miðvikudagur, mars 29, 2006

rokk í reykjavík

Last Friday my bro wanted to see some metal shows, and the Nordic lands love their heavy metal, so Iceland has plenty of it to go around. I did a little online research and talked to the proprietor of 12 Tónar, and decided that the best option for my brother's tastes was
Reykjavík's seminal Grand Rokk club. I threw on my "rock uniform": my cousin's classic 80s beat-to-hell stuffing-coming-out-the-sleeve leather jacket over a Katz's Delicatessen ("Send a salami to your boy in the army") T-shirt and jeans and we headed down Öldugata into town.

After a quick stop in at Hressó to see the night's cover band crank out Black by Pearl Jam, Johnny B. Goode, and Icelandic sing-along favorites (preceded by the question "Eru margir útlendingar við?" to which I was the only "Já!" callback from the crowd) we walked up the hill to Grand Rokk. It's on Smiðjustígur, a side street off of Laugavegur, and has the we're-an-institution shabbiness that characterizes all good rock clubs. Inside, it's got some gambling machines in front, a bar on the side, and a collection of well-used (even during rock hours) chess tabletops in the back by the bathrooms. A dark carpeted stairway leads up to the second floor, kind of a built-in ascension to the hallowed halls of rock above.

We arrived upstairs in the middle of a series of rock bands that made up the Cod Musik Festival. My brother wasn't disappointed with the crowd: he wanted kids in hooded sweatshirts swaying to the sound and staring at their shoes. And he got that. But he got more. A lot more.

The first band we saw (Andrúm?) had a cute girl bassist/vocalist, and a vast John Popper-esque mountain of a man on, I think, keyboards. But they wrapped up soon after we arrived and my bro went to get us some beers while I watched a pack of late-teens rock girls filter up the stairs, chatting nervously. The place had that great disaffected vibe of a T.T. The Bear's or a Wetlands. A low ceiling and maroon walls and some tacky lantern lights glued on the far wall. And lots of sweatshirts and Chuck Taylors.

The best band we saw was undoubtedly NilFisk. I was happy to finally see them live, as I had seen them in Gargandi Snilld last summer:

These guys all look to be on the south side of driving age, and come from the small fishing village of Stokkseyri. They rehearse in a garage, and talk shyly on-camera about their music, philosophy, lyrics. Then the movie abruptly cuts to a Foo Fighters concert in Reykjavík, with Dave Grohl explaining how he met a great band in Stokkseyri the day before. He proceeds to introduce the boys of Nilfisk, who open up for the Foo Fighters in front of thousands. It was their first performance outside of their garage.

Live, NilFisk packed a big wallop, with a heavy sound that nonetheless retained a lot of pop appeal. They played tightly together and have a roomful of talent. Afterward, one of the guys (in the requisite AC/DC T-shirt) was standing near us and my brother told him he'd like to get them in at the Middle East. The guy responded, "sure!" before his sweatshirt-wearing groupie/girlfriend dragged him away.

After NilFisk, my brother got a little worried when the next guys (Black Valentine?) dragged some bongo drums onstage. "This kind of 'world music' setup bodes badly for heavy metal sounds," he mourned. And he was right, but more than that, they were actually terrible. In a rare feat, the guy on bongos was perhaps the most effective of the musicians. The rest of the guys belted out bad English lyrics standing around a microphone, backs to the audience. So we left.

After stops in at Kaffibarinn and Ölstofan to gauge the scene - a solid B at K-barinn (watch spelling), C- at Ölstofan (drifts far from topic)- we headed back down the hill to another pillar of local rock, Gaukur Á Stöng (Parrot on a Stick). We were in time to catch the first set by Jeff Who?, a funny name to me as I went to school with a kid named Jeff Hu and he hated this joke.

The self-dubbed disco rock band had a too-cocky lead singer, but with that lead singer cockiness came the adoring female fans. But also the adoring male fans. There was a lot of adoration in the crowd, so much so that my brother and I were pushed out to the side and ended up at a back table. Jeff Who? had the crowd eating out of their hands; they could have covered Freebird in their disco rock cock jock style and the people would have loved it. They were tight, good musicians, and I might have actually stayed (seeing as how I like horns) but my brother was let down by the lack of monster metal riffs, and so we ducked out at 2:30 a.m. or so and walked back up the still-dark and chilly night streets of Vesturbær, to them old cotton fields back home.


Blogger Jennifer Leigh said...

It's all about a Norwegian Hair Metal band called "Wig Wam." They were Eurovision contestants, last year, and play Iceland alot. In fact, they played NASA the last time I was in town. Fun stuff, when your bro comes back.

Blogger fjalars said...

I think you should come and play with Lúðrasveitin Svanur.. :)

Blogger Farbror Willy said...

Unfortunately the most metal experience I could offer your brother in Akureyri was when I pointed out "Dimmu borgir" on a map, which incidentally is also a Norwegian black metal band.

I did introduced him to a bit of local Eyjafjörður punk music. Hope that compensated a bit for the lack of metal.

Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Mr. Willy: I'm still distressed about the misplacement of the white "right but in the wrong place" piece. I am sorry. I am looking the buy the game and play you by mail.

And, the landscape WAS the metal experience. They are one in the same. My trip to Iceland was, basically, like locking myself in a room with the entire Clutch collection.


Blogger Farbror Willy said...

No reason to be distressed, it's perfectly normal if it takes a few games to get the rules completely... after all it's Grand Mastermind we're talking about, not the old plain version. Would be nice to play by mail, I could even apply my amazing programming skills to constructing a digital version of Grand Mastermind in order to make it easier... I have the design in my head already :-).

Blogger isabels said...

hi Jarred,
any good metal shows in may?

Blogger JB said...

Isabel, I'm not myself a big metal fan (I did it all for my bro) but you can check the "research" link in the story above. That's always up-to-date with the latest show info, usually right before the weekend begins.


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