Work hard play hard has been the model for my time in Reykjavík thus far and today was no different. After a great evening that stretched well into the early morning, it was an 8:00 am wake up time that seemed to come a bit on the early side. But today was my chance to get out and see Iceland’s Golden Circle, so I shook out the cobwebs and hopped the bus to begin our day tour. Our first stop was to an organic tomato farm that seemed more up the alley for those with a green thumb. I wanted to get out and see all of these crazy mountains, waterfalls, and geysers that I had been hearing so much about. No sooner than I had wished, we came across a vast valley with little to no vegetation but mountains that were so jagged and snow-capped, they almost didn’t look real. I can see why movies like Oblivion, Batman Begins, and Thor: The Dark World all were shot in Iceland. The landscape is weird in the most beautiful way possible.
After a half-hour drive through the countryside, our bus came upon the second stop on the tour and my favorite part of the day: Gullfoss. Translated to mean “Golden Falls”, this is one of Iceland’s most gorgeous and popular waterfalls. Looking down from the ledge as temperatures dropped into the 30’s, you could still feel the mist from the falls as they waded through the air. It’s times like these that you see something this beautiful and you’re just excited to be around for it.
From Gullfoss we drove on to see the oldest geysers in Iceland, the same geysers that we had been told had burnt the fingers of Winston Churchill. I managed to not singe my fingers on water that got up to 212 ℉, so that means I’m smarter than Winston Churchill right? We did however get to see “The Great Geysir”, which exploded four or five times while we decided we better warm up and get under the hot water as it spewed up from underground. Of course when temperatures are below freezing with the wind chill, hot water quickly turns to cold water, so we had to hustle back into the gift shop and towel off. Spectacular views abounded and I won’t soon forget the Golden Circle.
It was back to the Foss Hotel Baron for a quick shower before heading over to my favorite hang, KEX Hostel, for some drinks and to catch up on the day with friends. I love the low-key vibe they have cultivated there with plenty of leather couches, a great bar both inside and out back, shelves stocked with books, and dimmed lights that just make the experience at KEX real easygoing and comfortable.
With a bit of time to myself over at Harpa after leaving KEX, I walked around the art gallery on the main floor and looked at the series of twistedly beautiful portraits that several Icelandic artists had created. A quick glass of Viking beer and it was upstairs to kick off the night’s lineup of diverse shows.
Carmen Villain: November 1 00:20 at Idnó
Carmen Villain wants you to know that she’s not just another pretty face. Once a fashion model who graced the covers of Marie Claire and Vogue, Villain is now a musician who judging by last night’s performance at Reykjavík’s famed Idnó, has something to prove. The singer-songwriter held tight to her Fender Stratocaster while plucking out melodies that quietly held the attention of the room. Employing some droning guitar, Villain worked through much of her 2013 album Sleeper. She more than held her own with not only what are unarguable good looks, but a voice that sounds like she has seen and done things that force her to get it out through her music. Click the link below to hear her single, “Lifeissin”.
Úlfur Eldjárn: November 2 20:00 at Gamla Bíó
Úlfur Eldjárn is an incredibly talented musician from Reykjavík. The multi-instrumentalist can include soundtracks for films, television, theatre productions, and video games under his resumé, in addition to being a member of the very popular Icelandic band Apparat Organ Quartet. Eldjárn employed three violin players and a celloist, plus a drummer in addition to his role as producer and keyboard player for his style of ambient electronic music. Gamla Bíó proved to be the perfect venue to see this band as well since it usually houses theatre productions and plays, so the acoustics were tremendous.
The group sounded incredibly tight for not having played together much previous to the Airwaves performance, playing beautifully eerie music with long stringed intros and melodic arrangements that were as bold as they were enjoyable. Most of the songs didn’t have lyrics, but instead sounded like the soundtrack to some sort of epic drama film or climactic love scene. The crowd was enamored with Eldjárn and his band the whole evening, as you could have heard a pin drop it was so quiet. These are songs for people who like layers to their their music and Úlfur Eldjárn does it better than most.
Money: November 2 21:40 at Harpa Nordurljós
Money is another in a long line of bands to come from the wealth of musical talent that is Manchester, England. This four-piece indie rock band had all the bark but no bite to their live show. That doesn’t mean it was a bad concert, in fact lead singer Jamie Lee has a strong voice that hit octaves high and low throughout the 40-minute set. Its just that there wasn’t that much diversity to the music, a lot of the songs seeming like they could have been three minutes long instead of six. Recalling the vocal stylings and production of Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear, Money is a more than capable group live but things did get a little monotonous at times. These are songs that one would listen to before crawling into bed. Money could stand to introduce something new to their live show to shake things up.
Nini Wilson: November 2 22:30 at Harpa Kaldalón
Nini Wilson are a band that know how to have a good time. Banter from the stage was prevelant throughout the show at Harpa Kaldalón, both between band members and the crowd. It was evident that Nini Wilson were enjoying themselves as they barreled through soft folk songs but with some help courtesy of a Telecaster that kept things sounding garage rock enough. The songs were quite introspective and much of the subject matter was autobiographical one would guess, but the theme continued to be getting out and finding yourself through experiences with love, travel, expression, and exploration. Nini Wilson brought it all together for a set that showcased their soft and louder sides, a combination that was gratifying as it was impressive.