Young Blood

I don’t normally put pictures of other people’s kids on the internet, but these pictures are three years old and these boys are probably big enough to beat you up by now. At Eistnaflug in 2014, this group of kids was always hanging around the venue – sometimes sneaking inside it, too, since the festival was still 18+ back then.

In the documentary Eistnaflug DVD, they talk about how the festival has introduced a generation of small-town kids to heavy music, and I remember people talking about some local boys who had formed a band called Blodstafir in tribute to Iceland’s famous export band Solstafir. At the time, I wondered if it was the same group I’d seen recklessly skating in front of the venue, looking like they’d ride straight into the water of the fjord at the bottom of the hill.

I imagine that if I go back to the festival in Neskaupstadur in a couple of years, I’ll look up at the stage and find out.

A Bookish Saga

On my first trip to Iceland, I naively bragged that I had read all the sagas. My listener was too polite to do more than quirk an eyebrow. Of course, I had not read all the sagas. I had read that giant paperback Penguin Classics Deluxe collection, The Sagas of Icelanders, plus The Saga of Burnt Njál. At the time, I didn’t know that more was possible.

For English speakers outside of academia, the ten sagas and assorted short stories of the Penguin compilation remains definitive. But there is another. Continue reading

Spice of Life

At my first Eistnaflug (2014) REYKJAVÍKURDÆTUR was a stand-out act for me. They were one of the only bands I interviewed (unfortunately I never found an outlet for that interview – I should probably post it here one of these days). I probably would have been taken with the band regardless of the circumstances of discovery, because they are doing something quite new and original. But I think their feminist hip-hop, rapped in Icelandic, stood out all the more for being surrounded by the testosterone-laden atmosphere of a metal and punk festival.

I’ve noticed that my favorite shows at festivals are often the ones that don’t conform to the format. I like the rock bands at folksy Doe Bay Fest, the metal bands at Bumbershoot. Maybe the other acts blend together in the memory while the misfits stand out.

I once interviewed Gudny, the woman who booked Eistnaflug for many years, and she commented on how important it was to add stylistic variety to the line-up, even for a festival with as specific a focus as Eistnaflug. She said the oddball acts serve as a palate cleanser. Like smelling coffee beans when sampling perfume, or sorbet at a tasting menu, electronica between metal bands or metal between pop sets clear the head. “No matter how you love it,” she said, “You can’t just listen to one thing for three solid days.”

Drummer

I recently was in a conversation with a woman whose husband was in a career transition. He wasn’t making the effort to get his new business started that she expected when she okayed the decision to quit his day job, and she was getting really frustrated. I joked, “Yeah, you married an artist not a drummer!”

“He does play drums!” she wailed.

Oops.

So maybe there is a basis to the drummer stereotypes. Certainly a good drummer is hard to find. I interviewed a lot of Airwaves acts in 2012 on my first trip to Iceland. The search for a good drummer was a common theme in those interviews. One person said that for all the musicians in Iceland, there were only about 30 really good drummers. This is one of them.

Raggi Sverrisson is one of the best drummers I’ve ever heard. A former bandmate claims he can sustain 240 beats per minute with metronomic accuracy and anyone who listens to his bands play can hear the difference a really consistent drummer makes. I think I saw him perform with four different bands at Eistnaflug 2014. I really liked Azoic and Ophidian I, but Beneath is the band I’ve listened to the most. The internet tells me Raggi is no longer with Beneath, and that’s a crying shame, because a good drummer is hard to find.

https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=3663616409/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

 

Records and Guesthouse

I can’t make it to Eistnaflug this year, but as the festival approaches, my thoughts wander to East Iceland. The tiny town of Eistnaflug has one record store – it’s a pretty good one, especially considering the size and isolation of the town. Upstairs is an apartment where press stays during the festival. I got to pass for press the first time I attended the festival, and met quite a few writers whose work I follow and respect, as well as some folks from record labels that have absorbed significant funds from my bank account over the years. I am quite fond of this little metal building in a remote Nordic fjord.

Rethinking the Blue Lagoon

The first time I went to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon was during Airwaves 2012. I entered on a press pass and listened to DJs while I soaked in the milky blue water, surrounded by lava rock. It was so cold and windy that day they couldn’t keep the water warm enough, but I stuck it out long enough to get a drink from the swim-up bar and experience each of the pool’s special features – waterfall, sauna, silica face mask. I concluded the Blue Lagoon was cool, but overpriced and over-hyped. Despite the pretty setting, the difference from normal Icelandic swimming pools didn’t justify the price.

Still, when I brought my whole family to Iceland this April, it felt obligatory. And now I’ve had to rethink my opinion. Continue reading