Big Jumps and Hip-Hop at AK-X in Akureyri, Iceland
Northeast Iceland is pretty much everything you’d imagine it to be: a bit hard to get to, refreshingly quiet, and ridiculously photogenic. For a small town called Akureyri, however, the second weekend of April this year was anything but quiet.
Since 2002, Akureyri has played host to a snowboarding festival called AK Extreme. Though the festival organizers took a break after the 2005 installment, they returned in 2011 making this year the ninth time the festival has taken place. The festival has combined snowboarding and musical performances since its inception but the 2011 comeback saw the organizers take a more serious approach to the musical elements.
Happily, in 2015, this effort towards music showed through with some of the most unique and impressive acts from Reykjavík coming out to perform. Hip-hop collective Shades of Reykjavík performed in full force on Friday night finishing their set with “AK-47”, a song written especially for the festival this year (check out our initial coverage of the video release here). The energy during this track was positively tangible with every kid in the house chanting along “A-K 47″, except in Icelandic, which sounds way more bad-ass: “A-K Fjörutíu og sjö! A-K Fjörutíu og sjö!”
Other stand-out performances include Emmsje Gauti, who had a hand in organizing the festival, and Úlfur Úlfur.
Musically the focus seemed to be in the hip-hop arena with some exceptions like that of the sweet electro-pop driven vocals of Young Karin and the talented men who make up Blokk DJs.
The first snowboarding event, with Emmsje Gauti serving as announcer, saw contestants in wide range of ages gliding down a hillside right in the center of downtown Akureyri. Spectators filled the street or hung out on balconies to catch tricks performed off the guardrail and over a partially-aflame flat bed truck.
Disappointingly, due to strong winds, the Big Jump had to be rescheduled from its prime 9pm slot on Saturday to the following afternoon. This left a little to be desired in regards to the anticipated grandiosity of the event, being held during daylight hours rather than at night, leaving Saturday night a little empty. Obviously this is totally selfish and it’s a good thing that the organizers cared enough about the safety and comfort of both competitors and onlookers to postpone.
When the Big Jump did go down it felt like everyone in a 50km radius was in attendance. Suddenly Akureyri was fully alive and entirely engaged in the event with many families bringing their small children out for the main event.
However, beyond the amazing music and snowboarding going on, there was a second, narrative going on: the after parties. Though invisible to untrained eye, this was where some really interesting things happened over the course of the weekend.
Shortly after arrival it became clear that most attendees had come in from Reykjavík, inducing an eye-roll or two from some of the more conservative locals. At first I was unsure what this initial apprehensiveness was about, but it didn’t take long to become clear. Things got pretty weird pretty quickly, and in all the right ways, depending on how comfortable you are with yourself. I almost didn’t want to open SnapChat after day one.
To understand, you’ll have to make the trip to AK-Extreme yourself next year to see what really goes on when the bars are closed and no one is looking.
AK-Extreme will take place over the first weekend of April in 2016 with tickets hovering around 3.900 ISK.
And if you needed another reason to splurge to ~$29, here’s a view that all 18,000 residents of Akureyri, Iceland get to wake up to every day.