Not the city, the band. They were one of the best surprises of my Airwaves. I took a break from metal night at Amsterdam to cross the street to Gamli Gaukurinn to check out Reykjavík! on the strength of their video “Hellbound Heart,” which documents the flight from Reykjavík to the band’s home town Ísafjörður. (Unsurprisingly, this is the work of Bowen Staines.)
I love that song, but it’s kind of misleading, the way that Greenday’s “Good Riddance” is misleading.
Theirs (Reykjavík!, not Greenday) was the wildest show I’ve been to this century – no, honestly, I’m not sure I can remember ever being in a pit like that. I’ve felt the same mass euphoria joy at a Korn show, but Children of the Korn are much more concerned with safety than these kids were. I only survived because I was hanging on to rail – even that had its dangers as the singer often stood on the rail before hanging from the lights (Remember when Eddie Vedder used to do that? Those were the days.) or dropping into the crowd.
I quickly gave up on pictures and dropped my camera behind the rail for safekeeping. Well, it seemed like I gave up quickly, but I actually took almost 50 picture before giving up. Most of them are blurry enough to count as abstract art. These guys move around a lot – think fast like 311 on their first tour.
It was a pit full of love, though. Besides practically making out with the second singer on stage, their main frontman had sweaty hugs and sloppy kisses for everyone he could reach in the audience. I had to give up my modified boxer’s cover (in a pit, my face seems to be elbow high to most concert-goers) to maintain a steady rhythm elbowing the soft parts of the unbelievably tall Nordic men whose kind embraces were unwelcome despite the loving joy of the event. The seven-foot tall blue-haired frost giant was a particular threat, however affectionate he may have been. Even holding on at the front with the folks who were getting paid not to give up on photography, I still left the show with a six-inch rip in my jeans and bruises all over.
And of course, the band fucking rocked. I spent ages trying to figure out if they were punk or metal or what- especially since they reminded me of someone I couldn’t put my finger on – but finally gave up and decided the genre was “awesome.”
Then, over the holiday, I spent some time ripping old CDs, and I found it. Anyone remember Black Happy? Another high energy band with metal roots, founded in a nowhere town with a wild energy that has to be heard to be believed. Reykjavík!’s first album, Glacial Landscapes, Religion, Oppression and Alcohol, has more in common with Friendly Dog Salad than their new one does, but there are some real sonic similarities. Of course there are current bands that share more of their sound – Cloud Nothings come to mind – but the Black Happy connection is profound in the most significant measure that I use to understand music –
What does it feel like to listen to it?
Here is a rather subdued television performance from Reykjavík!
Here is Black Happy playing Greenstock in ’93. I wasn’t there because I was on crutches then, plus I didn’t have ID yet. But this is the song that most typifies that feeling that Black Happy and Reykjavík! share. If you want to actually hear what the song sounds like, you can listen to it here.
Here’s a video of Black Happy playing the Mural Ampitheater at Seattle Center about 6 weeks before I moved to this fair city, and at least a year before I got a chance to see them myself.