It’s a weird old place Ásbrú. It’s a former NATO base, and the ghosts of its past use are on every corner—the hangars, the barracks, the unmanned checkpoint as you enter—and it’s oddly located being too far to walk from Keflavík, and yet close enough to be handy. It’s a complex mix of the abandoned and the new, mainly celebrated by painting buildings in bright colors.
Ásbrú is now home to ATP which has set up base in a clutch of buildings around a hangar now known as Atlantic Studios for the second year running. Last year, as everyone will tell you, was a huge success save for Nick Cave taking an unscheduled tumble from the stage and ending up in hospital.
Photo: Magnús Elvar Jónsson/ATP.
It rained all day, and there has been a steady stream of hipsters arriving completely unprepared for the vagaries of an Icelandic summer. Damp beards and soggy satchels are everywhere, and I feel sorry for those that are camping. It’s hardly Benicassim, is it?
Thursday also has a strange feeling to it—the timetable isn’t as full as Friday or Saturday, and I’m thinking that most Icelanders will be leaving it until Friday to really get the party started. One stage—Andrews Theater—only has two bands on tonight, and the main stage, just four. It feels like a warm up before the main event, a rehearsal or practice even.
That said, ATP has a welcoming, homely air to it. It might be the coffee and <i>kleinur<p> on sale at the back of the main hall, the sofas in the ‘cinema,’ the handmade signs advertising ‘book bingo’ or the slight lack of organization (signage?) but it feels good.
Low. Photo: Magnús Elvar Jónsson/ATP.
Low are the first band on stage, and look startled to be there. It’s a melancholic start to proceedings, and with the still persistent rain, we could have done with something a little more lively.
To dry out, I dash to the cinema—it’s actually a classroom with sofas, and warm radiators—to watch The Deep. The films are curated by Portishead, but this one is thoroughly Icelandic, and follows the true story of a stricken fishing vessel from the Westman Islands and its sole survivor. It’s scored by Ben Frost, who is playing at the festival tomorrow. I make a note to see him.
Swans have pulled out, but have been replaced by Spiritualized Acoustic Mainstream in the Andrews Theater. It’s a good swap. Spiritualized Acoustic Mainstream is basically Jason Pierce recreating Spiritualized’s quasi-hymns with the help of amiina and vocalists. It works well, especially with the soaring, swooping strings from the girls and the extra vocal strength backing up Pierces’ plaintive voice.
Kurt and the Violators. Photo: Birta Rán/ATP.
Back in Atlantic Studios, the ridiculously named Kurt Vile and The Violators are on stage. Kurt alternates between moments of talent—usually on his own, or with his band in country-tinged mode—to slices of self indulgent rock, which is a real shame as he tends to lose the audience during such jaunts. Nevertheless, Kurt manages to plug the gap until tonight’s headliners.
Mogwai. Photo: Birta Rán/ATP.
Mogwai, hailing from Glasgow are no strangers to ATP or Iceland, and they arrive with a wall of sound. Opening with ‘How to be a Werewolf,’ they are loud, intense and moving. With eight albums under their belt, and fresh from touring Europe, Mogwai are on top form and deliver a confident set. Stuart Braithwaite thanks the crowd with both “Takk” and “Cheers'” It feels like a proper band has arrived at last. I leave happy, and head back out into the rain.