Some people spend years planning and hundreds of thousands of kroner for expeditions to the top of the world. Thomas Nilsen sent a Facebook message on a whim and got an invite to hang out there free with four of his friends for five days.
Unlike others at the Barneo ice camp at roughly 89 degrees latitude north, they aren’t renowned polar explorers, Earth-shaking scientists or soldiers receiving extreme-weather training. Instead, it’s about putting rock on ice as the local quintet known as the Advent Bay Poolboys is scheduled to perform what are billed as the first-ever rock concerts at the camp.
Also, one of the musicians will be bringing lots of beer.
Nilsen, lead singer of the band founded a year and a half ago, said he sent a message via Bareno’s official Facebook page without any real expectation officials at the Russian-operated camp would invite the band to perform.
“I just had a desire to play up there,” he said. “I think one or two hours later they said OK,” he said.
Plenty of music has been performed at the camp as well as the North Pole, ranging from traditional Russian folk during visits by dignitaries to simple guitar music during weddings. But Nilsen said the upcoming gig will be the first full-scale rock/blues concerts he’s aware of.
The band is scheduled to depart April 10, perform April 13 and 14, and return to Longyearbyen on April 20. But that won’t be the end of their rocking for Russians, since the band is scheduled to perform in Barentsburg April 21 and 22.
“It’s the world’s northernmost tour ever,” said Andreas Hegermann Riis, the band’s drummer.
Although the temperature at the camp when the band got the invite was minus 36 degrees Celsius – definitely not good for the health of instruments or exposed fingers – Riis said he musicians aren’t making any special preparations.
“They have heated tents so we’re not too worried about that,” he said. “We have some experience from Longyearbyen and Svalbard, we know how to stress warm and play in cold climates.”
The musicians do plan to add at least one song – “Sitting’ on Top of the World,” performed under the guise of the longtime local miners’ band Howlin’ Huskies – to the setlist for the Barneo gigs, Nilsen said.
The band is also bringing a cameraperson to film the concerts and other experiences at Barneo, Nilsen said. A poster advertising the concerts will be used on t-shirts the band plans to offer for sale later this spring.
Riis said he doesn’t have too many ambitious plans for when they’re not performing at Barneo – for the most part.
“I guess swim in the ice water and hopefully get a trip to the actual Pole,” he said.
A five-day stay at Barneo and a helicopter trip to the North Pole typically costs in the range of 200,000 kroner, so even if the band members spend much of their down time chilling in the mess tent it’ll be an extravagant getaway, Nilsen said.
“This is the best paid gig we’ve ever had,” he said. “It’s a million-kroner gig if you’re thinking about it in terms of money.”
But it’s a gig that will offer more than just music to get people buzzed. Riis, co-manager of Svalbard Bryggeri, said he’ll be bringing plenty of local brew northward using a simple calculation.
“As much as possible, but there’s a weight limit to our cargo,” he said.