Day three is going down as the windiest day of my life so far. According to The Weather Channel, the wind in Reykjavík was at an average of 29mph. Honestly, it felt like a lot more than that. As my classmates and I were walking around the city, we found ourselves forced to a stop or falling on our butts from the strength of these gusts. We thought we were equipped for whatever Reykjavík would have to throw at us, being from ‘the windy city’ and all, but today proved all of us wrong. The silver lining: the too-strong-for-us wind made for the perfect day to finish a culture story and take care of the last interviews. In other words, it was a prime day to be productive.
After my blog post yesterday I was able to see a few other bands before I went into a six hour coma due to sleep deprivation.
Bloodgroup performed last night at Harpa Silfurberg. They are a band with a completely unique sound, a blend of electronic, metal and indie. During the show everyone, with exception of the drummer and one of the members working a bunch of electronic equipment, would switch instruments, giving each song its own unique soundscape. One of the members even played keytair (a guitar and piano combined), which added a very interesting element to the songs featuring it. They had very amusing crowd interaction between songs which is always a plus, and in addition they had both a male and female vocalist, bringing even more diversity to their high energy live performance. This is a band definitely worth seeing.
Bárujárn is the present day Icelandic equivalent to American 1950s surfer rock, like Dick Dale. The setting in Amsterdam was very intimate and it was great to see the band so close after being in large venues at Harpa prior. The band consisted of a drummer, guitarist/vocalist, a bassist wearing some type of fur hat (which was pretty cool), and a woman playing a theremin (which added a very interesting layer to the driving rock.) The band sang in Icelandic but spoke in English between songs. They got many laughs out of the crowd with some pretty crude jokes, setting a great tone for the show.
After a night’s sleep and another day of exploring Reykjavík I began the night by seeing Love and Fog.
Love and Fog is described on the Iceland Airwaves website as an electronic duo, however most who see their show will notice that there are actually three members: a bassist, a guitarist and an absolutely beautiful keyboard player. The three play together against the backdrop of a well thought out drum machine that is reminiscent of America’s New Wave music of the ’80s with a funk-meets-alternative type of twist. Witty banter, danceable beats, and the fact that their amp was seated on two quarter-kegs of beer make this group a blast to see, especially in Hressó’s outdoor tent.
*Love and Fog
After a bit of dancing there I mosied on over to Gamla Bió to see Temple, but was early and caught a remarkable acoustic band called Árstíðir, which was quite possibly the happiest I’ve been being early to anything. With two acoustic guitars, one acoustic bass, a keyboard, a violin, a cello and captivating six part harmonies, this drumless sextet painted a landscape of beauty in sound. Truly remarkable.
Then Temple hit the stage. Talk about a band that can take listeners from a place of peace and serenity to a firestorm of chaos and face melting. This guitar and drum based Swedish band could have someone crying one moment and head-banging the next. The bass player at one point began playing his bass with some sort of wooden stick. They were certainly a show people will be buzzing about tomorrow.
She started off with the powerful “Tookah,” which was full of fun beats and intense bass. The music began soft and continued to slowly build. Her cheeks became rosier as she sang “Home” and then smoothly transitioned into “Animal Games” where she howled like the “woo-oolf.”
At the same time as “Birds” began, lighted-lined images projected and danced on the ceiling. Her voice sounded like sadness and despair and was accompanied by mellow music. And then the lights shone out to the crowd and only her silhouette was visible.
“This song is about being brave enough to be happy,” she said, describing the next song, “Big Jumps,” to the swaying mass of people before her. “Autumn Sun” played out to be slightly faster and more angry than the sad CD version.
She mostly spoke in Icelandic, and once she started speaking English, she seemed to catch herself mid-sentence and switched back over. This may have to do with her replanting her roots in her home country that she’s been away from for several years.
She ended with “Blood Red.” It was very dark and mysterious and she slowly stepped away from the mic and disappeared into the dark as her voice faded, and then the crowd was hit with sound as the band started up “Speed Of Dark.” The way she ended the show was unusual because she just walked off stage when she was done singing, but the song wasn’t finished. It added to the mystery and darkness of her newer music.
She introduced her encore in Icelandic, but I believe she announced the song as a brand new one, because she was reading from a paper as she sang. It was very poetically put together. “The catacombs of the dragonfly,” she sang along with the simple strumming from the guitar.
After leaving the show I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Northern lights. My camera’s battery was dead,, but I heard that it will be even brighter tonight and I’ll be prepared this time.
Today I was able to enjoy the beautiful Icelandic weather as I walked to the building that houses all of the Icelandic women’s rights NGOs. I learned a lot about the issues Icelanders are still facing, and more on why they are ranked the numberone country for women.
Gamla Bíó is an opera house with a sit-down style of concert, and this can make it difficult for fans to stay pumped and riled up for the performers. Árstídir consists of six men, Daníel Auðunsson (Guitar & Vocals), Gunnar Már Jakobsson (Guitar & Vocals), Ragnar Ólafsson (Baritone guitar & Vocals), Hallgrímur Jónas Jensson (Cello & Vocals), Jón Elísson (Piano & Vocals) and Karl James Pestka (Violin & Vocals). Pestka was fun to watch as well as listen to as he scrunched his face and furiously strummed his bow. This band is some sort of mix between classical music, rock and boy band, with delicious harmonies.
Samaris performed at 10:40 in Gamla Bíó.
Samaris disappointed. Rumor was, yesterday Samaris put on a terrific performance, but tonight they seemed mild and meek. Jófríður Ákadóttir was hard to hear as well as the stand-in clarinet player. Maybe the performance let-down was not entirely the band’s fault, Þórður Kári Steinþórsson was encountering many technical difficulties.
As I left Gamla Bíó I was starving, and to my luck there was a food truck parked right outside! The burgers were delicious, with lettuce and peppery bacon and some other saucy condiment.
I walked into Harlem expecting to see Futuregrapher, a bald and bearded man blasting some hard and fast tunes, but I ended up encountering Elín Ey, and I was not disappointed. Her vocals combined with her disco-sounding DJ styling was a joy to hear and see. People couldn’t help themselves, their bodies were entranced with the thumping rhythms — it was a great end to a great day.