Eistnaflug, Friday 12th of July 2013

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We arrived at 16.30, just in time to catch the wonderful Sólstafir in a small ex-steel factory, that had been changed to an off-venue. That venue is called Mayhemisphere and is, at the time of our arrival, filled with fake blood, smoke from machines and corpse-painted fans of all shapes and ages. Sólstafir is setting up, and we are so happy to not have missed their gig. We had spent the night in Vaglaskógur, a forest outside Akureyri (yes, there are small forests in Iceland), and the only sound that night was from birds and other small animals of the forest. We went straight from the golden silence to the shimmering noise.

We are doing a family-version of Eistnaflug this year. We are a couple of „almost grown-ups“ with our 11 year old son, and are not opting for the usual sleeping-facilities of the last couple of years. They include very late parties and loads and loads and loads (and then some) of alcoholic beverages. This year we are staying with friends in the next fjord, Eskifjörður, and we also arrive a day after the festival started. Therefore we miss some bands on Thursday in the main venue, Egilsbúð, but we gain a night in the forest instead, so I guess nothing is wasted.

Sólstafir is a well-known band, with many international tours and a big following behind them, so it is a privilege to see them in such a concert: Small and raw. They do a crazy version of their set. Intensity at a max, and some bits I have never heard before, which I later find out was what frontman Addi referred to as „half a new song“. Our family is in the front row, headbanging and jumping. At the end I have to go out and get some fresh air, that artificial smoke is not good for too long.

After we settle in and make our beds for the next two nights we go to see Sagtmóðigur in Egilsbúð. They are fantastic, with loads of new songs from a new vinyl that is coming out in the week after Eistnaflug. Sagtmóðigur have been around since early 1990‘s, and they have really only been getting better the whole time. When they were beginning they hardly knew how to play their instruments in the real punk-spirit, but now they rock out really good anthem-like songs with sing-along bits in the right places and well crafted riffs all over. We dance and sing and then fly out of the venue, hungry for more music, but with the intension of satisfying our hunger for real food first.

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Stebbi, bass-player of Sagtmóðigur, tells us not to miss a band in the Mayhemisphere that is starting at 20.00 so we let ourselves be dragged to World Narcosis and postpone hunger for burgers. And are we happy we followed him there!!! This turns out to be one of the highlights of the whole festival, if not simply THE best performance. Four teenagers playing noisy grind-core punk. Singer filled with real teen-age angst raging around and throwing himself all over the place. Girl plays bass, super concentrated and into it, and adds some mad screams in the end. Great guitars, and I would normally have focused on them as I play guitar myself, but it is the drummer who is the focus point for everybody. He is called Ægir and is the best drummer I have seen in years, even if he looks like he is in his early twenties. I hear he is in seven bands that play in Eistnaflug this year, and on Friday between 2 o‘clock and 8 o‘clock he has performed with 5 of them. He not only playes powerful and at times complicated beats, he plays as if his life depended on playing with maximum strength all through the gig. My son is hypnotized by that performance and ends up catching a drum-stick that comes flying through the air at the end of the gig, and I suggest he gets it signed by that guy. He signs it willingly and we walk to the burger-joint literally walking on air with happiness.

When we have eaten we find out we missed the Legend-gig, and I am upset for about 30 seconds or so, but there is no point in staying mad. Our health comes first and we had a blast chatting with our friends who had just gotten to town and who are playing in a band called Sushi Submarine the following day. The Legend-album Fearless from last year is one of the best Icelandic albums to come out that year and they play some kind of melodic industrial rock. I really need to see them soon. We catch a glimpse of really talented female guitar-heroes in Angist before driving back to Eskifjörður and diving in our beds and into dreamland, head full of rock‘n‘roll.

Eistnaflug, Saturday 13th of July 2013

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Woke up at 9-ish. Oh the wonders of going to sleep at a decent time instead of enduring late-night parties. We manage breakfast and friendly conversation at the bakery in Neskaupstaður before going to the swimming-pool and the sauna to treat our head-bang injuries (in my case from the Sólstafir-gig). We also have time for sushi before starting another day of crazy music. The sun is shining and we go to the Mayhemisphere to catch a performance by someone who calles himself Döpur (translates as sad in Icelandic). They are starting when we arrive, and boy, are we surprised to find out it is the solo-project of Krummi, frontman of Legend, and of Minus before that. I am so happy I don‘t mind the artificial smoke at all, and enter the Mayhemisphere with joy of noise in my heart. That gig is excellent, in so many ways. Enjoying such brutal experimental noise so early in the day, having just eaten sushi and gone to the sauna is a first. Sunshine and warmth outside, smoke and brutal unarming craziness inside is another. As I lean towards the wall of noise, having completely lost myself in the moment my boyfriend and son come walloping into the venue and smilingly announce „We are going to go to buy a Frisbee disc“. There is room for everything in Eistnaflug, and when Döpur has let out his last scream I venture out to find a handful of happy punks playing Frisbee in the sun.

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Next band on stage is our friends in Sushi Submarine, and as they set up I sunbathe and drink organic ginger-soda my family brought me from the shop. Then they start and play some sort of raw garage-sounding instrumental drone-rock. At first I am all ears, listening and learning, but then I lose myself and become all legs and arms, dancing and jumping around. There is a definite rise in their set, and after the gig people stand outside the venue, discussing how amazing the end of their set was. We decide to get ice-cream and coffee, before the next band we wanna see starts.

We get back and it turns out the next act on stage, Scape of Grace, has quite a complicated set up, as there are 4 dancers and tons of amplifiers involved. Musicians Varði and Óli organize and distribute each item and dancer evenly around the venue and finally everything is ready to go. A small crowd has gathered and everyone is waiting in anticipation. Nothing could have prepared us for the results: There is screaming, impossible body movements and golden paint, as well as someone‘s head turning into a guitar-amp is all I can say. Quite a unique piece of performance-art/experimental drone-music, and it receives a standing ovation when it is over. Now we have to hurry straight to Egilsbúð to catch our favorite crab-core band in Iceland, Endless Dark. We were hoping for some time for dinner first, but rock comes before food, and we agree to postpone dinner for the second day in a row. Excellent parenting on our behalf, but lets just call it building a character and working up an appetite.

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Endless dark is a wonderfully vivid and joyful band to watch. Seven members, most of whom are still teenagers, incredibly focused and loving what they are doing. They also have a big fan-base that follows them everywhere they play. I have only seen them once before and I absolutely loved them then, and ended up in the middle of their group of fans, jumping and screaming. The same thing happens this time. I try to constrain myself and stand somewhere in the back and listen and watch, but before I know it I am in the middle of the pit going crazy. They just do that to me, those kids. I am fighting with teenage girls for the spot in the front row in the middle and of course I win, I am experienced!

Now we can eat, and we deserve it, having spent from 14.30 until 20.00 in constant concert. We have to make sacrifices again tonight and just choose 2 more bands to see. We have to take time off to rest and we also don‘t want to stay too late into the night, as things tend to get crazy after midnight in this festival. We opt for Muck and Red Fang. It means we are missing Singapore Sling, Sólstafir and Brain Police, three wonderful bands, but we did see Sólstafir yesterday. We will be eating when Singapore Sling plays, and we will be in our beds when Brain Police is playing. Such are the decisions in life, sometimes hard to make, but nonetheless important and part of the whole.

Prioritizing is as big a part of any festival as layering your clothes, drinking lots of water and trying to be helpful and positive in all situations. Eistnaflug is a great festival for this. People help each other out all the time. You end up feeling you belong to the same family as most of the people there. The crazier the music they like, the nicer they tend to be. Chances are the most pierced and tattooed people will be the ones who really love to play with your kids (if you bring kids). There is no anger anywhere. Everyone has gotten rid of all bad energy and moods through the aggressive and loud music they are listening to.

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We arrive when Muck, rising Icelandic rockstars, have already started. The crowd is, by now, rolling in what can only be described as a wormpit. The whole floor in front of the stage is one big pit with circle-dancing, stage-diving and other classic punk/metal activities. Seems like while we were ate and gathered our strength, the rest of the crowd took to focused drinking and partying, and we parted ways with them. Luckily we have a spot somewhere in a balcony, in a save distance from the blinding madness that is happening, but still near enough to enjoy the music. Everyone has to feel safe, only then things can run smoothly. Muck does an excellent job, and their music is really quite fresh. At times I feel like they are what I would like to call „trippy“ but without any slow prog-rocky bits. It‘s fast and punky. Trip-punk? Punk-prog? Oh, this is the sort of band that is hard to describe. Once you think you have nailed them down everything changes. Just go to their show if you get the chance, you won‘t regret it.

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When Red Fang, the main foreign band of this year, starts I am already thinking about my bed, but it is also because of the intensity of Muck‘s gig. Red Fang come from Portland, Oregon, and they are fantastic, but I can‘t concentrate well enough. I guess that is why people have to pour beer down their throats: To sedate themselves so they can watch all those bands and not get too tired because the concerts were too intense. My nerve-system tells me to go home but I refuse to listen. Oh, what I would give for fresh ears right now. I really like Red Fang, I‘m just too tired. I youtube them a few days later and love what I hear, so I‘ll catch them later, sometime when I haven‘t just watched Muck, and when I am possibly a little less family-oriented.

All in all this is a good gig for our family, though. The crowd sets a new world-record in crowd-surfing during Red Fang‘s gig and when the show is over the sweat is leaking down the walls of the place. All we can do is crawl to our car and drive to where we sleep, with the last drops of energy we have left.

The following day we are all so tired and we talk about the festival and how we don‘t need to go to another rock-concert in a while. Two days later we are already looking forward to Eistnaflug 2014. If you have not been yet, I can not recommend it enough. Come alone and find friends there. Come with friends and have the time of your life with them. Bring your kids, and things still work out. Mind you, the kids have to be rockers. Mine is, so we all loved Eistnaflug. Next year is the 10th anniversary. That‘s going to be something special.

- Heiða Eiríksdóttir