Tag Archives: sigur ros

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.

srlighting

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.

 

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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.

Sigur Rós in New Orleans

SR

Here we go Sigur Rós in New Orleans.  For me, gig number 3 of this tour, gig number 123 for the band,  This tour has really been exciting for me, having been to every tour they’ve done stateside since 2002, and catching them at Airwaves last year, the new catalog of songs mixed with the occasional old track really have brought back that old time excitement.

georg

Many factors made me question how the concert was going to turn out.  It had been raining buckets earlier in the day, and with temps in the upper 80’s the afternoon felt like a sauna.  Also, we were two days away from Tropical Storm Karen’s appearance so the wind and weather were unpredictable.  But as the evening rolled around the weather mellowed out and it turned out to be a fantastic night for an outdoor gig, with only a sprinkle of moisture towards the end.

The band came out, and with a lot of action from the fog machines, began the show.  Even with a smaller than usual backdrop, and playing to a concrete jungle surrounded by sports paraphernalia, the band squashed any concern one may have had, and did I mention they did it with fog?

jonsi

Julianna Barwick opened the concert, which sadly due to pre-concert logistics I missed.  But after a brief wait Jónsi, Georg, Orri, Kjartan(Holm), óbó and the Okkr Ensemble took the stage.  Even with the standard set list, every Sigur Rós show is slightly different.  They feed off the crowd, and it’s rare to find someone who isn’t captivated by some part of the concert.

I was glad to hear Rafstramur added into the mix and as is typical with Sigur Rós tracks, the live version breathed it’s own fire and was it’s own beast.  Festival is a track everyone should experience more than once.  The first time you hear it you will feel entranced and will focus all your attention forward as it comes to it’s climatic point.  The second or third time, you get to watch others experience it for their first.  It truly is an incredible song to experience live.

The set list was:

Yfirborð  Ξ Brennisteinn Ξ Vaka Ξ Glósóli Ξ Hrafntinna Ξ Stormur Ξ Saeglopur

orri

varuð Ξ Hoppí + Með Blóð Ξ Rafstraumur Ξ Kveikur Ξ Festival Ξ Popplagið

As if there isn’t enough intensity from the music alone, the band’s visual team never fail.  Even with a smaller screen in New Orleans, the vivid cinematography combined with intricate interactions to the stage lights and  band themselves really help deliver an all encompassing experience.  It’s only fitting that the team recently won the Knights of Illumination award for best lighting and video.  Sarah Hopper and Damian Hale have created backdrops of strangers on a mountain signalling to the lights surrounding the band, nuclear missile explosions, strobing lighthouses, serene oceanic scenes, and close-ups of the band members themselves jamming away, all mixing with Bruno Poet’s lighting show.  The imagery is never overpowering, but synced perfectly with the music enhancing the experience, and these guys truly deserve that award.

Another great tour, and they continue to prove they are a band everyone should, needs to see once in their lives.  I highly suggest seeing them this tour as you never know when they’ll be back.  All photos on this page were taken by me, if you’d like to see others, they are located on my Flickr Account, here for the New Orleans gig, and Here for the Boston/New York concert.

Sigur Rós on the East Coast


I’ve seen Sigur Rós play a small bar in Park city Utah with half of us listening while the other half gawked at the Sundance celebrities. To now, their biggest show at Madison Square Garden. I’ve seen them in multiple countries more times than probably healthy and they’ve yet to disappoint.

 
 

The first of my two gigs this go around was in New York at Madison Square Garden.  MSG was exciting, as there was new stuff and new versions of old stuff. It was fresh and-just out-of-the-package for me. That old excitement and experience that creates über-fans was mine for the taking, and take it I did.  I was smiling ear to ear when Hrafntinna began, and really beaming when it ended, thinking, “this is it.. the new Sigur Rós, and it’s good, really really good.”

 
 
 
 

The new material is Heavier; gritty, dark, and raw. It’s rather aggressive and full of energy, yet it still has a very ethereal aura about it. And yes, it’s almost as difficult to describe as it is to read that first sentence, it’s much better heard than read about. The gig left me extremely excited to get the new album and hear the rest. I was lucky enough to see and hear Brennisteinn at it’s debut in Iceland, and at both gigs this go around. Here is the official video for it:

setlist

 

The Boston show was also great, pretty much if not, the same playlist as the MSG show.  And while there were no lasers at the Boston show the vocals seemed stronger and more clear and there were less technical glitches, aside from the drum mic that blew up. It was a pleasant surprise to hear festival at both shows, as it was rumored we wouldn’t hear it. And of course popplagið ended both shows.

 
 
For this tour, Jónsi, Georg and Orri are accompanied by an outfit called the Okkr Ensemble. As hard as I’ve tried, I’ve found little information on them, the Okkr Ensemble consists of Sigrún Jónsdóttir on Trombone, Ingrid Karlsdóttir on Viola, Guðbjörg Hlín Guðmundsdóttir (Guggy) and Laufey Jensdóttir with Violins, Eirikur Orri Ólafsson on Trumpet and Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir with the French Horn. Ólafur Björn Ólafsson (Óbó) and Kjartan Holm also join the band as multi-tasking instrumentalists, Óbó primarily on the keys, and Kjartan on guitar.

The stage matches the liveliness of the individual songs, sometimes it’s just three spotlights highlighting the band and other times it’s a large concave screen that hangs permanently above the band interacting with the lights on stage, or showing scenes from old music videos, fireworks, or stars.

Sigur Rós is definitely one of the top bands I recommend people see no matter what they think of the albums. So much time is spent into perfecting the audio/visual display, and they have an incredible ability to pull you in with the emotion and energy flowing from their stage. If you haven’t seen them in a while you need to go see the new show as the new material really creates a shiny fresh energy felt throughout both old and new songs. I certainly experienced that old “YASSSS!” Feeling of old. Adding to my renewed sense of awe, I took a friend who had never seen them to the New York concert and got to witness her first time excitement. “They are really REALLY Fucking good.” was her quote in fact.

I took the photos above, there are more here if you’d like to browse, and of course you can find out more information on tour dates here. You can stream pretty much all of their albums almost anywhere, though I always suggest you check out Gogoyoko. And they are on Instagram, Facebook, and most likely Myspace.

Iceland Airwaves 2012

On a tiny island bridging two continents a festival occurs every year.  Bands, fans and puffins from all over the globe take over the tiny town of Reykjavik to blast away the cold with beats, guitars and alcohol.  This was my 4th year attending Iceland Airwaves, and even with the hurricane winds making a guest appearance it was another successful year.  I try to see at least 6 bands a day when I go, and while the evenings are dedicated to my favorite bands, day time goes to bands I don’t know, or visiting friends.

Airwaves is unlike most festivals.  The gigs are held in different venues around the city, so while it is a festival, you still get the feeling of pub gigs and concerts.   And with so many bands going on at different times, you get to see some impressive bands up close and personal.  As there were so many bands, I am foregoing the normal link to individual songs and sites, there will be a playlist in Gogoyoko with all the bands if you are interested.

First night of Airwaves landed on Halloween.  This by far is my favorite holiday of the year, in fact one of the few I happily celebrate so of course a costume was in order.  My luggage consisted of a small amount of clothes, Root Beer for my friend Dr. Gunni, and of course, this:

Yes, I was Chewbacca for Halloween.  My wonderful friend Alison was Princess Leia and we attended the FM Belfast gig at KEX, as well as a few bands at Bar 11 before heading to Gabríel.  We stood front and center for Gabríel, and it was entertaining to watch them try to perform while avoiding looking directly at the Wookiee.  To be honest, I thought many times about wearing the Wookiee costume the rest of Airwaves as outside it was heavenly warm.

A college friend of mine and her husband joined me on Thursday, they had to detour to London and back to Iceland due to the hurricane and missed the first night but we started off the day with coffee and more off-venue shows.  My goal was to hit at least 6 shows a day, these guys didn’t slow me down a bit.  And even though they made me break my sacred rule of no food, just Vodka after 6, we were able to stay out until early morning every night, and for the most part still get up early enough to enjoy the day.

I also was able to spend quality time with some of my Iceland friends, coffee’s and house visits abound.  This trip was my favorite so far as I got more of a homey feeling on the island, in fact it wasn’t until I was leaving that I realized I barely had taken any photos.

my favorite gigs of this year had to be Apparat Organ Quartet, and of course the Sigur Ros show at the end of the festival.  I am going to write on Apparat Organ Quartet later, but even with only 4 of the 5 musicians present, they did a fantastic job.  My friend and her husband had never heard of them before, and the look of satisfaction on their faces when it was over made the gig that much better.  They truly do put on an amazing show and I hope they make it stateside sooner than later.

As for Sigur Rós, I have seen them countless times in a lot of different settings, from little bars in Park City to massive arenas here in Boston, they have always played outstanding shows, but this show was the best performance I’ve seen since 2008.  They appeared to really up the ante in their home country.  Part of enjoying Sigur Rós is the uniqueness and new-ness they bring to the table.  The quality of the show made another first for my friend even better, and the new song gave me the chance to experience that new-ness again, I’m really excited with the direction they are taking and looking forward to the 2013 tour


I also was able to spend some time with Dr. Gunni.  He’s kind of a jack-of-all trades in the Icelandic music world.  My first contact with him was years ago when he worked at Smekkleysa.  At that time  he did the job of sending me the Icelandic music my store in Utah sold.  I actually met him face to face 3 years ago at Airwaves, and I stalk him on Facebook as any “normal” person would do.

This year he released a very well put together, cool book on the history of Icelandic music.  For now the book is in Icelandic but I was able to get a copy and I love the way it’s put together.  I’m also very flattered as he used a quote from a Facebook note I had written in a very delayed, very groggy state at an airport a while ago on why I loved Icelandic music and the musicians so much.  Here is a photo of the book:

if you search the archives of the grapevine website, you will find some English translated entries of his from an old History of Icelandic music book he wrote years ago.  If you speak Icelandic, or can deal with horrific google translated text here is his blog.  Again, another Icelander who takes pride in what he does, and has an incredibly humble and strong work ethic.

overall this was a fantastic Iceland Airwaves and I look forward to another fantastic one next year.  I’ve listed below the most notable acts that I saw by the days that I saw them.  You can get to the playlist here at Gogoyoko.  My next artist review will be Lay Low and hopefully it happens a little quicker than the last.

Wed:  Apparat Organ QuartetSteindór AndersenGabríel / Sin Fang /

Thur:  Ólafur Arnalds / Echo Vamper / Sudden Weather Change / Ewert and Two Dragons

Fri: WoodpigeonSin FangApparat Organ Quartet (full show) / Nico Muhly / Ben Frost

Sat:  Rico’s Band / Rökkurró / Epic Rain / GhostigitalÆla / Gus Gus / Sykur

Sun:  Sigur Rós