It’s in my intention to open this entry with an interesting — and also totally useless — fact: did you know the term Innipúkinn literally translates as “indoors púka”? As you probably know (and if you don’t, I’m telling you now) a púka, also spelled puki or pooka, is a mischievous creature from folklore, a sort of shape-shifting imp that finds pleasure in all sorts of misdeeds. Less literally, the innipúki is somebody who would rather remain indoors than venturing out. Whether the tendency of staying indoors instead of going somewhere else must necessarily turn people into evil creatures, I have not yet verified; I am sure though that the only shape-shifting trick the common innipúki is capable of is crushing beer cans, one after the other. Beer cans apart, the whole innipúkinn matter originates from the fact the first day of August in Iceland is Frídagur Verslunarmanna (much easier to pronounce as Commerce Day, in English), a public holiday, which traditionally drives many living in Reykjavík out of town for a few days. Yes, more or less like everywhere else when equivalent festivities take place. It must be said that everywhere else, if you prefer not to venture out during festivities, you’re usually not openly called a pooka. In the worst case, you’re called a party pooper, perhaps. Uhm, I am starting to digress, better going back to the festival. Well, the idea of Innipúkinn Festival was simple and reasonably nice: why not having an event for those poor pookas that decided to stay in town during the long festive week-end? Given the attendance levels of the festival, I suspect the myth of the mass exodus can’t be that accurate.
Hollywood docet: music festivals in Iceland are not deemed a serious affair unless they come bundled as trilogies, at least. So a three-day festival this is too and hi-ho, luckily enough the 2011 edition was rather manageable for the audience. Last year I had serious organization problems hopping from a venue to the other, so that I wouldn’t miss this or that artist. Having this year all live acts conveniently gathered at Iðnó, the laziness of us pooka-attendees was pleasantly pampered. Instead of walking from a venue to the other, I could lean on walls and amps, play Tiny Tower, take a good look around and relax a bit. As I said in other occasions, differently from other music festivals in Iceland, Innipúkinn is the perfect occasion to form a better idea of what Icelandic music is like, first and foremost to many Icelanders: outsiders will have it tough to figure out the local alternative/indie scene, if they don’t put it into perspective. Innipúkinn is also the best occasion to meet with not-so-average concertgoers. A little variety on all fronts is always welcome.
Day one opened with Markús & the Diversion Sessions. I remember Markús’ show from last year’s festival and I feel the more intimate space he was given back then suited him better. It’s also true that more than a diversion, at that point the audience needed a proper warm-up, which was promptly offered by supergroup Mr. Silla (featuring members from Múm, Seabear, Kimono and Amiina), who managed to grab the public’s attention with a coagulated and energetic set. Folk musician Eyjólfur Kristjánsson and the uber-popular Valdimar took over soon after that, and I found myself surrounded by female fans with starry eyes and too much foundation on their fake-rosy cheeks. I experienced the most upsetting moment of the whole festival when Eyjólfur and everybody started singing together a cover version in Icelandic of Italian hit single Che Sarà (to be more precise, I almost had a heart attack and it took me some time to re-establish contact with reality). This was before Apparat Organ Quartet blew their audience away. Hard to explain how a bunch of men standing behind their organs (+ drums) can produce all that commotion: in the first rows there was hardly anybody who wasn’t dancing and jumping and I was almost run over by a bulky guy with severe oscillation problems not once, but twice. This should be enough evidence that dancing in a crowded room when you are hopelessly drunk can be lethal for your immediate neighbors. Anyway, as you can see, I didn’t die: all’s well that ends well, like the poet liked to say.
Day two was definitely ruled by Agent Fresco. It’s impossible to realize the extent of their popularity in Iceland without attending their concerts. Leaving aside other considerations, Agent Fresco are undoubtedly a powerful live band. But to tell the truth, an impressive fandom had also flocked to Iðnó for Jónas Sigurðsson. This said, I had my personal moment of elation during Snorri Helgason‘s performance. I didn’t have the chance to listen to Snorri’s recently released album Winter Sun and I was positively impressed by his new songs. If you can bring the right mood to a live show of these proportions, it means your songs are worth listening to. The same statement could be said of Pascal Pinon, openers for day two. They are still a young band, and yet they have become Innipúkinn’s regulars in the course of the last years. At the end of their brief set, I heard somebody exclaim, “She is so good!”. The “she” in question is Jófríður Ákadóttir of Pascal Pinon and indeed, this band radiates a peculiar charm that goes beyond their sweet little melodies.
On day three my absolute highlight was Kippi Kaninus, who succeeded in the impossible task of time dilation just by manipulating sounds. If I were to pick the single best moment from this festival, I’d probably say this was it. I’d also put Ólöf Arnalds, in a duet with her sister Klara, in an ideal best of Innipúkinn 2011. Apart from her musical talents, Ólöf has such a vibrant personality that she could easily outshine anybody. Another nice moment came from Sin Fang and band. However, I felt in this occasion Sindri’s allotted time was too short and at some point I got the impression the music suffered somehow from the general event’s restlessness. Historical pop rockers Dúkkulísur conquered the stage soon after Sin Fang, and this is when the festival ended for yours truly. I am indeed too much of a wimp and I achieved to bring back home a souvenir from this Innipúkinn: it’s three days that I cannot stop sneezing. Huzzah.
Wimps were also the baffled foreigners who were expecting an exuberance of hipsterism and, instead, overdosed on Icelandic’s linguistic virulence. I saw them kinda lost during stand-up comedy intervals, but oh well, I was kinda lost myself. Stand-up comedy is not my thing, really. I just find it awkward, if you know what I mean.
A well-deserved final note for organizers and everybody who helped to put together this year’s Innipúkinn: thank you for the fun and keep it up.
PS: by any chance, have I told you how great Kippi Kaninus was? All right, but in any case, a reminder won’t hurt.