thinking about that though. Most people were just dancing. In fact, the whole lower half of Tjarnarbíó was packed, full of people lost in their beats. There was some really solid dancing going on, and to top it off, for their last act, they called up people from the audience and ended with a big dance party on stage. That was pretty sweet.

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