Spring is a happy time in Iceland: as the days get longer and the weather warms, flowers—and Icelanders—emerge from hiding, and a general mood of optimism is in the air. In the centre of Reykjavík, however, darker beings were gathering, rising from Iceland’s underground into the spring light, and doing it in style. It may sound like some form of pagan ritual, but it was in fact the first-ever Háskar festival. Held on Good Friday in Reykjavík’s historic Iðnó theatre, Háskar was a 12-hour celebration of the weirdest and most wonderful of Iceland’s alternative music and art scenes.
Háskar, meaning “dangers,” was produced by Svikamylla, the holding company of local punk group Hatari, known for their outrageous live performances. A glance at Svikamylla’s website states the company aims “to bring an end to neoliberal capitalism, as well as managing real estate, loans, imports and exports.” This brand of tongue-in-cheek gloominess permeated every detail of Háskar: planning, decorating and programming.
The revelry ran from 3pm to 3am, with tickets costing an accessible ISK 3.333. Though Iðnó is hardly lacking in charm, the festival added edge to its elegant atmosphere. Lighting fixtures were equipped with red bulbs, and walls hung with banners featuring Svikamylla’s logo: a white hand on a black background, holding a globe surrounded by a spinning saw. The result was as if a rotary club meeting had been hijacked by a punk army.
Háskar did not only serve up entertainment on the stage, but wove it into every layer of the event. Normally overlooked corners and even washrooms featured engaging art installations. Performance artists glided through the crowd. Even a tattoo station was provided upstairs for the most impulsive festival-goers.
Musical performances ranged from electronic, punk, and hip-hop, to neo-classical. What tied them together was the emphasis on performance. The Post Performance Blues Band was no exception to this rule. Gyrating to repetitive beats in animal-print spandex with wooden beams held across their shoulders, their performance was like the 12 stations of the cross happening inside an 80s aerobic exercise video (it is in fact called ‘Crucifit’). Later in the evening, Rex Pistols’ electrifying confidence rocked the upstairs stage, as she stripped off black layers with pomp and attitude. The tiny, low-ceiling attic featured a series of Iceland’s best DJs. Like a mini-rave, it was perfect for popping into between shows.
Many more performances stood out, including of course Hatari themselves, but the festival’s biggest feat was that it was just pure fun, no matter where you were standing or who you were watching. Attendees could relax knowing that however they looked or acted, they would always be upstaged by the performers. It remains to be seen whether these dark and dangerous creatures will reunite for a second edition of Háskar, but it would surely be welcomed.
All photos by Juliette Rowland.