ATP ICELAND 2016: Refugees of Cancelled Festival Make Lemonade Out Of Lemons

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ATP ICELAND 2016: Refugees of Cancelled Festival Make Lemonade Out Of Lemons

When U.K. live promotion company All Tomorrow’s Parties announced it was shutting down in June, it caused annual 3-day international festival ATP Iceland to be cancelled within weeks of its 2016 edition at the Ásbrú Naval Base in Keflavík, Iceland. Many fans and bands still traveled to the area, citing non-refundable airfare as a chief deciding factor. Replacement shows were held in the nearby capitol of Reykjavík by such bands as Sleep, Thee Oh Sees, Angel Olsen, JC Flowers, and Suuns, with local acts to fill out the bills.

Sleep’s legendary stoner doom metal sold out tiny upstairs venue Gaukurinn on Friday night, prompting a crushing surge to push forward in the pitch black room. The drummer asked the crowd, “Who’s an ATP refugee?” to widespread screams. “Thanks for flying here to be with us.” Someone in the crowd yelled, “F*ck the festival!” and everyone laughed.

Suuns played a gripping, magnificent set at a free show Saturday night in the restaurant/lobby of KEX Hostel (a local favorite for its small show programming). Later that night at the venue Húrra, in a strange but satisfying mix of genres, Angel Olsen’s sultry tones warmed the stage for Thee Oh Sees’ knock-down, drag-out punk party. Olsen and her band had visited a local public pool that day, and she couldn’t seem to get her mind off of the country’s comfort with going nude. She told the crowd through a cheeky smile, “People are really comfortable with their bodies here, and I have a lot of respect for that. Are you comfortable with your body?”

When it came time for her to leave the stage, she likened Thee Oh Sees’ set to the midnight sun of summer in Iceland. “They’re gonna bring it up to your speed again, which is perpetual daylight. They’re gonna express that in their wonderful, beautiful set.” It was a perfect introduction to the ecstasy and absolute mayhem of the foursome. Frontman John Dwyer mans a towering pile of amps, pedals, and keys, all hooked up to his clear electric guitar, which he’s fond of pressing his tongue up against at the crowd. The band (consisting of two full drummers and a bassist) doesn’t use set lists, but rather waits for Dwyer to call out a track name often followed by the phrase, “Good luck!” The crowd becomes a sea of bodies and everyone wilds out. It’s a unique instance of a band going ape-shit crazy without coming off as contrived, and everyone should see Thee Oh Sees at least once to feel that exhilaration.

The combination of the bands’ attitudes and attendees’ frustration at the festival made for an intense but grateful weekend. Ben Redder of Seattle, WA stated after Thee Oh Sees’ set, “I’ve been to ATP eight times, and this is as good if not better than any ATP.” ATP is dead; long live ATP.

Check out our gallery of these shows, as well as a few local attractions attendees could check out with their extra down time. Those who stayed through the weekend were able to catch the Euro Cup game between Iceland and France, an event which inspired a huge viewing party in the city center.