As Saturday rolled into Sunday, I was upstairs at Harpa for my third Ásgeir Trausti set. I don’t want to say too much about it, because I think I need a separate post to explain why I’m not an Ásgeir Trausti stalker. But this was, I think, his biggest show of Airwaves, where the folky songs held up to the full Peter Gabriel treatment. It was also the set where I made my peace with “Leyndarmál.” I never thought the song fit well on the album, and was surprised when I got to Iceland and found out it was the big single. But at the Harpa show, where the electro part of Ásgeir Trausti’s electro-folk was emphasized, it made a lot more sense.
Next up, Valdimar at Iðno. Valdimar was one of the first Icelandic pop bands I discovered. I stumbled on their gogoyoko page in March and was so excited I wrote a post about them for Three Imaginary Girls. But my enthusiasm stores were getting low by 1 am on Airwaves Sunday, and a pair of frost giants were dancing right in front of me so that I spent half the show worried about getting squashed. Eventually I moved to the back for my own safety, just in time to not be able to see the band play their big single. It still sounded great though, and I think Valdimar did an Icelandic version of “Lady in Red” which was pretty cool. But in the end, I think I like his side-project Eldar better. Eldar’s stripped-down country style showcases Valdimar’s angelic voice in a way that really appeals to me.
Like a weary soldier, I marched to Gamli Gaukurinn to check out Momentum. I really just wanted to go to bed, but too many people had told me not to miss this band. Dutifully, I headed upstairs where the set had already started, and what do you know? Surprising new music can give you a second wind at 2 am on a Sunday morning!
I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe Momentum for a couple weeks now, and I still don’t have good words for it. It sounds like metal – at least the music uses metal sounds – but it doesn’t go where you expect. And I’m not just talking about the structures, even the riffs are unsettling. Listening to Momentum was a little bit like trying to walk in an earthquake. The ground just doesn’t stay put. And it was so much fun! Even though the small bar wasn’t full, they had the most enthusiastic metal audience I had seen all week. Members of Sólstafir and Kontinuum were in the crowd. The set list seemed to be subject to negotiation, and at one point members of the audience (including one from the band Plastic Gods) commandeered the mic to sing along.
Afterwards, everyone stuck around and the atmosphere shifted from show to party. I met a woman from Finland who was traveling alone to watch metal bands at an indie festival and stressing about finding souvenirs for her two kids. As the bar closed, the party moved to Reykjavík’s famous Bar 11.
Inside, Bar 11 was packed tighter than any of the shows I’d been to. The personal space that Icelanders usually protect so carefully was completely gone and it was hard to move through the packed crowd. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was blasting on the speakers, and people were actually singing along. For about three minutes, I thought it was 1992. I remembered that Ásgeir Trausti was such a Nirvana fan he spent his first day in Seattle on a pilgrimage to Cobain’s house, and Beneath’s Ragnar told me grunge was the reason he started playing drums. Seattle and Reykjavík may be the only two places where people still remember that musical moment. Apparently grunge thrives in dark, wet places.
By the time I got back to the hostel and climbed into my bunk, the last one of six, it was after 4 o’clock. So there was something else that hadn’t happened since 1992.