On Friday of Airwaves, I spent some time writing in the morning, where I overheard others in the hostel reworking their plans because all of the tourist excursions had been cancelled due to heavy winds. I ventured out to go to the media center and find out whether the press tour to Sigur Rós’ recording studio and Halldor Laxness’ house had also been cancelled. The walk that took ten minutes when I picked up my wristband earlier in the week took nearly half an hour this morning. This was partly due to struggling against the wind, and partly due to blocks of Laugavegur being closed while emergency crews cleaned up damage from the pieces of metal roofing and siding that had blown off buildings along the high street.
At the media center, they informed me that the tour was still up in the air, but an email would be forthcoming within the hour. They were not planning to cancel the tour, but since a truck had blown over in the countryside, they were reworking the details. While I waited for my email, I bought a fleece-lined wool hat with earflaps and strings that tied under the chin. It was bright blue and had a tassel, but it was warm even in the wind and couldn’t blow off.
The press tour was rerouted to stay within the city, which meant the primary attractions for me were no longer included. I hesitated for a minute, wondering if some recording studio in the city would replace the tour of Sundlaugin. Then I remembered that I had a personal tour of Greenhouse Studios already, and decided to catch more bands.
Back at KEX, I staked out a good spot hours in advance of Sólstafir’s set. While waiting for Sólstafir, I caught Ojba Rasta, an Icelandic reggae band. I’m not a huge fan of reggae, and Icelandic reggae sounds like a joke, but Ojba Rasta wasn’t funny. They were actually quite good. Birgir Thorgeirsson of Kontinuum had mentioned in our interview that reggae was a trend in Iceland. Bands like Ojba Rasta and Hjálmar (which includes Ásgeir Trausti’s big brother and whose members form most of his backup band when he plays big shows) have put in years of work bringing an authentic, and yet recognizably Icelandic, version of the reggae sound to local audiences.
Next up was Ghostigital. A vehicle for former Sugarcube and current Reykjavík City Councilmember Einar Örn, Ghostigital consists of unhinged, almost spoken-word beatnik-style story poems rapped over infectious beats laid down by (I think) a producer who goes by the name Curver. The performance has to be precisely planned, but comes across as random ramblings so unexpected that it is impossible to describe without making reference to mental illness. Ghostigital was so unexpected and unpredictable, I was left with a goofy grin that I couldn’t wipe off my face for a long time. After the set, Einar Örn gave an interview with DJ Kevin Cole of KEXP in the KEX lobby. You can probably find it in the streaming archive.
Unconcerned with how incredibly uncool it made me, I grabbed a spot by the rail as soon as Ghostigital finished, and refused to leave it for the hour and a half until Sólstafir came on. Since this was an off-venue show for a radio broadcast, and Sólstafir have long songs, the set only consisted of three of them.
“Since the invention of the kiss, there have been five kisses that were rated the most passionate, the most pure. This one left them all behind.” –The Princess Bride
There are some events that change your life forever in a concrete way. You get hit by a car and spend weeks in the hospital, then months on crutches and in physical therapy before walking with a slight limp for the rest of your life and developing arthritis in your thirties. There are others that don’t leave a mark, but you will forever measure your life in terms of “Before” and “After,” because you are not the same person after the experience that you were before. For example, a Low-Dough Show at Moe’s Mo’Roccan Café with Eye Hate God opening for Corrosion of Conformity.
Sólstafir at KEX was another, even though it was short, and lacked the smoke and lights from the night before, and the band were dressed down, and Addi was much more low-key in his presentation. Maybe I was like the bacteria I used to manipulate in the lab, when an electric pulse or a chemical bath would open their cell walls to allow foreign genetic material to enter. Maybe the freezing wind and exposure to such extremes of new music made me more receptive; or maybe just being so close and able to see so clearly made it easier to get caught up in the music. In any case, by the end of the set I was shaking so hard I had to sit down, and the rest of my life will be After I saw Sólstafir play at KEX.