There are times in life when the elements align themselves just right, and the blood sweat and tears of someone creating their dream shines through the end product in such a way that one can’t help but be moved. That is what happened this past weekend in a beautifully autumn colored town in middle-of-nowhere Connecticut.
This was the 5th year for Iceland Affair, an all day festival consisting of daytime lectures, Icelandic horses, goats, falcons, A lot of Icelandic food, and coffee mugs, let’s not forget the coffee mugs. All of this followed by an Icelandic concert at the very homey and cozy Infinity hall in Norfolk, CT.
Gerri Griswald is the lady behind Iceland affair, and once you’ve come within 50 feet of her, you can’t help but get swept up with her charming personality, glacier-sized determination and outpouring of love to everyone and everything that helps her put this on year over year. Speaking with her can’t be done without 90% of what’s audible being laughs. And the sincere love she has for what she’s doing is beyond impressive.
Arriving at the festival I was greeted by people riding Icelandic horses, Lopopeysas (Icelandic sweaters) and other Icelandic merchandise for sale out on the front lawn. Downstairs from the lectures there were free pylsurs (Icelandic hotdogs), dried fish, and very tasty cakes. Upstairs from the dining hall, and merch tables was the lecture hall.
Unfortunately due to scheduling and life, I arrived at the festival later in the afternoon, and was only able to hear the last half of Dr. Gunni’s lecture on the history of pop music. Along with other tidbits of Music life in Iceland, Dr. Gunni’s presentation followed his book, Blue Eyed pop, with audio/visual aids and a Q&A with the audience directly afterwards. A browse around the merchandise, fantastic cake, and a few pylsurs later and off to the concert I went.
The concert was at the Infinity hall in Norfolk, CT. It’s a cozy ornamental building, and the concert hall’s warm woodwork really played into what would be a cozy, intimate gathering. On their way to their seats, the crowd was given Icelandic flags, and told to wave it during applause as a surprise to the musicians on stage.
I’ve spoken about the ability Icelanders have of including the crowd in their performance. And Agnes Erna, Snorri Helgason, Svavar Knútur, Lay Low, Myrra Rós, Kristjana Stefánsdóttir, and Bjorn Thoroddsen. fulfilled and exceeded any expectations in that regard as they chatted, joked with, and shared laughs with everyone on or off the stage. It was a collaborative effort as the musicians took turns at front stage while being supported by the others, all ending with Dr. Gunni’s fart song and a special two-toned tutu wearing host belting out an old classic with the rest of the band. I also should mention that drums were mostly handled by Myrra’s husband Júlíus, I unfortunately did not catch his last name.
By the end of the concert, the crowd was completely on their feet singing loudly and waving flags furiously, and it seemed that neither the musicians nor the audience wanted it to end, so the party headed downstairs where the musicians talked with and autographed Icelandic flags for people. the lingering about and business of the downstairs made it evident, nobody was in a hurry to leave.
Plans are in the works for next years event, and I would highly suggest you check it out by following the Iceland Affair facebook page throughout the year. She tends to post videos or updates on the bands that have played, as well as updates on the festival itself.
I have to say that I am glad me and my label got to do our small part to help out on this festival, it’s truly a labor of love for Gerri, and the quality, attitude, and atmosphere created a charming night I won’t soon forget. I’m already looking forward to seeing what she comes up with for next year.
Another year, another Iceland Airwaves. It’s time again for one of my favorite music festivals of the year. Me, you, and approximately 9,000 other festival ticket holders will be invading the city of Reykjavik for 5 days of non-stop music, art and beauty surrounded by amazing scenery and unique culture. I’ve revised my list of pointers I’ve gathered over the years, and here they be:
The first and probably best tip I can give you is that Positivity and awareness of the people around you goes a long way. Iceland can be quite laid back, and while there typically is no rush, its people will do their best to help you in most any situation. It’s a small island, and there really isn’t room for ego’s or entitlements so do your best not to be rude or condescending. if something is taking longer than usual or needs a little tinkering to be just right, just breathe and remember that 9,000+ of us just landed on the island and the folks helping us out are most likely doing their best. Getting cross or yelling at people will get you absolutely nowhere.
Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!, there are over 200 bands playing in a matter of 5 days. Learn you stuff before you even land, make primary plans as well as back up plans in the event you can’t get into the primary gigs you want to see. Spotify has an Airwaves playlist, the Iceland Airwaves website has details on all the bands with links to their music, as well as an app where you can browse bands, create schedules, and let your friends know where you are.
I have a page dedicated to the Iceland Artists loosely sorted by genres. There is going to be a lot of new music you haven’t heard, and getting a head start on previewing it will make for a broader, more musically expanding experience. There is a free English newspaper in Iceland called the Grapevine. They always put out a detailed Airwaves issue, and I suggest you get that as well.
There are a lot of Off-venue gigs as well, over 600 of them this year at 44 different spots around the city. Off-venues are shorter daytime gigs the bands put on in coffee houses, hostels, and other gathering places around the city. You don’t need a festival wristband to get into them, so if you are planning on seeing someone, it’s always a good idea to get there early as it’s first come first serve for the whole city.
Be Social, chances are you will find yourself waiting in a queue for a gig, or standing around waiting for a band to begin. Use that time to talk to the people around you. We all have our love for music in common and talking with someone near you may lead to discoveries of bands you would have never thought to go and hear. It took me a few years to get used to this, and a few of my Icelandic friends are always commenting that I need to be more social. The key advantage to being social is that there are quite a few after-parties and unplanned sets that happen around Reykjavik, being social will make attending these much easier for you.
If you really like a band, buy their merch at the festival. A lot of times you won’t be able to purchase it, or have to pay huge shipping costs otherwise. Reykjavik is home to two of my favorite record shops, 12 Tónar and Lucky Records. So make sure to include browsing these shops in your itinerary for the festival. And be on the lookout for small-ish merch booths at the different gigs you attend.
Be a tourist, at least for a day. Iceland is gorgeous, there is a reason everyone freaks out about the volcanic valleys and waterfalls. Make sure to take some time to tour around. The Golden circle tour may seem to be too “touristy” but it’s not. It spans a great deal of distance, and the guides are chock-full of information. It can all be done during the day so you can return in time for the night festivities no problem. One of my favorite new Icelandic travel blogs is I heart Reykjavik. She has a very sweet and informative online presence, her Facebook page is entertaining and informative, and she offers daily walking tours around Reykjavik. Be quick to reserve as she sells out rather quickly, I’ve yet to work one of her tours into my schedule when I’m there, but I’ve had plenty of people tell me how much they loved her.
And finally, It’s possible you may run into some of your favorite mythical Icelandic band members. While telling the band thank you is typically appreciated, or casually chatting about this or that while in a queue, nobody likes a stalker. Chasing them down the street screaming, or camping out waiting to catch a glimpse of avocados being peeled or coffee being consumed is just creepy and not the norm in Iceland. It will make for really awkward situations, chances are if these guys are around, they want to listen and see the bands playing as well. It’s an island, not a zoo; and they are your concert going peers, not monkeys.
So, show up relaxed and ready to mingle, do your homework on what you want to see, and explore, this is the gist of it. It’s a fantastic festival put on by awesome folks. I’ve yet to hear anyone ever say they won’t be trying their hardest to return the next year.
In a small town nestled in the middle of Connecticut there resides a peculiar lady. She raises bats, tends to porcupines, and single handedly puts on the second largest Icelandic festival in the U.S. Gerri Griswald is her name, and Iceland Affair is her festival. The festival will be happening October 18th in Winchester center, CT at the Winchester Grange.
Iceland affair began 5 years ago when Gerri decided to bring some of the acts that had entertained her travel guides in Iceland back to the states. Relying on donations and a very forgiving husband, Gerri has been putting the festival on ever since slowly bringing more and more Icelandic talent stateside so that people who may not be able to make it to the island could experience it’s wonders here.
While some would be pleased with just a concert, Gerri has put together a day of presentations including Icelando-centric falconry, goat raising, ornithology, nature and geological talks. As well as authors presenting on things such as the Icelandic sagas, and the history of Icelandic music. To learn more about the presenters, click the image below.
From left to right, Brian Bradley (Falconer), Dr. Gunni (Musician/author of Blue Eyed pop), Jóhanna Bergmann Þorvaldsdóttir (Goat farming and preservation), Jóhann Óli Hilmarsson (photographer, ornithologist), Jón Baldur Hlíðberg (Naturist, illustrator), Nancy Marie Brown (expert on the sagas, author), Tom Alena (Geologist, meteorologist, entertaining lecturer)
And of course, how could one celebrate Iceland without music. The festival ends with the fire and ice music festival at Infinity hall in Norfolk, CT. The concert consists of 5 well known Iceland artists, ranging from indie, to jazz and folk.
From left to right, Svavar Knútur, Lay Low, Snorri Helgeson, Agnes Erna, Kristjana Stefánsdóttir, Myrra Rós, and Bjorn Thoroddsen. Click on their names to learn more about them. While the festival is free for the most part, the concert requires the purchase of tickets, which are selling out quickly, so learn more and get your’s here.
Ragnaarbastiaan.com and Theory of Whatever records are pleased to help out with this years festival, and even more pleased to be attending. So if you’d like to learn more about Iceland, hear some fantastic Icelandic music, this is the festival for you. For us it’s the perfect appetizer for the upcoming Iceland Airwaves. Go to Iceland Affair to learn more including directions and places to stay while attending. And we’ll see you there.
Theory of Whatever records
So I’ve gone and started a record label, Theory of Whatever Records (TOW for short.) It’s something I’ve always wanted to do after leaving the music world a decade ago, and this just seemed to be the right time. The goal of the label is to get music we dig out in the music realm so others can dig it as well. We’ve got some great things coming up for the rest of 2014 and 2015, it’s all rather exciting. I’ll still post on here as I enjoy writing about the new Icelandic bands out there, and it won’t matter what label they are on, but it may be less frequent depending on how crazy life gets.
We are rather excited and humbled that our first is none other than kimono. I have had a music crush on this band for many years and we are excited that we get to release their new single here in the states as well as at Iceland Airwaves 2014 where they will be performing.
kimono’s Specter is an earworm, it’s still got that minimalish-heavy feeling that makes kimono so great, but there’s a new almost dance factor that will stick in your head for days. and the B-side is a cover of the great Icelandic band Þeyr’s “Rúdolf.” the album artwork is by Sigurður Angantýsson, not only an artist, but in the band the Knife Fights. You can see more of his artwork here.
The single, a 7″ 45 vinyl record, will be released in US on November 11th. until then it will be available at kimono gigs in Iceland, including Iceland Airwaves. The single will be accompanied by a digital download, but of course.
If you’re going to be at Iceland Airwaves and you want to reserve your copy to be picked up during the festival, or you want to pre-order your copy for the US Release, you can go ahead and do it here.
So here’s to adding another chapter with the help of a fantastic band.
It’s almost time, and tickets are almost gone, so I would suggest getting off your duffer and getting them. Iceland Airwaves 2014 is around the corner, and of the 215 or so bands performing this year, 145 of them are Icelandic.
I’ve sorted the musicians loosely by genres, very loosely. Don’t judge, there are a lot of bands that walk the line between categories, but I think I’ve done an alright job of making it easy for you to find something you’ll dig. Clicking on the band name will take you either to a blog post I’ve done on the musician, or to a page with their music or more info. To see the full international list of all artists at the festival and for more info, check out the Iceland Airwaves website. And you can purchases packages for the festival here, at Iceland Air.
Last year’s band list is located here, and if you are new to Airwaves and want to learn more, here is a list of my previous posts on the festival. Here, you will find my recap posts of last years festival as well.
So here are the Icelandic bands so far:
Electronic / Dance / DJ
Experimental / Atmospheric / Non-dance Electronic
|Auxpan||Einarlndra||Gervisykur||Good Moon Deer|
|T.V.Thoranna Björnsdóttir & Valtýr Björn Thors||Vindva Mei||Yagya|
Indie Rock / Rock / Disco
Jazz / Folk / Reggae / Singer/songwriter
Punk / Metal / Hardcore
|Döpur||Elín Helena||Endless Dark||Grísalappalísa||In the Company of Men|
|Momentum||Muck||Ophidian I||Pink Street Boys|
|Strigaskór nr 42||Svartidauði|
Hip Hop / Rap
|Alvia Islandia||CELL7||Emmsjé Gauti||Epic Rain|
|Gísli Pálmi||IntroBeats||Lord Pusswhip||Reykjavíkurdætur|
|Shades of Reykjavik||Úlfur Úlfur||Young Karen|
Other stuffs or really hard to classify
|Ásta F Sigurðardóttir – Poet||Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl – Poet||Icelandic Symphony Orchestra|
|Inferno-5||Kira Kira – Musician||Óbó – Musician|
|Sigurbjörg Þrastardóttir – Poet||Sjón -Poet|
The Soundcloud playlist for Iceland Airwaves 2014:
Story has it that Legend began on a drunken night of brain-synced tomfoolery between two old friends in a studio which lead to the creation of the track ‘Devil in Me‘. After finding its way quickly up the Icelandic charts, these friends, Krummi Björgvinsson and Halldór A Björnsson called themselves Legend, and created an album of winterishly dark and stormy synth-pop.
Krummi’s been on the scene for years, Probably most known for his band Mínus, the first Icelandic hardcore band I heard as a youngin’, and one of the first hardcore bands ever signed outside of the Icelandic realm. He’s a busy man also known for his art, and his solo projects such as DÖPUR. Halldór has done film and play soundtracks, as well as jingles for commercials. He’s also an active producer and genius on the keys. The two have been friends for quite sometime. Previous to Legend, the two worked with Daníel Ágúst of GusGus on a country style project called Esja.
Some say there is a fine line that’s not to be crossed between Industrial pop-synth and heavy-industrial. It’s refreshing to hear a band that calls bullshit on that theory and proves you can have both. Their music reminds me of dark stormy Winter-ish days, yet there is a lighter side of pop floating in and out of the songs like moving clouds that threaten to reveal the sun every so often. In my opinion, they have expertly crafted music that takes the best of both worlds creating the perfect stormy soundtrack.
Fearless, their first album, follows that interwoven, layered formula. One gets the sense of dark, crisp, winter nights with darker songs, such as Sister, Fearless, and my favorite track with it’s deeper vocals, Violence:
And you have the lighter breath of fresh air moments, with the more pop-ish tracks such as Sudden Stop, Lust, and City which is one of the most pop tracks on the album:
The album ends with one of the lightest tracks on the album, Traveling blind, akin to the transition of winter into spring. While I love the album, you have to see these guys live. Krummi is a performer through and through, and puts on one hell of a gig. Always high energy, always a little crazy, always fun.
2015 is going to be an insane year for Legend and Co. Legend is working on their second release, DÖPUR and AMFJ are doing a split cassette, and Krummi’s new new project KÓBRAKAT is in the works. If that isn’t enough, Mínus is hoping to finish an album they’ve been working on for 3 years with a hopeful release sometime in 2015.
1. What is your favorite place to play at in Iceland? -I really don´t have a favorite place anymore because many venues have been closed down so they (bloodsucking yuppies) can build more hotels. These venues were so important for the music scene. It´s a shame but hopefully there will be new venues in the future, then maybe i will have a favorite place to play again.
2. If you combine all of your favorite colors (for you, add your band mates if you would), what do you get? -Black and Blue
4. If you could be any creature playing your favorite song, what would the creature be? And what is the song. -I would be a recluse spider also known as Fiddle-backs playing Isolation by Iggy Pop.
Futuregrapher, otherwise known as Árni Grétar, is a staple of the weirdcore scene in Iceland. Multiple layers of trippy broken beats combined with the atmospheric noise he’s famous for recording, his music is known to cause spontaneous outbreaks of dancing when played. This result isn’t limited to just the crowd of onlookers, but Árni himself is known to break out violently into his cooky style of dance behind all the knobs and buttons on stage: Exhibit 1 of his awesome dance style can be seen on the song he did with Guðjón Heiðar:
Partnering up with fellow musician, Skurken he owns the Icelandic record label Möller records which gets it’s name from the famous Icelandic singer Helga Möller from the 70’s band Þú og ég. Möller is an electronic label with other Icelandic acts such as Skurken, Bistro Boy and Subminimal. Futuregrapher is also famous for his remixes, including the following remix of Samaris’s Viltu Vitrast And Kimono’s newest release Aquarium:
Futuregrapher is working on a new album, SKYNVERA, it would be his second after 2011’s LP, aptly called, LP. As it gets more and more expensive to do a proper release, it’s kind of cool that artists can pre-sell the album as crowd sourcing to get their music out. And Arni has a lot of music, love and hugs to give out, as well as other goodies if you’re willing to help him get the new project up and going. So go here to his Karolina fund campaign, read what he has to offer and help him out. At the very least, you’ll get a hug.
He has quite the extensive Soundcloud page, his Instagram account is active (ftrgrphr), and you can find more about him on Facebook. See him live if you can, because it’s always a party. He was nice enough to answer my 4 questions:
1. What is your favorite place to play at in Iceland: Drangsnes – and Kaldalón, Harpa
2. If you combine all your favorite colors, what do you get? Pink
4. If you could be any creature playing any song, what is the creature, what is the song? Gizmo – and the song will be ‘Aja’ by Steely Dan.