Tag Archives: live music

Sóley, Sin Fang, & Örvar Smárason at Bush Hall march 8th 2018

In 2017 Sóley, Sin Fang, & Örvar Smárason got together and decided to release one song a month for the entire year.  They ended the year with the vinyl, “Team Dreams,” which you can listen to here, and a performance at Sigur Rós’s Norður og Niður festival in Reykjavik.  Us that were not able attend were treated with a great New Year’s gift, as they announced they would be touring around Europe.  I was lucky enough to photograph the concert at Bush Hall in Shepard’s Bush London.

Combining three brilliant musicians can go all sorts of ways, but in typical Iceland fashion their uniqueness blended well, with obvious positive chemistry between all three.  They were slightly nervous as this was the first concert of the tour and only the second time they had played together, and while they kept mentioning this nervousness, it really didn’t show.

If you don’t want to read my babble you can click here to just go to the pics.

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favorite characteristics of Iceland musicians are their ability to remove the 4th wall.  And these three lived up to and surpassed that theory from the absolute beginning charming the audience with jokes, ambitions, and conversation.

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They supported themselves, each artists doing a 20 minute solo set before all joining on stage for the main event.  I had not seen Smárason’s solo material so I was pleased with this surprise.  After briefly chatting with the crowd as he set up apologized as he wasn’t going to chat through his set of ecclectic beats, and creative use of microphones.  He then performed 20 minutes of his new material giving us a preview of his first solo album, “light is liquid” which will be released via Morr Music on May 18th, check out his Facebook page for more details.

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Sin Fang was next, starting off with piano and eventually moving over to guitar a broad span of his catalog.  I’ve been watching Sin Fang since the days of duct taped microphone nests, and he never disappoints.  He even covered “teenage Spaceship” by Smog, which while the audience didn’t seem to know who Smog is, made me really happy.

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After a brief intermission, Sóley came to the stage and proceeded to sing a good amount of material.  She told us stories of chocolate spoons being used to stir things, and mentioned that she would be the queen of the Theremin by next year, I’m holding her to that.

When the trio came on stage they were accompanied by Gylfi Sigurðsson of Retro Stefson fame.  I unfortunately didn’t get a good shot of him, but you can kind of see him in the photo below:

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There is still time to catch them on tour with 5 shows remaining, and I suggest you do,  I certainly wasn’t disappointed and doubt you will be either.  You can find out more about the tour dates, by following them on their individual Facebook pages and Instagram.

tourdates

 

 

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Taste of Iceland, Boston 2018

It’s March, and that means it is time for another Taste of Iceland.  The cultural event that brings things such as Architecture & Design, Literature, Film, Food, and of course, Music from Iceland to different spots around the globe.  This year’s Boston event is March 8th through the 10th, with a Cocktail pre-game on the 7th at Drink.

As this is a music blog I’m going to touch on the music portion of the event, but you can go here for the complete schedule of events, including an Icelandic food menu at Townsman, a special cocktail menu at Beat Brasserie, an exhibit on Iceland’s Design and Architectual scene at the BSA Space, and a short film festival at the Brattle Theatre.

The annual Reykjavik calling concert typically consists of both local and Icelandic musicians.  Each performing a set of material, and sometimes if you’re lucky they will combine efforts for a big finale.  This year Taste of Iceland returns to the Paradise Rock club with JFDR and Sturla Atlas on the Iceland team, and Air traffic Controller for Boston.

JFDR is Jófríður Ákadóttir.  To call her an Icelandic music veteran seems a bit shallow as  not only is she half of the legendary Pascal Pinon, but part of Samaris and Gangly two bands that have really skyrocketed in popularity recently.  She tours a lot and at Iceland Airwaves she is always playing somewhere on any given day making her one of the hardest working musicians out there in my opinion.  Ákadóttir’s music spans genres, complex beats weaving in and out of darkness,  infused with jazz, ambient landscapes, soulful poetry and classical music.

While I love her new album “Brazil” as well as her music videos, nothing quite beats seeing her live.  No matter which bands I’ve seen her in, the emotion and energy she puts into performing entirely fills the space and will leave you in awe.

Sturla Atlas is part of a hip-hop-trip-hop-rap collective in Iceland named the 101 boys.  (101 is the Reykjavik zip code.)  hip-hop heavy, Sturla Atlas brings singing and catchy choruses to his music as well.  Last year Sturla Atlas opened for Justin Bieber up in Iceland at what was slated one of the largest, if not the largest concert in Iceland’s history.

And from Boston, Air Traffic Controller will be on stage.  The name comes when Dave Munro, the lead, would send back demos of his music while serving in the navy.  Known for bringing energy to live gigs, they also have a great music video that was released last year:

These concerts are always fun, and the bands tend to interact and join in on the party with the crowds.  It’s a great way to learn about new bands hear new sounds.  I do suggest you get there earlier than later as I’ve yet been to one that wasn’t booked at capacity and as it’s free, it’s first come first serve.

So get out and enjoy a little Icelandic culture for the week, it is always worth the effort.

 

 

8 Tips for Iceland Airwaves

It’s that time again, time for my favorite festival Iceland Airwaves.  This year they’ve brought back the original feel and are using more independent venues throughout the city.  It means more movement and walking, but also means you get to see a lot of bands in unique spots.  You can learn more about those venues at the Reykjavik Grapevine.

5 days of music spread all over the city can sound intimidating, but if you go in with a game plan and you’re prepared you’ll be amazed at how smooth things will go for you.

I highly suggest you follow these three pages on Social Media.  Iceland Airwaves page will give you the quickest updates and information on bands.  IMX is an awesome source for finding out the history of bands, and they also shoot out information on tours and new music to look for.  And the Reykjavik Grapevine is an English language newspaper, in an informal sometimes snarky manner they discuss the happenings around Iceland and you can gain more knowledge on things to do while you’re visiting.  They typically put out a special Iceland Airwaves edition, as well as run a blog during the festival dedicated to Airwaves.

Iceland Airwaves Iceland Music Reykjavik Grapevine
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And with that, here are some pointers on prepping and enjoying the festival:

  • Follow the three social media sites above for quick access to changing info
  • Be relaxed, flexible, and social
  • Be prepared
  • Be a tourist, in and outside the city
  • Respect the land, yourself, the people, and your fellow festival folks
  • Support the artists, buy their music
  • Food, alcohol and favorite people & places
  • Have fun

Be Relaxed, Be Social

Combining the normal tourist activity with over 7500 festival folks makes Reykjavik a busy busy city.  Relaxation is key to enjoying yourself.  You may have to wait a little longer for drinks/coffee/food/entrance into a venue, so just relax and breath in the fresh air.  Be social, if you’re stuck in a line chances are you’re stuck with people of like mind, so don’t be afraid to ask your queue cohorts why they are there, what bands they’ve seen, who they are going to see and why.  There are quite a few unannounced gigs that will be going on around the city, and being social is the only way you’re going to find out about them.

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dj. flugvél og geimskip surprising the audience by performing with Dr. Gunni at Airwaves 2015

There is a lot of music, a good deal you may have never heard of.  Listening to the Spotify link  and/or checking out the page I’ve created of Icelandic bands playing are both extremely easy ways to begin prepping for the festival, and most likely you’ll find bands you never knew you couldn’t live without hearing live.

The Airwaves crew have done an ace job of making it easy for you to plan ahead and navigate these different venues with an app which is available now.  Make sure you download it so you can start putting together a game plan.  You should always have a plan A and plan B, so if the venue you’re trying to see a gig at is full you can quickly move on to your second choice.  The app will save you a lot of time with maps, time schedules, alerts and reminders of upcoming gigs.  It really will keep you on schedule, or help you alter your schedule in seconds.

Be a tourist, in and out of the city

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Nobody needs to tell you, but Iceland is gorgeous, so make sure you take some time to enjoy it. whether it’s just walking around Reykjavik looking at all the murals and art, or taking daytrips, get out and experience Iceland, there are plenty of options.  Here are a few of my favorites:

IHR

I Heart RVK

I heart Reykjavik is a fantastic walking tour company that will take you around Reykjavik discussing it’s history and unique attributes.

They book up quickly, so I would suggest trying to reserve a spot now.  It’s especially nice during Airwaves as there will be more music in the streets than usual while you walk around learning about old famous hangouts, and the history of the capital city.

otwiOn tour with Ívar is a new walking tour I’m really hoping to make it to this year.  Ívar Pétur is in the legendary party band FM Belfast, and this tour is his way of sharing a local’s perspective.  You’ll see the not well known side of Reykjavik, eat some food, drink some drinks, and hang out with Ívar and friends.  Reviews that I’ve read make it seem more like a day out with your very knowledgeable friends.

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The Icelandic Punk Museum opened last year during Iceland Airwaves with Johnny Rotten in attendance.  Located in an abandoned Women’s public toilet in the center of downtown, the history of punk music is written on the wall in both Iceland and English.  Once entering, you can stroll through the toilet stalls reading a chronological account of the advancement of punk in Iceland.  Written by Dr. Gunni of legendary bands Bless, S.H. Draumer, Unun, and author of Iceland’s most comprehensive English music history book, Blue eyed pop.  Across from the historical toilets are instruments, clothing and other interactive exhibits.  It’s well worth a visit

Also check with your hotels, or the tourist office located in the city center.   there are plenty of day trips to take you to see waterfalls, geysers, and the gorgeous landscapes of Iceland outside of the city.

Respect the island and it will respect you Built on multiple volcanoes with lava in its veins, The island may try to kill you if you give it the chance.  Just be aware of your surroundings, footing, and the weather.  Common sense goes a long way, and Icelanders fully believe folks should use said common sense.  Have a good time not an out of control painful time. There’s a lot to do and even the half day you spend recovering from the night before will result in you missing a lot.

Pay attention to warnings about weather and areas not to tread in.  Unlike the East coast where we cancel school over the mere hint of snow, the Icelanders rarely give out warnings unless they need to.

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Lucky Records

Support the artists, purchase their music while you’re there.  There is a lot of music you won’t find off the island, or if you do it’ll cost crazy shipping.  So purchase it while you’re visiting.  Iceland has some amazing record shops, Lucky Records, 12 Tónar, and Reykjavik Record shop are the ones I’m most familiar with.  All ran by folks who love music, and love talking about music, you’ll also find a lot of off-venue gigs will be at these places.

Food and favorite places.  There are a lot of solid places for quick bites or sit down meals.  And there is the Bónus grocery store in the event you want to grab your own stockpile of munchies.  I tend to go for the lighter side of things such as the Noodle Station or Núðluskálin.  Noodle Station is your quick simple three option noodle place, good for warming you up and filling yer gullet quickly and cheaply.

Núðluskálin gives you more options, including spice level.  “Noodles in a fen number 6” just so happens to be my favorite noodle dish in Iceland and required at least once when I’m visiting.  

Vegetarians and vegans also have quite a few places to check out.  Gló and Kaffi Vinyl are my two favorite places.

For a very quick simple fix, there is also the famous Pylsurs (hot dog).   the famous “Clinton” stand down by the Reykjavik art museum.  Cheap, and they are good. 

Bars are plentiful in the city, and the prices only slightly vary.  There will be bands or DJ’s playing in most of them.  During the week the bars close at 1 or 2am, but on the weekend the bars will be open until 4.   Find a bar with the atmosphere you dig and have at it.  Alcohol purchased at the liquor store is taxed pretty heavily.   I suggest picking up a bottle of wine or spirits at the duty free shop while you wait for your baggage, It will be considerably cheaper that way.

And finally, the most important factor, have fun.  Don’t get too wrapped up in details, maps, or must sees.  You are going to experience one of the most unique festivals in the world, and you’re going to do it with northern lights above your head.  If you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to comment below, or send me a Facebook message at Ragnaarbastiaan. Follow me on Facebook for photos of the festival, as I’ll be up there snapping away.

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.

Sigur Rós at the Saenger Theatre on May 21st, 2017

I flew down to New Orleans to catch Sigur Rós this past weekend.  This particular gig was at the Saenger Theatre on Canal street.  A gorgeous old theatre, the perfect setting for both acts of the concert.

The concert is divided into two acts, the first act consists more of the back catalogue and is darker with more of a subtle use of the rigging and visuals.  Those birds and their geometric trails near the end are amazing.  The second act begins with what seems to be a holographic grainy projection of the band, but is the band behind grid like screen captioned in glowing yellow brackets, the screen lifts and eventually the band returns front stage.

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While there are no backing bands or musicians, the trio still bring an excitingly full gig.  The visual effects combined with the band’s high energy bring on just as intense if not more, Sigur rós experience.

Multiple projectors facing every which way with an LED lighting screen that moves during the show combined with amazing visual artwork and perfectly timed blasts of light all deliver one hell of an intense atmosphere to the already highly emotional music.

At some points you feel as if you’re completely immersed in light, and at other times there seems to be nothing more than a single beam shining down on Jónsi, and the transition is practically seamless.

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My first concert was in Denver in 2002.  The Ogden Theatre probably had seen better days and I was sitting in a rickety chair in the balcony.  I was chatting to the guy next to me beforehand and he seemed uninterested, stating that he was there to appease his girlfriend.  I told him that I loved the music and heard they were great live; neither of us had an idea what was in store.

As the trademark finale Popplagið began its epic build up satellite images rotating in crazy fashion, the climax finally burst punching the crowd with a large dose of sensory overload.  We all jumped to our feet in awe and the guy next to me burst out with “holy fuck, this is insane!” saying what everyone was thinking.

15 years later, as we all stand for that epic buildup with our hands in the air, the novice shock may be gone but it’s always new to someone and it pleases me to no end when I hear their own version of Holy fuck.  You can listen to a Sigur rós all you want, but you will never experience anything like seeing them live, so if you get the opportunity, do so.

 

Icelandic Bands at Iceland Airwaves

Here it is, the 2016 Iceland Airwaves Icelandic musicians page.  I’ve loosely sorted them into categories in the hope that you can quickly reference bands to dig as you explore the many possibilities this year.  On top of the 210 bands performing this year,  Bedroom Community will be celebrating their 10th anniversary as a musician collective in Iceland and I would highly recommend you check that out.  And Airwords is back, the poetry/literature/music event that began in 2013.  All part of Airwaves and all worth checking out.  Also,  you can check out my Tips to get the most out of Iceland Airwaves.

143 of the 210 bands are Icelandic this year and they span the deck in style and genre.  This year, I split them into five categories:

  • Rock / Singer Songwriter / Jazz / Blues / Reggae
  • Pop / Rock / Dance / Electro / Disco / Indie
  • DJ’s / Electronic / Atmospheric / Classical / Composers
  • Heavy Rock / Metal / Hardcore
  • Hip Hop / Rap / R&B Soul

Diversity and genre bending are two things Icelanders are rather good at which makes defining bands a bit difficult, so if you feel a band belongs in a different spot please comment below and I will check it out.

Rock / Singer Songwriter / Jazz / Blues / Reggae
Amabadama Amber Amber Axel Flóvent
Benny Crespo’s Gang CeaseTone DALÍ Dikta
Fufanu Helgi Jons Hinemoa Jónas Sig & Ritvélar framtíðarinnar
Júníus Meyvant Kórus Ljóðfæri Major Pink
Magnús Jóhann Máni Orrason Markús & The Diversion Sessions Moji & the Midnight Sons
Moses Hightower Mr. Silla Myrra Rós Par-Ðar
Pétur Ben Prins Póló Rósa Guðrún Sveinsdóttir Skelkur í bringu
Skrattar Soffía Björg Snorri Helgason Stafrænn Hákon
Stroff Teitur Magnússon Una Stef Valdimar
Ylja
Pop / Rock / Dance / Electro / Disco / Indie
Árstíðir asdfgh AUÐUR AVóKA
Berndsen Boogie Trouble Crystal Breaks Dream Wife
East of my Youth FM Belfast Gangly Glowie
Grúska Babúska Hausar Hildur Himbrimi
JFDR Karó Kiriyama Family Konsolat
Lára Rúnars Milkywhale kreld Lily the kid
múm Of Monsters and Men One week wonder Oyama
Puffin Island Rythmatik RuGL Samaris
Steinar Sóley Sykur Tilbury
Tonik Ensemble Útidúr Vagina Boys Vio
Vök Wesen
DJ’s / Electronic / Atmospheric / Classical / Composers
Ambátt Ayia Bára Gísladóttir Ben Frost
BLKPRTY DJ Yamaho dj. flugvél og geimskip EinarIndra
Futuregrapher Glerakur Halldór Eldjárn Hermigervill
Hugar Iamhelgi Jafet Melge Kosmodod
Kristin Thora Mike Hunt Reptilicus RVK DnB
Sigga Soffía & Jónas Sen Sigrún sxsxsx Tómas Jónsson
Trptych
Hip Hop / Rap / R&B / Soul
Alexander Jarl Aron Can Alvia Islandia B-Ruff
Bróðir BIG Cryptochrome Cyber Emmsjé Gauti
Epic Rain GKR Glacier Mafia Herra Hnetusmjör
Kött Grá Pje Krakk & Spaghettí Landabois Lord Pusswhip
Mælginn Reykjavíkurdætur Rímnaríki Shades of Reykjavik
$igmund Sturla Atlas Þriðja Hæðin Tiny
Úlfur Úlfur Valby Bræður
Heavy Rock / Metal / Hardcore
Auðn Beneath Dimma Dr. Spock
Endless Dark Hatari Kælan Mikla Legend
Mammút Pink Street Boys Singapore Sling SÓLSTAFIR
Tófa

And here is the Spotify playlist, it includes ALL bands playing Iceland Airwaves, not just the Icelandic musicians:

Iceland invasion in Boston, Ólöf Arnalds and GusGus

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There will be two different Icelandic acts performing this weekend in Boston. On Saturday the 11th,  Ólöf Arnalds will be at the Paradise Rock Club for the sold out Jose Gonzalez / Ólöf Arnalds gig, and GusGus will be performing at the Sinclair on Sunday the 12th. Two completely different genres of Icelandic music in one weekend.

Ólöf Arnalds has one of those voices that translates well over many different types of music. She’s a former member of múm and has collaborated with a good deal of the Icelandic musician populace while finding the time to release 3 of her own albums. This video is from her newest album, Palme:

Við og Við is the album that I was introduced to her by, and it’s a sweet traditional album of what I have always felt were folktales. Her newer albums have taken that sweet traditional style and incorporated unique beats and modern sounds creating an individual style of troubadour-ism, and she’s started to sing in English which is good for us poor souls that, try as we might, can’t seem to get the Icelandic language down. I’ve had the opportunity to see her a few times around Iceland and each time felt as if this was a personal gig for friends hanging out, as if she had just shown up with a guitar and wanted to play, catering to the atmosphere of the individual venue she was at.

She’s playing with another talented singer-songwriter named Jose Gonzalez. Of Argentinian descent, Jose was born and grew up in Sweden. There’s a great cross culture of pop, latin, and northern found in his songs.

Ólöf Arnalds comes from a diversely musical family. She’s the cousin of Ólafur Arnalds, and she’s the sister of Klara Arnalds of Boogie Trouble. And as you know, I am a massive fan of Boogie Trouble.  Lucky you if you are going to the gig, it’s going to be a great way to spend a Saturday evening.

GusGus have been around for 20 years now and have 10 albums under their belt, 9 studio albums and one live. It’s an ever evolving beast that has been home for many musicians, including Emilíana Torrini, and Magnús Guðmundsson. It now consists of 3 members, Birgir Þórarinsson, Daniel Ágúst Haraldsson, and Högni Egilsson.

Their albums are all in the wide spectrum of electronic, sometimes moody but mostly energetic tracks that come across well both on album and live. Forever will always hold a special place in my collection, as during the time I lost 200lbs, Forever was one of the most frequently used albums as the beat just happened to run parallel to mine at the gym. While they do have a darker feel occasionally, there’s a high energetic wave-band that flows out of them.

I promise no one will be just standing around Sunday night. I’ve seen them play massive gigs with many people on stage in Iceland as well as dj sets in bar-like atmospheres with only a few of them, and they always put on a fantastic show.

It’s going to be a fantastic weekend of music around Beantown so I suggest you get up and out and do something.  There has been a great deal more of Icelandic bands visiting our city, and I hope it continues as it’s been great seeing these folks off the island.