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My favorite 10 things to do in Reykjavik

I’ve put a top 10 list of places I frequent when in Iceland list together.   9 favorites, and 1 that I am eagerly waiting to try out.  The great thing is, you can do most of these things all year round.  These are places and things outside of the regularly mentioned attractions and off-venue gigs that you may have heard of.  It’s just my favorite spots to hit while I’m in town for Airwaves.

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1. On tour with Ívar

On tour with Ívar is one of my favorite walking tours around the city.  You’ll go down partially hidden alleyways, drink local cocktails, eat local food and the tour ends with a beer.  As a member of FM Belfast, Ívar has been in the Icelandic music world for quite a long time and he has a lot of great stories of the old and new Reykjavik.  I would suggest booking sooner than later as he books up quickly, especially during Airwaves.  You can book at the link provided above.

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2. Lucky Records

Lucky records is a massive music hub.  Typically there are bands playing during off-venue before, during, and after the festival.  The shop is pretty massive so you can shop and listen to live music all at once without feeling crowded or drowned in sound.   A lot of the Icelandic bands playing Airwaves will have music available at most the music stores and I suggest you get it while you can as a lot of it isn’t available off the island, And if it is you’ll pay more for shipping than your record.

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3. Fischer

Tucked neatly behind the city center in an old Icelandic house is Fischer.  Ran by a very musical family and their friends, the house/store has a cozy old Icelandic feel that’s quite warm and welcoming.   Throughout the shop there are displays of olden time “remedies” for common ailments all coming from an old book they also have on display.  They sell bespoke items such as sustainable tooth brushes, soaps, shampoos, and perfumes.  They also sell a 7′ that is handmade with the store soundtrack which was created by Sin Fang, Jonsi, Kjartan Holm, and Alex Somers.  If you want one I would suggest getting there at the beginning of your trip as they are handcrafted and with the influx of festival goers chances are they will be sold out sooner than later.  One of my favorite things about Fischer, is the mighty guard dog Atlas.

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4. 12 Tónar

Another of my favorite record stores in Reykjavik.  Go in, get a bit of coffee and browse both levels of the shop looking for new and used music.  As with Lucky’s, the owners and employees are very nice and really knowledgeable about the Icelandic music scene.  I have found absolute gems for great prices downstairs in their vinyl bins.  They also may have bands playing during the festival so watch out for schedules.

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5. Why not? Plötur

This is fairly new to Iceland.  A new underground record label that will most likely have basement concerts at RS6013 later in the festival.  True underground and off the mainstream Reykjavik experience.  It’s a DIY label and I highly suggest you check and follow their Facebook page for updates and notices of when bands will be playing.  They have a great catalog of music already and if you dig what you hear you need to pick it up then, as it’s rather difficult to get otherwise.

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6. Smekkleysa Plötubúð

Smekkleysa is an old staple around Reykjavik.  Smekkleysa records, (Bad Taste records) was the baby of Björk and Co, and the record store carries a lot of classics and current releases.  Kiddi, the man behind the counter has been part of the music world as long as anyone and is quick to answer any questions you may have about music current and old.

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7. Messinn

I typically grocery shop and live off cucumber and tomato sandwiches all throughout the festival, money is better spent on vodka I say.  That being said,  I always try to hit up Messinn at least once during the festival.  A few years ago I surveyed a good deal of my Icelandic friends and asked which restaurant in Reykjavik has the most true to form and best tasting Plokkfiskur (fish stew) in town.  It was unanimous that Messinn was the place, and they were right.  Served right in the skillet the food here is really good, and the atmosphere cozy, it’s perfect for the November weather.  I would suggest getting a reservation a day or two before attempting to go there as they always tend to be busy.

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8. Brauð & co

I’m not a big cinnamon bun fan, but this place made me one.  They also carry quite the assortment of bread that you can get by the slice or full loaf.  I typically grab my bread here for my breakfast and lunch during the festival.  It can get busy, but it’s worth the wait.  One of the better Icelandic secret spots you’ll find in the city.

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9. Mandi

It may seem weird, middle eastern food in Iceland, but Mandi is the saving grace of almost every late night in Iceland.  They’ll be open after the bands stop playing, and out of all the late night food spots this is the best in the city.  It will busy with locals most nights but it is well worth the wait.  Typically, I grab food to eat then and food for breakfast in the morning.  It’s a very social place so it’s easy to meet new folks and learn about unannounced gigs and after-parties around the city.

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10. Veganæs

And finally, but not least, Veganæs.  This is a new place located in Gaukurinn, A bar and possible Airwaves venue located in downtown Reykjavik.  Veganæs is a new outfit ran by Linnae and Krummi.  Linnae has been a staple for vegan food in Iceland for a long time, and her partner Krummi is in the Icelandic bands Mínus  and Legend.  I haven’t had a chance to eat here as they just opened, but it is one of the first places I plan on hitting once getting to the island.  Other great vegetarian/vegan places in Iceland are Kaffi Vinyl, and Gló

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Day 3 of Iceland Airwaves

Day 3 was delightfully long.  Started off with Speciak-K then Pink Street Boys followed by Jae Tyler, moving then to Pinegrove, and then Arab Strap and finally finishing the night in an insane hour long party known as FM Belfast.

Pics are a bit FM Belfast heavy, but that’s because every second they are playing there is something incredible to try and capture on camera, even their end of show bow.  Click here or the picture to see day 3 photos:

FMBelfast (20 of 20)

 

Ásgeir at the Sinclaire 9/30/2017

Friday night we headed out for the Ásgeir gig at the Sinclaire in Cambridge, MA. I had not heard the opener, Tusks, and was very pleasantly surprised.  You can see all the photos over at my Facebook page by clicking the one below:

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all of my Icelandic concert photos will begin appearing on the RagnaarBastiaan FB page including the upcoming Iceland Airwaves, so if you’re so inclined, like the page and follow along.

Iceland Whatever Vol. 2: 11 Icelandic bands you should get to know.

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Iceland continually maintains a wealth of musicians and bands.  There isn’t a genre missing on the small island, and there is a lot of talent found almost everywhere you look.  From atmospherically haunting soundtracks to the darkest metal, you can always find something you’ll dig.  And while this list doesn’t encompass all said genres, it’s my personal list of bands I’m enjoying at the moment.

Full disclosure, this blog post is about the 11 bands I’ve been lucky enough to compile on the new Icelandic Whatever compilation.  They are 11 bands I truly dig, and I hope you will as well.  The new compilation is released on November 11th, and is available for pre-order for $3 here.  These bands are presented in the order of the compilation.

Most of these bands will be at Iceland Airwaves 2016.  So if you’re going, make sure to check them out.  The schedule and more info for Iceland Airwaves can be found here.

Berndsen – “Alter Ego”

David Berndsen is Berndsen.  I try to describe Berndsen not as 80’s retro, or a blast from the past, but as a continuation of the 80’s, with unique beats, heavy synths, and a booming voice.  It’s not just a pinhole representation of what we loved about the 80’s, it’s a feel good modernized trip back to what we dug.  In my opinion, he’s taken what can be a very dated musical genre and made it timeless.  His music videos are also something of pure genius and are frequently on almost all of my house party playlists.  The video above is “Shaping the Grey” featuring the talented singer/songwriter Elin Ey, and Högni Egilsson of GusGus fame.  It is from his new album “Alter Ego.”  The title track  is on the compilation. Other videos you should watch are  Lover in the dark, and Game of Chance.

Dr. Gunni – “Ég er aumingi”

Dr. Gunni is a veteran punk, he’s been at it since the 80’s.  And as well as the band Dr. Gunni, he has been in the legendary bands:  SH Draumur, Bless, and Unun.  He wrote, “Blue eyed pop” which is the most comprehensive book on the history of rock in Iceland and has also has released a few compilations in his time called the Snarl series which was the inspiration for me to begin releasing compilations.  The song “Ég er aumingi” is on the new comp, and it’s from his upcoming album, “ATVIK”.

Milkywhale – “Invisble”

MilkyWhale began as a musical project between choreographer Melkorka Sigríður Magnúsdóttir  and Árni Rúnar Hlöðversson (FM Belfast, and Pluseinn.)  It’s dance pop, with unique breaks and as with their music, their live shows are filled with high energy moments that somehow bring both band and audience together almost as if everyone in attendance had rehearsed their dancing.  “Invisible” is on the compilation.

Boogie Trouble – “Moldun”

Yes, Icelandic Disco does exist, perhaps it’s not well known, but one of Donna Summers favorite songwriters was Icelandic.  I fell in love with Boogie trouble the first time I saw them at Iceland Airwaves years ago.  It’s a super group of talented and seasoned musicians, and their new album, “Í bænum” is one solid disco dance-fest.  I’ve written about it before, and I still thing the song, “Moldun” is about the quest of a lonely space cowboy to find his electric-slide line dancing space cow folk.  Thankfully, the band has let me put said track on the compilation.

Pink Street Boys – “Let it down”

I like contrast, and Pink Street Boys delivers said contrast.  Dirty, sludgy punk infused garage rock.  practically insane in everything they do, they’ve been my go-to rock out band for quite a while now.  I originally wanted “Evel Knievel” for the compilation, but they delighted me with a new gem, “Let it down” and it does not disappoint.

Æla – “Rólegur!

Æla continue to be a treat.  They are a punk band whose live shows are always a must-see for me.  Every year after their gig I say “that’ll be tough to beat next year,” and every year they beat it.  The dedication they put into their show antics are only beat by their dedication to their music, and their new-ish album, Vettlingatök (Handle with kid gloves) is solid.  “Rólegur” is the track on the compilation, and the performance above was at the Iceland Airwaves KEXP stage at Kex last year.

Myrra Rós – “One amongst others”

Myrra Rós, is well known in Iceland for her solo project as well as a vocalist for the band Var. She is an enchanting chanteuse, her soothing  voice soars only grounded by heavy instrumentation below her.   Her new album, “One Amongst Others” is an atmospheric collection of other-wordly songs.  The title track shown above is on the compilation.

Svavar Knútur – “Wanderlust”

Svavar Knútur is the traveling troubadour.  From the west side of Iceland his folk songs are a contrast of serious topics happily sung.  He takes his audiences on comedic journeys and with or without a backing band an audience is never left without.  The song above is an acoustic version of the song”Wanderlust” from his newest album, Brot (The breaking) and the album version is on the compilation.

Cyber – MÁVAR

Cyber is an interesting duo.  Formerly they were what I can only describe as disco/metal/rap duo, and now they are hip hop. I was stoked when they agreed to be on my comp, as I really like their music + lyric combination.  Typically they rap in Icelandic, but the video above is in English. MÁVAR is the track they’ve let me use for the compilation, trippy beats, Icelandic lyrics.

Reykjavik! – Flybus!

It’s no secret that Reykjavik!  is one of my favorite bands.  They are somewhat garage/punk rock legends in Iceland, and they are a band I thought I would never get to see live.  So last year when they played a surprise gig at Kaffibarinn, I became that happy little kid on Christmas morning.  It was sweaty, and nobody could really move except for the band, which managed to hang off the ceiling, bars tops and audience members, you can see the pics I took of the gig here.  So you can imagine how happy I was when they let me put their classic track, Flybus! on the compilation.

Futuregrapher – Shemale

I was beyond stoked when Futuregrapher agreed to be on the compilation, even more so when he sent a brand new track.  he mixes multiple layers of trippy broken beats combined with the atmospheric noise to create unique songs you can’t help but get wrapped up in.  He’s a breath of fresh air to see live, and you get sucked in not only by the music, but by his unique style behind the machines.  I’ve written about him before, and the new song, Shemale, which is on the compilation is something different I’ve never heard from him before.  It’s the perfect ending to a great list of musicians on the compilation.

Boogie Trouble – Í Bænum

Iceland is one of the most musically diverse countries in the world.  You can find everything and anything your heart desires so it’s no surprise to find a full-fledged Disco band in 2016.  Disco isn’t all that strange for Iceland, Þórir Baldursson was rather successful in the 70’s working with Donna Summer during the global disco hay-day, and I’m pretty sure there are closets and caves with hidden disco balls and way too tight disco pants all over the island.

Klara Arnalds, Ingibjörg Elsa Turchi, Sunna Karen Einarsdóttir, Sindri Freyr Steinsson, Arnar Birgiss and Sigurður Tómas Guðmundsson are all Boogie trouble.  I first saw them a few years ago at Iceland Airwaves, their live gigs are more parties than gigs and it only took a short time before they became local favorites.  I’ve written about them before And this review is about their highly anticipated new album Í Bænum.

Quite frankly,  Í Bænum is the perfect rump shaking album for summer.  There are layers of horns, percussion, strings and a good share of bwap-bwap guitars all wrapped around a solid dancing beat that just doesn’t quit.  Klara Arnald’s voice is perfect for this style of music, strong enough to rival the brass yet nimble while it dances in between the other musical players, such as on the title track:

My second favorite track on the album, “Gleymmér ey.” opens with almost a disco-80’s fusion type of sound before Arnalds voice comes to us in a lower pitch.  The beat remains a highly energetic roll of percussion reminiscent of a stampede of horses rolling over the countryside.

I wasn’t going to translate any songs as my Icelandic is limited to colors, time, and asking where the bar is.  But  “Moldun” has become my favorite track on the album because when you listen to it, it basically translates itself.  It’s fairly obvious that the song is about a disco space cowboy who has landed on a strange planet in search of his beloved disco ball which has gone missing.  Feeling all alone and run out of town for being a strange disco space cowboy, he finally finds the disco ball in rafters of an old Icelandic countryside church shining down on many disco cowpeople grooving away.  I mean, I could be wrong but I’m 99.2% sure I’m correct:

All in all this album will make you dance.  It has become a necessary album on our party playlist,  and DJ sets.  Even my local bar has begun playing a few tracks off of it to keep the night interesting.   You can listen to the entire album and purchase it here on Bandcamp, and I highly suggest you follow them on Facebook.

 

 

 

Tips for Iceland Airwaves 2015

We’ve got less than 2 weeks to go!!  The week of November 4th will bring approximately 9000 festival go-ers to the city of Reykjavik to enjoy 5 days of music and entertainment.  It’s a crazy time, and the city definitely gets filled to the brim.  It can get hectic, but if you go prepared you can’t help but have fun.

This will be my 8th year attending the festival.  A friend and I will be blogging about the festival throughout with photos and highlights, but for now here are some tips I’ve learned that will make your experience better, and help you get the most out of Iceland and the festival.

Before the tips I want to bring up something new and cool Iceland Airwaves has this year.  It is the “Wall Poetry” installations located all over the city.

Wall Poetry:

Urban Nation Berlin and Iceland Airwaves matched artists with musicians to create “Wall Poetry” around the city.  10 gigantic murals placed all over the city, each one an artist’s interpretation of a band’s song.  You can check out the artist/musician combos and learn more about the project, including a map of where they are, here.

Now for the tips:

Research Research Research:  Show up prepared

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This is probably the most important tip I can give you, and that’s why it’s the longest.  There is nothing wrong with winging it, and if you are there for the adventure and have no agenda then I suppose doing research isn’t all that necessary, but if you have a plan at all, then a little research will go a long way in making things more enjoyable.

There are over 230 bands performing at Airwaves with slightly over 9000 attendees this year.  Chances are a lot of folks are going to want to see the same bands that you want to see, and it’s possible that you may not get into your favorite acts.  This is why I always say you need to do research, listen to the Spotify playlist Iceland Airwaves created, check out my loosely categorized list of the 155 Icelandic bands playing, and check out the line-up page to discover the bands you don’t know much about.  Late night plan changes will go so much smoother if you have a few bands in your back pocket in the event you’re not feeling a gig, or can’t get into one.

There are a lot of social media outlets to get information from as well.  Reykjavik Grapevine is an English speaking newspaper online and in print located in Reykjavik.  They run a pretty solid Airwaves blog that I suggest you follow. Iceland Music Export (IMX) is another great resource, they will be doing live interviews throughout the festival on their website. and have many biographies of Icelandic bands that will be performing.  KEXP always has something going on at Kex Hostel, and you can typically find live performances and interviews with the bands on their website as well.  And of course, the Iceland Airwaves website and Facebook page will have loads of information to help you prepare for the musical week.

I highly suggest you start following some of these informational hubs now on Facebook and twitter as they will be highlighting bands, giving suggestions, and informing the masses of the different things going on during the festival.

Get the App!

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The Iceland Airwaves App is now available for Download.  It has maps with all the venues, customizable schedules, friend locators, off-venue and official schedule times, reminders of upcoming shows, and a whole slew of other things to make your life easy.  This app is necessary for having a beneficial experience at the festival, I can’t recommend it enough.

Be social, no really, be really social

Iceland is a friendly place, and there are going to be a lot of folks from a lot of different countries so make some new friends and be social.  Before or after a band plays, while in line waiting to get into a show, or out and about touring around, take a moment to meet the folks around you.

You’ve got at least two things in common, you’re all there to listen to music, and you’re all on an incredibly unique island with things to see.  There’s no better way to find out new stuff to listen to or see than by asking the person next to you who they are digging.  I’ve met some rather cool folks over the years at Airwaves, so be as social as you can.

Be patient, be kind

Keep in mind that there are 9000 of us that will devour Reykjavik for the week.  Businesses, restaurants and services in general will be well over normal capacity. So be patient and be a decent human being.  Huffing and puffing because something isn’t going as quickly or as smoothly as you like is just not needed and will never get you the results you’re looking for.  Icelanders take pride in what they do, and while they will go to great lengths to help you, they’ll have no qualms in calling you out for rude or asshole-ish behavior.  Your attitude will have a direct result in how you are treated around town, so civility and decency will make your trip a much better one.

Do your music shopping there, or you may miss out

This took me a few times to learn.  A lot of the Icelandic bands you’ll see and hear will only have their product available in Iceland, which means if you don’t pick it up at one of the music stores or booths at the shows you’ll miss out.

There are some pretty fantastic music shops in Iceland, they’ll serve you coffee, and answer any questions you have about the music up there. Smekkleysa, Lucky Records, and 12 Tónar are traditional visits for me, and this year I’m excited to check out Reykjavik Record Shop.

Lucky Records and 12 Tónar both will have off-venue gigs going on as well, so find them on Facebook to follow along with who is playing when or look them up in the app.

Get out and tour a bit

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With the off-venue schedule and the official schedule you can get overwhelmed, but you are in one hell of a naturally majestic land so I highly recommend you get out and tour a bit.  Hotels or the Information center located downtown will have all the tour outfits to take you outside of Reykjavik for a half day or so, and the scenery makes it well worth it.  A few simple things to remember as you’re touring around will keep you out of trouble and in good favor with the tourist gods:

  • Do not litter, a lot of areas you go to will be free, and that is because they don’t have regular cleaning crews.  Help keep it free for everyone and put your trash in garbage cans.
  • While the city is full of art and graffiti, the countryside is not.  Icelanders have been known to feed tourists to the sharks that live in the volcano for marking up their nature.  At the very least you’ll pay a lot of money and get kicked off the island.
  • Iceland’s moss takes a very very long time to grow.  So if you’re around it and you want to pick it off the ground please don’t, it’s very damaging.

IHRIf getting out of town seems like too much effort, I would suggest going over to I heart Reykjavik’s website and checking out their tours.  They do tours around the city focusing on multiple things from the Northern Lights to the history of Reykjavik.  I would suggest booking the tours sooner than later because they are smaller tours and they fill up quickly.  As of this posting, there were limited slots left and they do fill up quickly.

Most important tip, have fun!

Relax and enjoy yourself, treat folks the way you like to be treated and just open yourself up for good music, a great Island, and a good time.

Iceland Affair 2015

It’s time again for another Iceland Affair.  This charming Icelandic festival celebrates it’s sixth year on Saturday October 17th.  Nestled in the picturesque towns of Winchester and Norfolk CT, Iceland affair will take over the Winchester center and Infinity Hall for cultural presentations, unique items for sale, food, and a night of music.

During the day Winchester center will play host to multiple presentations, Icelandic horses, food and merchandise.  there will be a silent auction table as well as a slew of products from Lopapeysas (Icelandic sweaters), cakes, soaps and other Icelandic items for sale throughout the event.  There will be Pylsur (Icelandic Hot-dogs) on site, and their free!  They are the best hot dogs you will ever have, in my opinion.

The presenters will lecture on topics such as the science and beauty of the Aurora Borealis, geology of Iceland, Viking lore, ICESAR (Iceland’s search and rescue teams,) Arctic foxes, and there will be a Gyrfalcon, Iceland’s national bird giving a show.  The day festivities are free, and you can learn more about the schedule here

FireandIceNighttime will bring the Fire and Ice concert.  A cozy evening with 5 fantastic Icelandic artists at the Infinity hall in Norfolk, CT.  The artists tend to play together and interact with the crowd making it a rather unique and intimate night of great music, laughter and fun for both the artists and audience.

Kristjana Stefánsdóttir, Svavar Knútur, Sóley, Björn Thoroddsen and Myrra Rós will be gracing the stage this year, all of them veterans of the festival.  Most everyone playing has new material or albums that have been released recently, so I’m envisioning a lot of fresh material will be performed.

The festival typically sells out, and with less than half tickets left I would suggest getting them sooner than later.  Along with the the bands, there are always surprises that pop up during the concert.

IcelandaffairmusicianI’ve put a very brief description and sample of the artists music below:

Kristjana Stefánsdóttir has been a vocal coach to many Icelandic singers over the years.  her command of Jazz is rivaled only by her smooth and strong voice.  No matter what or how she’s singing it’s rare not to be completely sucked in to her songs.

Svavar Knútur is a riot, he not only entertains with great music, but his personality and ability to naturally engage the audience makes for a good time for everyone.  He has a new album out, and so there will be plenty of new material to enjoy.

Sóley has been touring all over, but this will be only one of the few times we on the East coast get to see her this year.  Her new album was so impressive I actually attempted a review on it.  And I can’t wait to hear the new stuff live.

Björn Thoroddsen is a magic man with a guitar, and always puts on a good show with original or highly improvised versions of classic tracks.  Not only does he command complete attention when he’s center stage, but he has this amazing ability to play back up for anyone at any time and not miss a beat.  He never disappoints.

And Myrra Rós, with her haunting vocals and up-beat melodies are just right for an autumn concert.  her new album, “One amongst others” was just released and I really enjoy it.  I can’t wait to hear some of the new material live.

So come get a hot dog, learn about Icelandic culture, and spend the night being entertained by an extremely engaging group of musicians.