When the Sigur Rós show ended, I drifted like a dust mote, following the crowd of thousands walking back to the 101. Outside, everyone stopped to stare at the sky. The Northern lights danced as a meteor shower sent dozens of shining white falling stars through the green waves.
No. That didn’t really happen. But it should have. It would have been more fitting and less incongruent than the stream of pedestrians flowing down Laugavegur, chatting inanely. Walking alone with a mind like a blown transformer, I picked up bits of conversations that clusters of people dropped as they passed by me.
“Excuse me, are you from Iceland? What did he say that one time when he talked?”
“Oh, he said, ‘This is a new song. So don’t be surprised if we fuck it up.”
“Do you think we should stop at the Blue Lagoon on the way back to the airport tomorrow?”
“I don’t know, what time would we need to catch a shuttle? Do you think the hotel can arrange it for us?”
“Yeah, but we’ll probably have to go ahead. The rest of the guys don’t seem to be willing to get up early for anything.”
“Did you hear that one time when his voice went up really high, and then it changed and almost disappeared and went even higher? Was that on purpose?”
“Oh look, Chinese food. Do you want to stop? I’m starving.”
“No, let’s hold out for hot dogs. There’s got to be a stand somewhere on the way back. I want one more Icelandic hot dog before I go home.”
“Yeah, I heard them mess up that one time. But I don’t care, man. It’s fucking Sigur Rós. They’re still awesome.”
Although Sigur Rós were the festival headliners, there were still more shows on the schedule, and two of them were bands I really liked: Skálmöld and Momentum. Before the concert, I couldn’t decide if I would go to the post-Sigur Rós shows. Sigur Rós was the kind show that you want to end on, and I had already seen both bands. But they were both so good, and who knew when I’d get another chance. I never really made the decision; I just kept walking past the hostel.
With my blistered feet and aggravated ankle, it took me almost an hour to walk from the stadium to the bar where Skálmöld were playing, and when I got there they were already on stage. This little pub show was quite a contrast from the big stage show at Harpa, but if anything, Skálmöld seemed to be even more at home here. Their show at Harpa could have roused the Viking hordes to battle, but tonight it was drinking beer among brothers along the benches in the great hall, and it was perfect for evaporating the lonesome feeling.
I got right up front because I could, took a few photos, and lost my lens cap. Pretty soon my feet gave out, and with a slight sense of shame, I took a seat at a table in the back, and put my swollen foot up on another chair. The off-venue set was shorter than the one at Harpa, and I had missed the beginning, so it ended all too soon.
I struck up a conversation with the woman next to me, who, it turned out, had bailed on the Sigur Rós concert at 8:00. I found myself walking a fine line as I tried to express sympathy for her view that bands shouldn’t leave fans waiting an hour after showtime without so much as a roadie saying, “Sorry folks, we’re a bit delayed,” (an opinion I do share) while still impressing upon her the magnitude of her mistake in giving up on one of the best shows I’d ever seen.
While the guys from Skálmöld hung out in the crowd, another band took the stage. I recognized the bass player from Agent Fresco on keys. They were nothing like Momentum, and not much like Agent Fresco, but they were as fun as Skálmöld, in an indie, punk kind of way. They would have made a great double bill with Reykjavík!. It was a bummer to have to sit through a show that really demanded jumping around, but I enjoyed being able to see above the roiling crowd. When they finished, I looked them up while waiting for Momentum. The band was Ultra Mega Technobandið Stefán, and they were the last show on the schedule. Staff began cleaning up the bar just as I saw on the schedule that Momentum had just finished their show across the street at Amsterdam. I reminded myself of my promise not to regret missing a show when the one I did see was good. Tired, sore and From Finner happy, I hobbled down the stairs to the street.
Airwaves 12 was over. Without even realizing it, I had watched the last show of the festival, accidentally missing a band that I loved, but discovering another cool one in the process. Somehow, that seemed fitting.
Standing by myself on a freezing street corner in downtown Reykjavík at 1 o’clock on a Monday morning felt pretty lonely. And I felt something else I hadn’t really felt in a while – hungry. For most of the trip, I’d loaded up on skyr for breakfast and, between excitement and busy schedule, usually forgotten to eat the rest of the day. But now I was starving and remembered that I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast Sunday except a piece of apple cake at the coffee shop at the Ylja show twelve hours earlier.
I looked up. Across the street, a hot dog stand was bustling. Tired, hungry, and slightly nihilistic, I thought, “What the fuck,” and joined the queue.
The actual hot dog stand where I fell off the wagon.*
“One with everything, please.”
As the man behind the window spread mayonnaise, mustard, and crispy onion bits on my dog, I asked, “So what kind of animal is an Icelandic hot dog?”
“Beef, lamb, and pork.”
“Oh. Well, I guess if you’re going to break 20 years as a vegetarian, you might as well eat all the animals.”
A chorus of approval from the line behind me assured me the Icelandic hot dog was the meat to fall off the wagon for.
Eating as I walked, I tried to figure out what the big deal was. It tasted just like the Oscar Mayer hot dogs I remembered from childhood. Feeling a little queasy, I crawled into my bunk at the hostel and dreamed of shooting stars.
*Note: I found this photo of the actual hot dog stand where I fell off the wagon here, where I also discovered that the hot dog I ate was a meal called brinner.