A Room for Every Crazy Dream

The “do-it-yourself” culture of Austurland

„One thing about the music scene here is that you really don’t have to know Icelandic to feel the lyrics in your bones. I often have no idea what they are saying but you can feel that everyone is welcomed.“ – Rhombie Sandoval.

“In a small town there is room for every crazy dream,” the band „Á gráu svæði“ (Trans: The Gray Area) says about their hometown Neskaupstaður. Á gráu svæði is the first hip hop band in Austurland.

As we spoke they reminicised on their gymnastics teacher who once said: “We need more music, we need more rock and roll” and that is how the music festival Eistnaflug was born. In July Eistnaflug transforms the town of Neskaupstaður into Iceland’s largest Metal Festival. It started with 150 people attending the festival and now 3000 escape to the East to enjoy the music and partake in Eistnaflug’s motto, “No Idiots Allowed.” Here you’ll find stories of festival attendees in their leather jackets picking up trash and throwing it out, or of wallets being returned with everything still there.

One thing about the music scene here is that you really don’t have to know Icelandic to feel the lyrics in your bones. I often have no idea what they are saying but you can feel that everyone is welcomed. There is a true DIY mentality over the music scene in the East. When Daníel, the drummer, decided he wanted to start a hip Hop band, each member trained, Leifur even taught himself how to rap. “The smallness of it all facilitates what happens. You teach yourself whatever you need to know to help the music come to life,” says Daníel.

Within Austurland there are other festivals embodying the same DIY culture to create an experience for all. In Seyðisfjörður you will find the LungA festival, a week long workshop based international art festival for young people. It combines creativity and music to transform the town into a large exhibition. Here the artistic atmosphere heavily celebrates the dreamer who dreams while awake. The LungA Festival extends past the concerts to include workshops and exhibitions. At the LungA Festival you will leave with a new group of friends, who you likely met by taking a swim in the fjord with.

Another festival in the East contains an extra experience just getting there. Traveling 70 km from the nearest town along a gravel road to Borgarfjörður Eystri, home to around 100 people throughout the year. Bræðslan music festival is held there every year. They only sell 800 tickets and the concert is held in an old fishing factory, an experience you are not likely to forget in your lifetime. No matter what festival you attend it is likely to feel like a reunion as familiar faces in the music scene greet you.

After our interview, Á gráu svæði called the local venue to see if they could put on a spontaneous show, within 30 minutes they were performing onstage. There are a lot of reasons the music scene here is unique but I think the beauty of it all is music is a huge part of this culture, so if you want to make something happen you know who to call for help.

All three festivals take place in the summer, when the sun never sets, endless possibilities in each small town; where there is room for every crazy dream to come to life.

Text and photos by Rhombie Sandoval.

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