Saturday wrapped up another year of All Tomorrow's Parties Iceland, hosted in Keflavík at Atlantic Studios. Younghusband played their second and original time slot on the main stage. Ought from Canada (who are on the same label as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, who played the day before), and HAM, who have become de facto residents at ATP Iceland, continued the good music into the early evening. The weather was drizzly and grey, but those who braved it were rewarded when a full and complete rainbow filled the sky around 11 pm. Here's our favorite moments from the final day of this epic festival.Moshing During Lightning Bolt:
In the past at ATP Iceland, there hasn't been much moshing. Icelanders are passionate about music, but when it comes to jumping around and bumping into one another, it hasn't seemed like their first instinct. That all changed Saturday afternoon as Lightning Bolt unleashed their frenetic, high speed sound on the crowd. The mosh pit was on the small side, but it was powerful. One guy even crowd surfed over the small group, being carried around like a king on the backs of his fellow dancers. The band plowed onward, stopping at nothing to throw riff after riff of supercharged punk at their audience. It was a slight departure from the norm at the festival, but the people loved it, cheering for more as they finished. Brian Gibson and Brian Chippendale, on bass and drums/vocals, create a crazed but succinct style with little room for extra fluff. Chippendale sang through literal and figurative distortion, holding the mic to his face by wearing an abstract ski-mask type of garment. Although the band usually like to play on the floor, amidst the crowd, for ATP they took the more traditional stage route. The performance still captured the off-kilter, improvisational style for which they've gained a following.
Pink Street Boys' Old School Rock and Roll:
The self-proclaimed "loudest band in Iceland," Pink Street Boys succeeded in being the loudest band of the weekend for the Andrews Theatre. As they began their set in the small theater, crowd members rushed the stage, abandoning their seats for the chance to get closer. With a new album, Trash From the Boys, out now on Reykjavík label 12 Tónar, this group of five young troublemakers are heading in the right direction. Their noisy '60s garage rock echoes bands like King Khan, Ubu Roi, and White Fang, makes heavy reference to the Detroit garage punk scene, and the boys know how to have a good time. The crowd climbed on the low steps of the stage, dancing and singing along. The fans grew more and more confident until at one point, several of them climbed up to dance or take pictures of the members. One fan climbed up and strutted around triumphantly, opening a beer and spraying it everywhere. Beer cans (some fairly full) rocketed past the members' heads, but rather than an insult, it was an endearing gesture. Never had fans acted so raucous in the small theater, and the energy of the room would only be surpassed later that night by rap trio clipping.
The Demonic Power of Swans:
The coexistence of Godspeed and Swans on the same weekend bill was almost too much to handle. The only two bands to be given two and a half hour sets, these long, open, grinding compositions found an impressive home on the huge dark stage of Atlantic Studios. The long set suited Swans just fine, as some songs from their thirteen-album career extend well beyond the 30-minute mark. Swans employs an impressive range of gear, including all manner of stringed instruments, a huge gong, vibes, and a dulcimer. The percussive instrumentalist is a sturdily built man with long flowing hair, ironically named Thor Harris, and he also surprisingly plays the trombone. Norman Westberg, on guitar, sports a devilish looking pointed white beard. Christoph Hahn rages on the lap steel guitar, stroking menacingly at an apocalyptic pace as he chews gum ferociously. Phil Puleo delivers drumbeats at the perfect rhythms to accentuate the overwhelming rise and fall of the compositions. For those unaccustomed to minimal industrial noise rock of this intensity (sometimes likened to heavy metal played in extreme slow motion), the track "A Little God in my Hands" from 2014's To Be Kind was the most approachable of the set. It opens with a funky, almost catchy bass line from Christopher Pravdica, perhaps the least terrifying looking one of the group.
And last but certainly not least, there's the singer and multi-instrumentalist since day one, Michael Gira. As demonic as his band is, the man has also seemed troubled over the years. There were instances in the early days of Gira physically assaulting audience members (allegedly stepping on their fingers, pulling their hair, or attacking anyone caught headbanging). He would claim in response that their sets were meant to be "soul-uplifting and body-destroying." I'm sure it was a relief to older fans when Gira seemed in a good mood Saturday night. It's fascinating to watch how in sync the group are, as each members keeps their eyes locked on Gira in order to achieve strange time signatures and precise changes. He frequently barks instructions in return, mouthing great words over the pounding sounds, an altogether intimidating sight.
Gira has been quoted saying, in reference to the band's name, "Swans are majestic, beautiful looking creatures. With really ugly temperaments." While everything about Swans seems to represent pain, debauchery, humiliation, and madness, Gira's words when addressing the audience Saturday denote otherwise. As they finished their exhausting set, he thanked the crowd genuinely for coming, and ended with, "We're just getting started and we already have to stop. Love to you." A note below the YouTube videos from their 2014 album, The Seer, has Gira encouraging viewers to buy the physical album. This similarly ends with a stark, "I love you, Michael Gira." Viewers would be forgiven for finding this unexpectedly warm tone to be slightly unsettling, but it's nice all the same. Keep an eye out for a new album, as the band have plans to record this September.
(Noise) Rap Group clipping. Destroys Andrews Theatre:
After Pink Street Boys' rowdy set, the figurative barrier had been broken, and fans knew they could rock out, dancing on the step-like front of the small stage. By the time clipping. arrived to play their rescheduled, 12:30 am set, the crowd was wild with excitement. The last few hours of the weekend were approaching, and now was the time to make the most of it. Forming a wall along the front of the stage and rapping and screaming along, the audience was clearly ecstatic for this group's first time in Iceland. Breakout track, "face," from 2013 showcases Daveed Diggs' vocal prowess, as he rockets along, spitting raps a mile a minute. It ended up being a hidden blessing that they were no longer performing on the main stage, as the sound quality would undoubtedly have drowned him out. Although they prefer to be referred to as simply a rap group, they are undoubtedly influenced by incredibly abrasive musical styles, and one of their two beatmakers is William Hutson (a.k.a. noise music artist Rale). The final part of the equation is Jonathan Snipes, of "ravesploitation" duo Captain Ahab. The band are an interesting experiment in noise or industrial music, because their first mixtape, Midcity, was intended to be as outlandish and off-putting as possible, destroying the boundaries of listenable hip hop. Instead, despite its shrill tones and unpredictability, it was received with widespread acclaim, and clipping. were challenged to keep pushing those limits in their first full length, CLPPNG.
DJ Barry Hogan's Dance Party to Close the Weekend
A tradition at ATP Iceland is that for the last set of the weekend, festival founder Barry Hogan rocks the decks for an insane dance party. Due to the fire extinguisher incident, this DJ set began on the main stage after the last act, Kiasmos. Hogan set up his gear in the sound booth, located in the center of the crowd facing the stage, so that the crowd just had to turn around and could keep dancing where they were. Hogan brought a slew of high energy, DFA-style jams, such as "House of Jealous Lovers" by the Rapture and "Someone Great" by LCD Soundsystem. Other headbangers were "Windowlicker" by Aphex Twin and a mashup of Beastie Boys' vocals over Daft Punk's "Da Funk." Caribou's "Odessa" kept everyone grooving, and New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" inspired some glorious dance moves. It was like "good dance music" 101, but that's no diss at all on Hogan. He knew what would be the most fun, and it was great to see him disregarding the pressure to play "current shit," instead just playing his favorites. The result was a much more genuine connection between music lovers, getting down to the best of the best in the nearly empty Atlantic Studios.
After a little while in the huge space, the security wanted to begin shutting down. Rather than stopping the party, Hogan quickly ran his laptop to the other side of the sound booth, facing the back of the venue instead. The happy dancers shifted the party seamlessly to follow him, even inspiring a few dance trains. This new setup was more intimate, and everyone kept dancing until about 4 am. Attendees wondered if the party would have lasted longer in the smaller, more contained Officers Club, but ATP did a great job adjusting due to the circumstances. Another year closed with a bang, and ATP remains one of the best music festivals the world has to offer.
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Day two of All Tomorrow's Parties Iceland was off to a flying start with sets by locals Oyama, NYC's White Hills, and Philadelphia's Bardo Pond. Festival attendees crawled out of bed, rubbed sleepy eyes, and stumbled towards Keflavík's Atlantic Studios in the morning dew. The sky still drizzled, ...