Arts & Culture, Journalistic

From the Archives: “Drowning In This Frank Ocean Do Not Resuscitate”

Published July 19, 2013 for the Reykjavík Grapevine

During Frank Ocean’s Reykjavík show—the final one of his European tour—fans drowned metaphorically in the tides of his music and literally in the sea of people pushing towards the stage. 
It was great.

Swim Good
Before the show, excitement at Laugardalshöllin was palpable. Frank Ocean may not be as well known throughout Iceland as he is in the United States, however those who invested in the sold-out show demonstrated their dedication by staking out spots near the stage long before the concert was set to begin, fiercely guarding their positions.

The overexcited crowd screamed periodically as they mistook sound technicians for The Man Himself. The background music played such R&B classics as Otis Redding’s “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay,” and some whistled along impatiently while negotiating the rippling waves of the crowd.

A chant of Frank’s name rose up and died down—sounding comically foreign to an American ear. Just as Talking Head’s “Psycho Killer” reached its chorus, the man we were waiting for finally appeared on stage and even the most reserved fan couldn’t help but scream like a little schoolgirl.

Thinkin Bout You
Wearing his signature red and white striped handkerchief headband, Frank Ocean opened the show with a song about travelling all the way from California, befitting the title of his tour, ‘California Live: You’re Not Dead…2013.’

On his Tumblr page, Frank Ocean wrote, “all the travel isn’t in support of an album or anything like that really- past or ahead. there’s no label or touring firm dollars involved. all pennies from my pocket. in support of some odd daydream. ops to photograph crowds and clouds from planes. contrast all the quiet with some noise. new noise and old noise…sober crowd, faaded crowd. all welcome [sic].”

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Illustration by Megan Herbert

 
Super Rich Kids
The demographic largely corresponded to the age group most familiar with Tumblr, a ‘micro-blogging’ website popular among the Millennial Generation that Frank Ocean uses to connect most directly with his fans. There were even some surprisingly young fans in their early teens who were much too short to see the stage from the standing area. A few of their chaperones could even be spotted wandering around.

Many of these youngins were preoccupied with taking pictures and videos of Frank Ocean and themselves with Frank Ocean in the background before and during the concert, presumably to post them to social media as soon as possible. Other fans felt the need to shout the lyrics to each of Frank Ocean’s highly nuanced 
melodies.

The star mostly played the hits from ‘Channel Orange’ but mixed in “Novacane” and “Songs For Women” from ‘nostalgia, ULTRA.’ He also unveiled two new songs from an album in the works, and tested the crowd with a few deep cuts, noting that he would be impressed if they could sing along to “Golden Girl.”

We All Try
Based on the Icelandic scenery Frank Ocean posted his blog we can gather that after travelling to Germany, Sweden, Russia, the Netherlands, France, Norway, Belgium, England, Ireland and Scotland, Frank Ocean was looking forward to ending his tour here in Iceland. Although he added, “i’d tour for a year if it didn’t interrupt my recording or my weekend driving [sic].”

During his last show in Norway, Frank Ocean ended the concert abruptly after only four songs. On Tuesday he once again left the stage after performing a few songs giving many of his fans heart palpitations, however, he returned gleefully with a camera to snap a photograph of the crowd. Afterwards he said, “I probably should have said, ‘say cheese,’ or some shit like that.” And although his concert in Reykjavík lasted just under two hours, he showed no signs of exhaustion or disdain.

He ended the concert with a performance of “Wise Man,” which he said he likes to end each show with because it expresses a “core sentiment” of his. As he left the stage and his fans resurfaced, the statement, “In a dream you saw a way to survive and you were filled with joy” was projected on the backdrop. Some waded towards the stage for an encore, but it was clear that Frank Ocean had finished his tour on the note he wanted to. Until his next album release Frank Ocean’s fans will gasp for his music like fish out of water.

Note: As all photography was prohibited at the concert (which was kind of amusing in light of ALL THOSE FUCKING CELL PHONE CAMS OBSTRUCTING THE VIEW), we sent the wonderful illustrator Megan Herbert to the show so she could document it, courtroom-style. This is her illustration that you’re looking at right now. Pretty good, right?

See more of Megan Herbert’s illustrations

Read more Reykjavík Grapevine

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Arts & Culture, Travel

From the Archives: “Snæfellsjökull Healing” for the Reykjavík Grapevine

The following is an article I wrote in 2013 about Iceland’s Extreme Chill electronic music festival while interning for the Reykjavík Grapevine. Thanks to the Panama Papers, things are not “extremely chill” in Iceland at the moment. The beats you’ll hear in Iceland today are the beating of pots and pans outside government buildings protesting the deceit and corruption of the prime minister.

Make sure to follow the Reykjavík Grapevine for up to date coverage of the protests in Iceland. If you need some “Snæfellsjökull Healing” (like Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”) read on and harken back to chiller times.

Covered Kirkjufell close to Olafsvik.

Armed only with rumours that I would most likely encounter cold weather and people doing A LOT of drugs, I headed for the fourth annual Extreme Chill Festival bundled up in my warmest gear, haunted by visions of neon booty shorts and glowsticks. What I didn’t expect to find was a warm and welcoming group of electronic musicians and fans communing with nature under Hellissandur’s mystical glacier, Snæfellsjökull.

It all began with a stop in Grundafjörður to plant a tree. The Sterna bus we took to Snæfellsnes doubled as a guided tour of the Snæfellnes peninsula, and when it stopped I woke up in confusion. A guide invited passengers off the bus to plant a birch sapling in a community garden that we christened “Little Chill Fest” in honor of our final destination.


Undír Jökli

Thanks to the tour guide, I soon realized Hellissandur was near Ólafsvík, the birthplace of my great great grandmother, Ólína, whom I share a name with. She emigrated to Canada near the turn of the 20th century during a famine, and tragically lost contact with her sister. As the first Ólína to return to Iceland from our family tree, I have reconnected with her sister’s offspring but had yet to make the pilgrimage to her hometown.

 

This is when I first began to sense the pull of Snæfellnes’ glacier, Snæfellsjökull. It is this same glacier Jules Verne made famous as a portal in ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth,’ and the same glacier my great great grandmother undoubtedly saw many times in her early life, and while, the distinctive twin peaks of the 700,000-year-old ‘jökli’ were hidden by low clouds, there more than enough scenic views to go around.

Calm before the storm

We set up camp in a grassy field near a corral of friendly Icelandic horses that came right up to the fence to watch the first tents pop up. A group had already established itself at the far end of the site, with eight smaller tents surrounding a covered communal area complete with a voodoo skull planted on a stake. Despite the skull, the group was incredibly welcoming and explained they had come together to honour the memory of a recently passed friend who had brought them all together. As the campsite began to fill up, car stereos pumped muffled beats and a small colony of nomads formed and spread out along the banks of a small stream.

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Up the street from the campsite, a few Extreme Chill posters pasted to covered windows identified Röst, a modest venue with all the necessary amenities including a sizable stage, a projection booth and acoustic wood panelling. Inside, electronic music pulsed along to visualizations from the surrounding environment: snowy roads, rushing waves, craggy rocks and grassy fields. Tea candles and incense burned on tabletops surrounded by chairs. The overall effect was more calming than raving. Throughout the festival it was common for the crowd to sit or lay-down, some even practiced yoga near the front of the stage.

According to Árni Grétar, a.k.a. Futuregrapher, Extreme Chill is unlike any other electronic music festival because of this spiritual element. While violent fights are common at many Icelandic festivals, Árni maintained Extreme Chill attendees “don’t want to destroy themselves or others.” Which is an atmosphere the controlled number of attendees, purposefully capped at 400, helps maintain.
However, this is not to say the festival was lacking in moments of intensity. The second day in particular featured the eerie stylings of father-son duo, Stefán Finnboga Péturs; the heavy beats of the Swiss artist Mimetic, and the hardcore dance rhythms of 101 Reykjavík’s Future-grapher and Maggi Lego.

Beyond the MacBook

I talked with one of Extreme Chill’s organisers, Andri Már Arnlaugsson, at Kaffi Sif, where performers and attendees congregated over beers and hamburgers. As we sat on the outdoor deck, he explained the festival’s rigorous selection process: “We seek out performers with a stage presence. Nobody wants to see a guy standing behind a MacBook. Enough of that already.”

Acts like Úlfur, Modesart and Samaris featured live instrumentals, most unconventionally with Tumi Árnason on saxophone. My only criticism would be that with the exception of Jófrí›ur Ákadóttir and Áslaug Rún Magnús-dóttir of Samaris, the festival’s line-up was overwhelmingly male. Overall, the festival successfully highlighted some of the best experimental electronic music in Iceland while attracting big foreign names. Unfortunately, Le Sherifs from Egypt were unable to make it due to political unrest in Cairo.

In the past outdoor sets were extremely popular in the sunny weather, however, I chilled myself to the bone listening to Mixmaster Morris in the cold. The master lived up to his name as he mixed CDs live like a psychedelic gorilla, pacing behind the table in tie-dye pants and a sweater with large black sequins that swayed to the beat. The misty gray setting was a nice juxtaposition to a masterful sampling of Rhye’s lyrics, “It’s one of those pretty summer, summer days. Just a tiny one,” before I headed back to Kaffi Sif for a warm cup of tea.


Techno teepee

After the official sets ended at around 3:00, the party continued at the campsite. Local kids took matters into their own hands, appearing over a ridge shuffling under the weight of large speakers. On Friday night the biggest tarp I’d ever seen was turned into a pop-up techno teepee with the help of a few pieces of wood. The party continued well into the wee hours until the wind ripped the tarp off the ground and the structure collapsed.

Strangely enough, sleeping through this 24-hour dance party was easier than you would expect. It was only when the music stopped around 8:00 in the morning that I would wake up with a start. At Extreme Chill your body becomes accustomed to a constant, persistent beat and without it, you become suddenly lost. Luckily it usually wasn’t long before someone else’s stereo would take over the metronomic duties.


Clouded in mystery

On Sunday a blue sky peeked through the clouds and I hoped to get a better look at Snæfellsjökull, but the winds were not in my favour. Until my next journey, this glacier will remain clouded in mystery. But as Futuregrapher said, “It is beyond man to understand, but for man to feel,” which sums up most of my experiences at Extreme Chill this year.

Snæfellsjökull National Park - Iceland

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