In direct contrast to the Wednesday evening, yesterday was pretty faultless in terms of the music. It started on exactly the right foot when I headed in to the Laundromat Cafe for breakfast, and my highlight of the night before, Amabadama, were playing an off-venue gig in there. Of course this delayed an already late breakfast by at least another half hour, but I shall not hold that against them. Besides, the vegan toast I eventually ate was well worth the wait.
The afternoon was mostly taken up with speed dating. Not the romantic kind, but with artists, agents and managers pitching their music to me in quick 10 minute sessions. It was a great chance to meet some locals and gain a better insight into the music scene here in Iceland. Not to mention picking up plenty of Icelandic music along the way. As well as the scheduled meetings, I got to chat to a few other artists who were hanging out in the venue, and this led me to go and check out Mr Silla in the Geysir clothing store, after meeting singer Sigurlaug (aka Mr Silla) and guitarist Tyler.
Although a clothing shop is not my favourite environment to see a gig by a long shot, I was glad I made it. Her music has a reflective and powerfully delicate electronic style that suits the type of tunes you would hear in one of our Chrome Kids podcasts, and she has a beautiful voice to match.
Just before this gig, I headed down to Lucky Records for a gig by Epic Rain. My last meeting had been about the band and I’d already arranged to meet a friend from Cardiff there. Their style is Anticon-esque Hip-hop with elements of Blues, Dark Folk and Twisted Cabaret. There’s poetry in the rhymes and I love the style but something doesn’t quite hit home for me. Still, if that musical blend sounds appealing, it’s certainly worth checking them out.
I don’t think I fully appreciated before, exactly how much of the city is taken up by the festival. There is music everywhere and I love it! I pass a shop window with a band trying to be heard but they’re fighting a losing battle as another shop over the road has a speaker blasting them out. I head there instead and just catch the end of Stafrænn Hákon. They sound fantastic, but I only managed to catch the last couple of minutes so I’m not really qualified to judge on that one.
At least them finishing gives me the chance to see the young band over the road, who turn out to be brilliant. I’m aware that by going to so many gigs on my own, I lose a lot of the wider context, both musically and culturally. If someone takes you to a gig they generally fill you in on the details and make sense of the sounds you’re hearing. This makes it much easier to write about bands, otherwise I get stuck talking about their ‘youthful exuberance’ or something, which these guys did have plenty of to be fair. Besides this is a blog not a magazine and I never claimed to be a journalist, just a music lover. So if I want to simply say that a band was ‘brilliant’ or ‘great’ I blooming well can. Milkhouse were great and I’d happily purchase their music to listen to at home.
As a newly inducted member of the meat and dairy free brigade, I need to give an honourable mention to my next meal at a restaurant called Glo. You get a choice of 3 salads and a main. I went for a sweet potato, a beetroot and a rocket salad with their raw lasagne and it was an absolute pleasure to be vegan in that moment. Highly recommend it for anyone, whatever your chosen diet may be.
Back in the main part of the festival schedule and I’m very aware that every changeover period behind bands there’s plenty of Icelandic Trap music, especially Úlfur Úlfur & Kött Grá Pje‘s ‘Brennum Allt‘ which I’ve heard about 4 times since I got here. I even bumped into one of the rappers in the men’s toilets. Not the most Hip-hop of settings and not very conducive to a solid conversation but he did recommend that their gig today in the Reykjavik Art Museum would be the one so I have adjusted my schedule accordingly.
I’d been fed misinformation about the next band from a couple of different sources. I knew that Berndsen‘s music was produced by Hermigervill, a great Icelandic musician I’ve seen a few times in the UK, but the programme stated they were twin brothers, and my good friend Tucker who happens to be Hermigervill’s agent suggested that they were actually one and the same person. Both it appears are wrong, they are definitely two different people and I’m certain (and I’ve been more reliably informed) they’re not twins. However, they are a rather strikingly spectacular sight on stage together and the music is a kind of 80s Sci-Fi Electro Post Punk. They are basically a Mighty Boosh spoof waiting to happen but the crowd love them and so do I.
I’m a sucker for a harp, in the case of the next act the harp is called Ogden. Actually it’s probably more correct to say I’m a sucker for a harp player, especially when she is as talented as Ogden’s mistress, her name is Emilie Kahn. Together they are a spectacular singer / songwriter duo from Montreal (joined by a drummer and guitar player onstage) who make beautiful Folk music that buries deep within and soothes the soul from the inside out. Actually speaking of Montreal, I can’t help but feel that Reykjavik is a rather similar city. I can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it’s just the cold.
Next up I went to see the Samúel Jón Samúelsson Big Band. A large group of local Jazz musicians in psychedelic African clothing playing their hard hitting and funky as hell take on Afrobeat. At one point Samúel picked up a Wok and used it as an instrument, I wholeheartedly approve of this. I think more cooking utensils should be crossing cultural barriers in this way.
Things got even jazzier and more experimental next with Kippi Kaninus, who are essentially an electronic act, with deep Techno beats of various tempos but joined by guitar, bass, drums, percussion and brass which builds some incredibly interesting grooves that sound almost North African at moments. Either way it felt like they were shaking new areas of my brain open which can only be a good thing, and the noises coming from the tuba player were unlike any I’d heard from the instrument before, helped in part with a head mic in his mouth whilst he was playing, and a distortion pedal. There’s an example in this video.
I’d been seriously looking forwards to the final act of the day, LA Priest, who was on directly after Kippi Kaninus. I’d managed to miss him at both Festival Number 6 and Bestival this year and figured this would be my final chance. However, a surprise visit from my good friend Doc, who was out in Iceland on holiday with this Dad, meant my plans were scuppered once again, perhaps it’s not meant to be. Not that I minded in the slightest, it was all pretty amusing. Doc had actually managed to blag his way in to the venue to see me just before Kippi Kaninus started but then decided to head back outside for a cigarette before LA Priest. He wasn’t so lucky the second time and so we decided to take our chances over at the Father John Misty show in the Harpa. This plan proved to be both easier to execute and maybe even more worthwhile. He’s a great performer, perhaps a little Jarvis Cocker like at times, and if soulful Indie-Country music is your thing (I’m not so certain it’s mine but I’m warming to the idea since last night) then he’s probably one of the best I’d say. All in all a good finale for an excellent day of music. Now let’s see what today will bring!