Saturday, October 21st, 2006:
Yogurt takes precedence alongside the blue lagoon. Cheers!
Skyr. Iceland has, quite possibly, the world's best yogurt. It is superlatively delicious; it deserves a write-up. Called "Skyr," this thick, goopy treat was my main source of everything throughout the weekend, as tubs were cheaper than all other food on the island. Regardless of flavor – be it berry this, vanilla that, or a combination of the two - this yogurt was the secret fuel that ignited heaps of energy despite a serious lack of sleep.
Blue Lagoon :: Iceland
But I digress, as Saturday began with a trip to Iceland's famous Blue Lagoon. With images of Brooke Shields dancing alongside Islands and Go! Team melodies, I boarded a bus for the Blue Lagoon, a natural hot spring forty minutes outside of Reykjavik dubbed as the world's best hangover cure. Imagine a lunar landscape, bubbling in permafrost and subtle inclines boasting a natural hot spring complete with geyser, massage waterfall, fully functional spa, a world-class DJ, and free drinks. After two hours of paddling, relaxing, and smearing Icelandic silicon mud on my face, it was back on the bus, viscerally refreshed, for the penultimate night of the festival.
Right after the bus returned, a small group of musicians, press, and fans headed over to one of Iceland's oldest churches for a special performance from Johann Johannsson, which was the best performance of the weekend. Johannsson is a member of the Apparat Organ Quartet, Iceland's answer to Apocalyptica and his solo work, complete with myriad synthesizers and a baroque-era classical string quartet, materialized the beauty of Iceland in music. Sometimes ethereal, windy, and full of fog and other times clear, moody, and eye-opening, Johannsson's cinematic soundscapes, abetted by the pristine acoustics of the century-old church and ingenuous arrangement, was transcendent. Each note resembled Iceland's inspiring landscape, from mountainous glaciers to deeply crusted fjords, through diminished chord progressions and tasteful samples. Truly revolutionary.
Apparat Organ Quartet :: Iceland
Back to the grind. Airwaves was oscillating as I strolled through a brisk wind to Nasa for Walter Meego, an electronic trance trio from Chicago. Yielding a guitar, bass, and loads of electronic gadgetry, Walter Meego drenched vociferous dance beats of Daft Punk in dashes of rock and metal, creating a climactic blend of peak-and-valley trance akin to Particle or Concentric. Yet another explorative find. Following Walter Meego was Fields, a UK-based quintet shrouded in artsy rock. Loud and crass, Fields experimented with the UK sound – disorganized, wildly distorted, and drunkenly artistic – throughout an hour's jaunt into hipsterism, attitude, and sonic pretension. Not for me, but Iceland surely lapped it up.
Fields :: Iceland
Onto the Brazilian Girls, the festival's main headliner. Nasa was as packed as Gaukkurinn was for Wolf Parade, creating an atmosphere of sweat, rather than excitement. Emerging from backstage in a garbage bag that gave way to a glittering dress crammed in full sequins reminiscent of an ice princess, lead singer Sabina Sciubba was as sensual and entrancing as the band's moniker, but busyness once again overtook the experience, prompting a quick escape to yet another venue, the National Theatre Basement for Swedish troubadour Jens Lekman and another set from Patrick Watson.
It was packed. Lekman was unfortunately finishing up as we arrived, enabling me to weasel in towards the backstage area for Watson. Once again, Watson and company were fantastic, exploring the hidden bridge between The Arcade Fire and Coldplay throughout their set, as eclectic improvisation flirted consistently with tonal, high-pitched Brit-pop. "Giver" and "Weight of the World," off his debut album, highlighted the set, as the ninety-minute evening finale left everyone dancing, from Wolf Parade to Islands, members of Apparat Organ Quartet and Mates of State. Thankfully, Patrick Watson played once more. Onto tomorrow.
Sunday, October 22nd, 2006:
Goodbye my love, goodbye...
The unofficial end of Iceland Airwaves was yesterday, but one venue still had a slew of bands scheduled to perform, including a set from Patrick Watson and several Icelandic bands. After a day sightseeing around the country exploring the "Golden Circle," a triage of tourist hotspots outside the city consisting of a waterfall, a geyser, and the site of the world's first parliament, I settled into Guakkurinn for the long-awaited send-off. The venue was empty by festival standards or packed by normal standards as Patrick Watson emerged for the third time this weekend. Inviting members of Islands on stage with him to add percussion, bass clarinet, and more bass, Watson and the band once again worked through their catalogue in fine form, this time adding an acoustic number minus amplification and an Erik Satie cover into the mix. Following Watson, the festival concluded with what is sure to be Iceland's next international export, Reykjavik's Ultra Mega Techno Band Steven. "UMTBS" for short is a group of teenagers destined for ultra-mega-techno stardom. Not exactly a live techno band as rock and metal influences peered in and out of their trashy, electrifying sound, UMTBS is part Kraftwerk, part At The Drive-In, and all genius, exemplifying what live music symbolizes by smashing synthesizers, cymbals, and beers conjunctly amidst blindingly tight musicianship. Equal to – albeit different from – Johan Johannsson's performance, UMTBS was as good as it gets, even though their parents were waiting to pick them up afterwards. Fucking ace; Sid Vicious would have signed them after two songs.
Sometime :: Iceland
Early Monday Morning; 3am-ish, October 23rd, 2006:
Sitting on top of the world...
The airport is forty-five minutes outside of Reykjavik, and in order to catch a 4:45am bus to make my 7am flight back to London, I decided that sleep would have to wait. Following UMTBS, I slowly snaked back through the silent streets of Reykjavik, packed my bag at my temporary home, and because there were no taxis available, cut through the frigid night on foot to the bus station. Found my way to the plane, closed my eyes.
Eyes open. I am back at Stansted, it is bright, sunny, and twelve degrees outside. I wished it was colder. I wished I was back in the arctic. I wish I was back in Iceland.
JamBase | Reykjavik
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