Take Byssupiss for example, a duo of high school girls who, even though they probably picked up their instruments last Christmas, still manage to confidently yelp like little Icelandic Kimya Dawsons (one song was about Hjaltalín’s coke use, and for another, they invited a friend on stage to rap awkwardly: “you think that you’re going to heaven/ you won’t ‘cause I’ll be guarding the gates…you want to blow up my face?”). Or one of the last acts of the night, Wulfgang, an indie-rock band with serious energy and numerous rockouts. These are not flashy acts, but you start to understand the eclecticism of the Reykjavík scene and the haziness of a holistic “Reykjavík Sound” when you see supporters of all kinds of acts, big acts like Sprengjuhöllin and Lay Low, coming out and giving a damn about these awkward underdog musicians.
The cramped audience of assorted age hushed en masse for the heavenly Ólöf Arnalds. I have been listening to Við og Við a good deal for the past few months, and I have to say that I fell in love with Ólöf in person. I had to exam the level of tact involved if I had yelled out “Ólöf Arnalds, have my fucking babies!” at a show sponsored by an organization for men against rape. More like: “Ólöf Arnalds, if I were the last man on earth, and you the last woman, then would you please consensually have my fucking babies?”
Where the eclecticism of the current Reykjavík “sound” fails itself is at the presence of B. Sig, a group of thirty-somethings who aspire to be WAR. If you don’t know who WAR is, they did “Low Rider.” Yeah. They are loud and cheesy and loud. And cheesy. Though their set is tight, their music is the kind of stuff you should expect at a garage sale or a 4th of July celebration. Not a musical showcase like this one.
The beautiful Lay Low and boring Dikta played only a few songs. The indie-folk Sprengjuhöllin closed the night off with a lukewarm set after the guys from NEI! did a semi-comedic routine about the shit they took for starting the organization. Even if they did come off somewhat as self-aggrandizing, self-pitying martyrs (“Woe is me, for I rape not!”), I still bought a tee to support their moral cause.
record label, promotion guru, etc, has been both a curse and a godsend for Reykjavík’s music scene. One the one hand, you’ve got what a friend of mine calls “minor music kings,” self-proclaimed hotshots working at every level of the music business denying or accepting bands entirely at whim or the advertiser’s check. On the other hand – and this being the case with the men-against rape organization NEI! and their latest show at Grand Rokk – you end with a genuinely DIY scene, bands playing because they can and want to, even if those radio DJs and club promoters don’t want them on the bill for a major event.