The afternoon started with a splash. One renowned local lout managed to spin his car into the harbour along with three happy hardcore doting brethren. But once they’d been fished out the music started in earnest with Halfkak whose imitative heavy rock suggests they could lose the first half of their name.
The somewhat teutonically named Vilhelm were next up forging a fine line in Calypso inflected bawd. Wonky and fun filled their double bass and congas served up a exotic tone completely incongruous to the freezing backdrop.
One renowned local lout managed to spin his car into the harbour
Rap has it’s moments in Iceland and thus Prinsinn og Rattó timed their 15 minutes of fame to local perfection protruding their heavy lyrical stand off far into the crowd which swelled significantly for the arrival of Benny Crespo's Gang – much lauded indie adventurers who had the tenacity to lug three vintage keyboards through a six hour journey through the icy northern Fjords from Reykjavik.
Mixing searing rock with eerie Portishead palpable lulls under tender female vocalisations, they raised the bar to yet another level and sent a note of promise to their future international careers.
Such a small population diametrically implies that going PLATINUM in Iceland requires less units. In fact a gold disk requires 5,000 sales and the holy grail double that at 10,000.
As such as, after local angst rockers Diagon and Tortoise-esque Sudden Weather Change moving proceedings swiftly on it was the Gold Selling Sprengjuhöllin who dominated the mid evening. Doling out anthems fast caught by the crowd it was a surprising sing along time as the majority joined the lyrical force despite these teenagers only forging their punchy pop for two years. Jaunty Libertine-esque narrative rock peppered the harbour area and sealed these youngsters future on a national level beyond doubt. A spot at Iceland Airwaves, the national festival seems assured for them.
The neighbouring island of the Faroes has perennially forged an alliance with Iceland, often borne through necessity but their musical boundaries are mellifluous too and Eivor, the stunning folk singer from this tiny North Atlantic isle showcased her vocal range with a deft flummox. Aside from acoustic pluckings she hammered out a rhythmic trance on a some crazy indigenous drum akin to a Bodrun before blazing an incredible sonic performance of pseudo tantric beatboxing. Effortlessly tremendous.
Juxtaposition was again at a premium as the over 60’s local fish factory choir arrived, adorned as if at a Mafia funeral resplendent in Sunday best only to be fronted by Otter Proppe, singer of arch surrealist electro thrash masters Doctor Spock. As living legends from the Volcanic brink go; Proppe didn’t so much take the biscuit as abduct then gang rape all the confectionary they can find.
The trademarked yellow rubber glove came out, sported too by every member of the geriatric choir, Karlakórinn Ernir, as boisterous and violent interjections and fist pummelling alternated with Proppe’s Hunter S Thompson inspired narrative growl.
‘I Never Went South’ is a direct antithesis and complete remedy.
The next three bands all lent careful direction to an event where all the bands contrast so much. Mysterious Martha revelled in great visual and fashion components, Múgsefjun blitzed a lewd line of accordion power pop whilst Skatar were possibly the most distinctively Icelandic act with Beserk naked chests, gold lycra pants, walls of distorted guitar and experimentalism incarnate as they riffed up a zeppelin storm simultaneously presenting a neat distillation of the irrepressible spirit of their unique nation.
Now apologies need to be made here to the next three bands. We missed you. The double edged sword of holding court in an Arctic environ means you are at the vagaries of the surroundings. This includes the cataclysmic ambience of the Northern Lights. As the sky streaked with electric green pulses the bands played on but after a 45 minute display of this fleeting phenomenon it was time to return to the harbour for the last four bands. We’ll just need to return next year to fill in those gaps.
UMTS (meaning Ultra Mega Tecno Bandið Stefan) riled the now lairy crowd into Berserker mode with their teenaged pastiche on Trance Pop.. Ripping their tops off in true Viking style they waged war on the crowd in power chords and Euro pop flavours but the place erupted.
Without skipping a beat XXX Rottweilerhundar – a rap trio purveying filthy hip hop beats took the sounds even further into the future and were one of the highlights of the entire weekend. Complex, wonky and seedy their sounds and raps tell drunken tales oof Icelandic life flipping back the folk forms which have helped sustain their wild country for so long.
The final bands, Sign and SSS’ol were populist options as the former Metal fiends are one of the most bought contemporary act, though those with faint hearts maybe should opt for a quick breath of fresh air before SSS’ol, a 90’s pop act with many national hits took the event to its official conclusion.
For anyone bored the O2 Wireless styled events where rosters are shared and everything is franchised ‘I Never Went South’ is a direct antithesis and complete remedy.
Virgins to this Volcanic isle are recommended to get there as soon as possible and enjoy their distinctive blend of hedonism and musical nuance. There are few places on earth like Iceland’s Northern Fjords and even less bands willing to rock out under their stars…