Tag Archives: literature

Taste of Iceland 2017: Boston edition

Taste of Iceland is back again, March 16-20th with a variety of Icelandic events to please everyone.  Art, Food, literature, Short film, and of course, Music.  Every year they seem to top themselves, and this year looks to be no different.

Music first!  This year two rather large Icelandic bands will be performing at Reykjavik calling on Saturday March 18th; MAMMÚT, and FUFANU.

Reykjavik calling is a free concert at the Middle East Club in Central Square on March 18th at 9pm.  Every year it is packed, and while doors open at 8pm, I would suggest being there early as the line typically wraps around the building and latecomers tend not to get in, so show up early and make new friends while in line.

The Icelandic bands for this year’s festival are Mammút, and FUFANU.  Both bands are extremely popular all over the globe, so it’s really cool they are going to make it to Boston.

mammut

Mammút consist of Katrína Mogensen, Vilborg Ása Dýradóttir, Alexandra Baldursdóttir, Arnar Pétursson, and Andri Bjartur Jakobsson.  Shortly after forming in 2003 they won the coveted 2004 Músiktilraunir, the annual Icelandic battle of the bands.  And now 14 years later they are working on their 4th album.  The following song is still one of my favorites, but you should check out their Youtube page for more videos.

Katrína has one of those powerful voices that along with the rest of the band creates a powerful wall of sound that pulses through you like an angry heartbeat.  They are one of my favorite bands to see in Iceland.

fufanu

Fufanu have certainly evolved over the last 9 years.  In the beginning they were Captain Fufanu an electronic duo, but now they have dropped the captain and Fufanu has released their second album, “Sports.”

Now a three piece, Kaktus Einarsson, Guðlaugur Einarsson, and Erling Bang have created a part new wave – part minimal Alternative pop album that suits their stage presence nicely.  I’ve seen them play many different types of music, but this last year they really were on a plane of their own as they cranked out one hell of a solid set in front of a massive crowd at Harpa.  If you’re a fan of bands such as Oasis, Blur, and the Servants, you’ll really dig their set.

From Boston, the Dirty Dottys will be performing.  A seven piece, self described “pop-motown, rump-shaking, heart-thumping, swoon-inducing ensemble whose goal is to create music that makes their audience, move, groove, and high five their neighbors.

Live shows are like a party, and the musical powerhouse group entertains as well as moves their loyal crowds.

There is a lot more going on during the week as well.  chef Siggi Helga from Grillið restaurant is flying to Boston to create a three course Icelandic dinner at The Merchant with the help of American chef, Edwin Morales.  And he’s joined by the mixologist Kári Sigurðsson and by the Merchant’s Bryan Ames using my favorite Icelandic vodka, Reyka Vodka, and the classic Brennivin.  Check out the Taste of Iceland website for menu and pricing.

The first lady of Iceland, Eliza Reid, will be at WBUR, to discuss the attractions and lure of authors to Iceland, as well as talking about famous Icelandic authors and books.  The Brattle theatre will host a viewing of the short film series, Stockfish, a 6 short film series of Icelandic films.  There will be a discussion and display of Icelandic contemporary art at the The Kingston Gallery at SoWa, hosted by Björg Stefánsdóttir

This week is always a lot of fun, and most of it is free to the public.  Check out the Taste of Iceland page for RSVP’s, details, and fun contests they will be having during the week.

 

 

 

 

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Taste of Iceland 2016

It’s time again for the annual Taste of Iceland event here in Boston.  The cultural event that brings a sampling of Icelandic culture to different cities around the United States every year.

Food, film, music and writing are all part of this year’s event.  For us music-minded folks there is a two-fer of sorts.  Along with the Reykjavik calling concert, they are also showing “Rokk I Reykjavik” at the Brattle theatre.

This year’s cuisine event will be held at The Merchant, a great little spot located in the finance district /downtown crossing area.  The Merchant’s chef Matt Foley will collaborate with Thrainn Freyr Vigfússon of LAVA, the Blue Lagoon restaurant in Iceland.  Learn more about the menu here, as with all of the events of Taste of Iceland, it’s highly recommended you reserve your spot sooner than later.

For the literature lovers and writers out there, I suggest you attend “The Write stuff” led by Eliza Reid, a co-founder of Iceland’s writers retreat.  On March 5th, 1:00-2:30pm she will go into the hows and whys of Iceland’s strong written word history at the Barnes and Noble in the Prudential Center.  Also, there will be a lot of great books written by Icelandic authors available for purchase, including Halldór Laxness, and Jon Gnarr.  Learn all about it here

For Film:

rir

Rokk í Reykjavik is playing at the Brattle Theater, March 6th at 3PM!  This documentary is one I suggest everyone watch.  It’s chock-full of music goodies and interviews and concert footage of a lot of classic Icelandic musicians.  You’ll see a lot of the folks you already know, and most likely, you’ll learn about new artists and bands you really should know.  Not only does Boston get treated to this documentary, but Sigtryggur Baldursson, A man who happens to have been in a lot of my favorite classic Icelandic bands including Sugarcubes, Kukl, and Þeyr, will be on hand afterward for a Q&A.  Here’s the band Þeyr doing “Rúdolf” from the Rokk í Reykjavik documentary: 

rceventbriteboston

And now, Reykjavik Calling. On March 5th at 8pm the annual concert at the Middle East will happen.  This concert combines both local Boston bands with Icelandic bands, typically the atmosphere is uplifting, and it feels like a giant party.  This year Boston locals Neme and Adam Ezra Group will play with Axel Flóvent and CeaseTone.  The Concert is free, and I suggest getting there early as it always fills to capacity quickly.

You can see photos of previous Reykjavik Calling’s here.

Nemes

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From Boston, Nemes is an indie folk-ish band, with high energy and excitability their charm comes in exciting crowds a mix of folk, country and rock.

Axel Flóvent

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In excellent contrast, Axel Flóvent from Iceland will be there.  Calming, mellow and harmonic music reminiscent of Nick Cave.  I’ve seen him live a few times up in Iceland, and it’s difficult not to get sucked into the music.  He’s one of the great new exports of the Island and it’s rare I find folks who dislike him.

the Adam Ezra Group

adam-ezra

Also from Boston, the Adam Ezra Group will be performing.  Boston is famous for large bands, groups of friends getting together to make great music.  Adam Ezra Group certainly fits the bill.  a great group of folks churning out good ole rock and roll.

CeaseTone

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And last, certainly not least CeaseTone will be here.  CeaseTone is just as much about guitars and rock as electronics, expertly combining the two creating great music.  Another band I’m looking forward to seeing here in Boston.

It’s going to be a great couple of days here in Boston.  I highly suggest you RSVP on Facebook or the Taste of Iceland website, as things fill up quickly and sell out every year.

I asked CeaseTone the standard 4 questions, and Hafsteinn Þráinsson was kind enough to answer:

  1.  What’s your favorite place in Iceland to play:  A place called Húrra!
  2. What is you or the band’s favorite color:  Deep Blue
  3. What are 3 of your favorite little known bands of Icelandic origin:  In The Company Of Men, Gangly, Muck and soo many others
  4. If you could be any creature playing your favorite song, what would the creature be? And what is the song:  Do you mean favorite song in general or with the band? If in general I’d like to be Yoda rapping “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” by Kendrick Lamar.  If with the band I’d like to be Gandalf The White playing “Full circle”

See you there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Eyed Pop, a book review

bep

Broadening the scope of the blog I suppose, I’m writing a book review.  It’s a book on Icelandic music written by a musician who is active and has been in the Icelandic scene for over 30 years.  So it’s not too far out of scope.

Blue eyed pop is a historical look at the pop music scene of Iceland.  Named after The Sugarcubes song it begins in the early 1900’s and treks across the beginning of Iceland’s love affair with music up to it’s present day music madness.  From the 25 wax cylinders Icelanders listened to for years to the hundreds of original bands that call the little island home, the book meanders through the short, but action packed Icelandic musical history, giving the reader plenty of photos along the way.

While there are plenty of books, interviews and summations of the globally famous Icelandic bands, this is the first I’ve encountered where that history is told with character, and from the perspective of another Icelandic musician, one who has been at his craft for over 3 decades.  There are so many insider stories and funny tidbits about not only Icelandic bands, but bands such as Yes, Led Zeppelin and Donna Summers.  Bands you would never associate with Iceland, but all at one point were somewhat influenced by the little island that straddles two continents.

drgunni

Dr. Gunni is no stranger to writing about music.  He’s been in the scene for over 30 years, playing his first gig in 1980 to now currently working on an adult-ish children’s album, Al-Heimur-inn.   A pop-quiz TV host, DJ and author of multiple historical accounts of Iceland’s music scene, he’s perfectly fit to write the first English account of Iceland’s Pop musical history.

In 2012, Dr. Gunni wrote Stuð vors lands.  Blue eyed pop is derived from this book, focusing more on the pop aspect.  As much as I’d love to go through chapter by chapter and give the good bits.  I think I’ll just stick to an overview, as I could never do Dr. Gunni’s writing justice.

photo

Fans at a Kinks concert in Iceland

The global music scene realized well before the rest of us the potential and creative eagerness Icelanders have.

Bands such as The Kinks, Zeppelin, and The Who all beat us to Iceland to tour, listen and appreciate what Icelandic musicians had to offer.  Even Disco was influenced by Icelanders who wrote for Donna Summers as well as other famous US acts of the time.

Björk gardening while writing and recording music

Björk gardening while writing and recording music

Trekking through the histories of bands popular not only to Iceland, but the rest of the world such as The Sugarcubes, Sigur Rós and even newer bands like Of Monsters and Men, the book gives the reader a better appreciation of these artists and their music.

From a pre-adolescent  Björk, telling an interviewer she may never repeat the recording process again upon completing her first recording session, to a rather kinky magazine cover shoot of Sigur Rós in dresses and bondage gear, the reader becomes aware of the Icelandic ability to work hard and yet have fun at the same time.

This book is a must for anyone who appreciates the history of music.  Even moreso, if you are a fan of Iceland and it’s people, as through the book you truly get a sense of the Icelandic culture and personality that has seen their work ethic and dedication to life help them survive over the years.

You can order the book here, Learn more about Dr. Gunni and follow his blog here.  Dr. Gunni put together a set of playlists to accompany the book, sorted by decades here.  And there’s a great interview between him and Hauker S. Magnusson on the Grapevine website.

Dr. Gunni was nice enough to answer my slightly modified 4 questions here:

1. In all your years of playing, what is your favorite Icelandic venue or festival? Iceland Airwaves is by far the bestest thing ever to happend on the local scene. I do not have a favorite venue, but I guess playing Harpa is quit nice, even though I haven’t played there yet!

2. Combine all your favorite colors, what do you get?  Some kind of disgusting grey.

3. Name 3 little known Icelandic bands we should get to know. Taugadeildin were a more poppy Joy Division with an EP out in 1981. Ævintýri were a hard rocking unit that used to be a bubblegum band. The rock version Ævintýri only managed to get one 7″ out in 1971 but later they evolved into Svanfríður. Dj Flugvél og Geimskip is this girl Steinunn Harðardóttir doing out of this world spacy fun art music on a brand new album called Glamúr í geimnum (Glamour in Space).

4. If you could be any animal playing any song, what are you, and what song?  A walrus playing Beatles’ I am the walrus, obviously.

All photos were taken from Dr. Gunni’s book.