Aldrei fór ég suður. I never went south. aldrei.is This is a truly fabulous music festival in Ísafjörður, that has been held every easter for the last few years. What sets this apart from most music festivals, is that it is completely free. Free free. Bands don't get paid, no-one pays to attend, and all facilities and operating costs are donated.
For people not entirely familiar with how small Iceland is, and how quickly it gets smaller still if you leave Reykjavik, Ísafjörður is about 2800 people. Ie, little. This year Aldrei fór ég suður hosted something like 40 bands. On a stage made out of shipping pallets covered in astroturf. In a fish packing shed by the harbour, with a sound system hanging off rails freshly welded to the roof. Smoking outside only, where the weather varied from sunny through rain to outright snow.
The entire town came to see, in fact, that more than just watched, they took part. They were the festival. Many of the bands were from the area, from local rock stars Reykjavik! to the Ísafjörður music school's band, to a mountain mens choir from a neighbouring fjord.
It's hard to put into words just how tight knit this was. Bands watching bands. Friends and girlfriends of one band playing in other bands. Mums, dads, cousins and grandmums watching bands. Kids in their first black hoodie lining the front of the stage. Kids with latibær clothes riding shoulders and rocking out with dad. And everywhere a smile.
And almost every single band were just completely relaxed and chill. Almost no-one got more than three songs, and they had to get on and off stage very quickly. This was a fish shed with the town, not a studio rehearsal, and almost all the bands took with style, rocking out, and giving it all up. Didn't matter what their style was, from Turtle Cuts in the early afternoon playing electronic beats from a laptop through to rockers like Jan Mayen or Æla. Some bands were doing their first show, The Geiri Talent Show did a fabulous version of the Mario theme on electric guitars.
Some bands didn't even get to play, but came anyway. Weapons, commonly spotted either as the full band, or as rock djs around Rvik, came up for the party, and played a show at Krusinn on Thursday night. Bogomil Font og Flís played all night in Krusinn, and still played a set in the shed.
So that's some words to try and convey the feeling and the mood. Hopefully you have a bit of an idea of what it was like, and if I'm really lucky, the pictures will help too :)
So, who did I like? Who did I see that I hadn't seen before? Is it even remotely possible to talk about any of them without feeling like doing a great injustice to the rest?
Mínus were fabulous. I'd never seen them live before, and boy had I been missing out. Before the first song was even half way through, the black shirts were coming off, the tatts were showing, and Krummi, the singer was dripping with sweat and writing on stage. Rock, all out, and a great great show.
Æla I'd seen a few times before, and always liked, but they came on stage tonight in outrageous fancy dress. Oh, and their singer had taken a wireless guitar lead out to a chair in the middle of the shed, and started their set standing on top of it. And he's a long tall guy to start with. Well done guys, great show.
Rock in Ísafjörður wouldn't be complete without Reykjavík! Local boys returned to rock. Bóas took to the stage in far too many clothes, but that just gave him plenty of things to take off. Loved the "Nei" shirt (Men against sexual violence) Haukur on guitar managed to break a guitar strap, but rocked on holding one end of the strap in his mouth. And still managed to carry some guy around on his shoulders later on. Stage diving and crowd surfing, and great rock to carry it all beyond just schtick. Reykjavik! rocks!
Pétur Ben has great hair! He's been getting better every time I've seen him, and this was his best show yet.
Slugs had a great moustache and yelled alot. And jumped a lot.
FM Belfast have become a force to be reckoned with. Really really fabulous dancy squelchy goodness. The not hairdresser half of hairdoctor, plus some girls, and another syth operator. Sexy and delicious.
Benny Crespos Gang shone, and I think have actually gotten even better now that Lóvisa has done so well as Lay Low. I was actually afraid that they were simply going to disappear, and maybe they will/have, but this was a great show from them
Ham, an old classic rock band regrouped for the night, they only play occasionally. Famous from before I returned to these shores, I learnt why.
Dr Spock did the rock schlock schtick all the way. Gimmicks and hard hard rock. I have a pink rubber glove on my wall.
A friend played in one of the star acts for the evening, Esja. This was the recent collaboration of Daníel Águst, well known from GusGus and as a solo artist, and Krummi, more well known as the singer of Mínus. They added my friend Dóri on keyboards, and a drummer, and did a very interesting blend of country rock. Not sure if I would buy the cd unforunately, but it was a great show. Krummi had a powerful presence on stage in sharp black rockabilly wear, and Daníel Águst has never been known to really stand still on stage.
And then all the other bands who I saw in passing, but didn't catch a name, or simply started to blur. I loved you all, thanks for being part of it.
Except Blonde Redhead. They sucked. Anyone who was there knows it. Anyone who wasn't can shut up. I know they're some famous cool French band. I hadn't heard them before, and what I've heard since sure, sounds nice enough. I'm sure they do nice shows other places. They didn't here. They behaved like spoilt petulant children, taking over an hour to come on stage, and then standing on stage fiddling with amps, guitars and leads. They never said hello, (in any language) never told anyone what the problem was, while people patiently waited. Crowds don't like waiting though, and patience started to wear thin. After more childish theatrics, they eventually came out and started playing a song, then stopped, started again, complained about the sound, started playing again, and stumbled through a song. (Which sounded pretty much like crap) With the crowd deteriorating around them, the best they could manage was to stop after another song and whine, "we're sorry, nothing sounds right, and we're not sure what to do" By this stage the crowd had given up caring about these children and as they were the "highlight" closing act, just about everyone walked out, with boos joining the rising lights. A real disappointment, and a bitter taste in a lot of mouthes.
Still on with the show! They only closed out the friday night, and friday night the party continued at Krusinn, with Bogomil Font og Flís playing late late late, with many guests and lots of dancing.
I think that about covers the festival. The rest of the trip is covered in Easter Part 1
Oh, and for anyone who notices that I don't have any pictures for half the bands here, that's because I didn't take any band pics on the friday, and only for part of the show on saturday. Wanted to enjoy the show, not just be a journo!