Tag Archives: live music

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
IA17 imxfacebook grapevinelogo

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

touring

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.

icelandicpunk

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.

Lucky

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.

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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.

SRNOLA

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

olofgus

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.

Ojba Rasta

ojba

Iceland is a little island straddling two continents somewhat isolated from the rest of the world. So it’s diversity in musical style always amazes me. Ojba Rasta is rooted in reggae definitely, but there are a lot of influences and alternating vibes in their music. And since the band has enough members to populate a small Icelandic village, it’s no surprise to find elements of funk, rock, dub and electro intertwined in the upbeat core of their music.

Formed around 2009 the band began as a 10 piece, but as things happen, they now have 11 members that make up their reggae stew including an organ, multiple guitars, bass, trumpets, a saxaphone, and of course, a dub-master.

Jolly good is probably their most famous track outside of Iceland. It’s one of the few tracks sung in English and shows off their ability to mix different styles into a very smooth feel good piece, though I do find it highly suspect that the lead singer is a little white girl.  On their Soundcloud page you can find two more songs by the band.

Being a large band full of interesting characters, Ojba Rasta always put a good show on and have a knack for entertaining the crowd not only with music, but their attitudes and interactions as well.  Once again, I’ve uncovered proof of such a statement thanks to KEXP.  This is a video of their gig at last year’s Airwaves festival at the Kex Hostel.:

Ojba Rasta have released a self titled full length album, of which the three tracks on Soundcloud do indeed reside.  If you are located outside of the states, you can pick up the album on Gogoyoko here.  Otherwise it’s available on Amazon or iTunes.  They are working on a second album slated for a 2013 release, and plan to tour in Germany after Airwaves 2013.  You can check out their Facebook page here.

Very chill, and one of the best ways to relax during a hectic gig schedule at Airwaves.  I highly suggest you check them out.  And yup yup, the band answered my 4 questions, here they be:

1.  What is your favorite off-venue Airwaves, or Icelandic joint to jam at? At Airwaves 2012 we only played one off-venue gig and it was at the Kex hostel. The concert was broadcasted live from KEXP Radio and the footage was sweet. The weather was crazy that day in Iceland and in the U.S. We loved the whole expierence… We also love playing at Nasa and Faktorý. (I’ve included the video above)

2. If you combine all of your favorite colors (for you, add your bandmates if you would), what do you get?  Neon sea flaming blue/green.

3. What are 3 of your favorite little known bands of Icelandic origin?  Mmm….Tough question.. maybe: Amaba Dama, Nolo and Boogie Trouble.

4. If you could be any creature playing your favorite song, what would the creature be? And what is the song?  It would have to be a lion playing Iron Lion Zion by Bob Marley or maybe a black panther playing Rock & Roll Suicide by David Bowie.