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Ice, Iceland Baby: Part Three


Postscript to Saturday night: Sunday morning, at an indoor flea market, I bought a felted wool hat and gloves from an Icelandic seamstress. She asked if I was enjoying Reykjavik. I described some of the events of the night before. “You know what’s going on with the economy, right?” she asked.

Yes, I said. Iceland has gone bankrupt.

“So is it any wonder everyone is drunk and violent?” she replied.

Iceland: We’re Broke, Drunk & Violent will probably not go far with the country’s tourism bureau. But if the exploitative folks at MTV have any sense, they will start immediate production on The Real World: Reykjavik, which would set new lows for debauchery. My last night at the Airwaves festival felt like an early arrival of Halloween, just without the costumes or the candy.


“He’s a very dirty, dirty motherfucker,” tiny Steed Lord singer Kali crowed, not without admiration or lust, in “Dirty Mutha”, which has circulated from Iceland to dance clubs around the world. In a country where every musician is a kind of Frosty the Showman, Steed Lord may push farthest with their stage costumes; they even design clothes for H&M, and Kali carried a magnificent winged gold cape with matching gloves. There’s lots of sleazy fun to be had in bringing back 1990, as long as it doesn’t mean rap-rock with Icelandic accents: A.C. Bananas, a rapper with a throat tattoo, wearing a pastel cardigan and Reykjavik’s worst haircut (straight and chin-length, buzzcut on one side) shouted “Get ‘em up” and “Put your hands up” like he’d just heard Jesus Jones and EMF on a One-Hit Wonders of the ‘90s CD. Officially the northern hemisphere’s most annoying hype man.

It’s hard to believe another band has ever loved themselves as much as Boy Crisis do. They have two kinds of songs: songs about getting laid and songs about getting laid. Or maybe that’s not fair, since they also sing about drugs. “You’re the shit, girl,” croons Victor Vasquez, who’s wearing a side ponytail and a V-neck smock. Rhyming Bruce Springsteen with swim team, this outrageously clever Brooklyn five-piece delight in their every disco backbeat and each one preens like an only child. Some viewers were outraged and scandalized; others fell in love at the way Boy Crisis make a game of being cocky and nerdy. Their set ended in magnificent chaos, after the guitarist handed his instrument to someone in the crowd then climbed back onstage to dance and smack his bandmates.


Maybe you can’t expect much from a club that’s sponsored by a poker Web site and shows the site’s ads repeatedly on TVs behind the stage and bar. Crystal Castles, a rancorous Canadian duo who make electronic dance trash out of old videogame noises, didn’t seem too happy – singer Alice Glass ended their set by lifting up the club’s bass drum and throwing it into the audience, where it crowd-surfed to the back of the packed room. Then she threw the hi-hat, followed by the snare.

In the 20 minutes before Yelle came on, the pit turned into an Icelandic wrestling cage. People jostled to get close to the stage like they were fighting to board the last chopper out of Saigon. A drunk guy in sunglasses, unable to walk, is carried, fireman style, on his friend’s back. A delighted American tells his friends that an Icelandic girl, smashed into a corner, grabbed his crotch to see how big he was.