Friday started with the very bad news that Lee had to get home in an emergency. Once the swift arrangements had been made and I’d taken him off to the bus station it was time to meet with fellow bloggers Bob, Wim, Elly & Katie for the so called “brunch of legends” - an excuse to catch-up and chat and gossip about this lovely little scene we’ve all somehow ended up a part of. Clearly the B in this brunch stood for booze, and there was no hint of food happening, so once we emptied onto the street and into the rain (again), food was high on the agenda. Noticing that cool French electro dudes were about to play in Hresso we headed there. It turned out that this was a dj set rather than a ‘performance’ but it was pleasant background music for a large and lamby burger. It was also around this time that we received ‘word’ from ‘the man’ that there was to be a rather exciting and (kind of) secret performance by the doubly marvellous Reykajvik! and FM Belfast after the afternoon screening of Backyard up at the Bío Paradis cinema.
Until that time I had a whistle-stop hour visiting three different off-venue shows. Firstly, I couldn’t resist the chance to see Pascal Pinon (right) again, who were great in the intimate Eymundsson bookshop on Skólavörðustígur. Then, swiftly up the road to 12 Tonar to look in (from the outside) at a packed gig by Canadian electro artist Diamond Rings, which sounded fabulous. Finally, another bookshop set - this time at Bókabúð Máls og Menningar featuring the well-named and great-sounding and really wonderful vocals of trio Reptile & Retard who were certainly giving it there all in this cute bookstore.
Then to the cinema to find that not only Reykajvik! (above) were, as rumoured, setting up for their set but also I found excellent Brazilian dude, Elzio, who I hadn’t seen since last year’s Airwaves. Needless to say, I absolutely loved seeing two of my favourite bands in this small space. Reykajvik! were as great and loud and passionate as ever, the new songs were again my highlights. This was my first look at FM Belfast (below) this year, I know they’ve been busy touring around Europe and even in this small space, unsuited to live dance music, they excelled and showed the confidence of another year’s touring. A couple of new songs were thrown in, assuring us all that they weren’t to be a one album wonder. Their show was dynamic and interactive, as it needed to be to work in that space. If they were pulling out a show this good in this cinema foyer, what on earth were they going to do in Nasa on Sunday night? An incredible hour spent in the company of two of the best bands Iceland has to offer, and a perfect distillation of why I and many others keep coming back year after year.
Friday night started with a bang, well not literally a bang – more an onslaught of really loud music. Standing at the front of Iðno, on the right, next to the massive speaker may have been a mistake for The Vandelles set. This was fuzzy guitar rock, kind of like The Raveonettes and perhaps Iceland’s own Singapore Sling. I liked it they sounded good, they looked good and they rocked hard. It was sweaty work in a venue as consistently hot as anything in Iceland. But I was mainly here in order to bag a good spot to see Mugison, always around the top of my must-see list. Mugison started off as playing electronically driven folky tunes before becoming a all out guitar rock God. His Iceland Airwaves 2010 slot was a perfect coming together of both styles. He was backed by a rock band (featuring Petur Ben as ever on guitar) but also had his self-designed instrument (the mugifone?) which added electronic noise to the classic rock line-up. At various times he was joined by the singer from Dr Spock who spat and shouted his way around the stage and by a choir of young women, who did neither of those things when they joined on the set closer. All the popular songs were accompanied by mass singalongs, especially Mugiboogie, Murr Murr and the rousing Sweetest Melody – I’m not sure why Mugison ended up in this relatively small venue, he clearly retains a large and loud following here.
I headed out of Iðno buzzing after that performance. I popped in on two shows, Nolo in Venue and Prinspóló in Amsterdam, which were both fine – I enjoyed Prinspóló a lot more than on Wednesday. Next I wanted to watch Dikta play in the Art Museum, something I also did last year. Dikta are the kind of band, I must admit, that probably wouldn’t get my attention were they not from Iceland. But they are, so there I was. This is evidently a band on top of their particular game – the Art Museum was packed and noisy s Dikta turned out soft indie rock with sweeping, singable choruses – the locals loved it, and it was impressive how they filled this cavernous (relatively) venue with noise much more than many larger overseas acts I have seen there.
I left half way through the set to do a little more venue hopping. Firstly I went to see Me, The Slumbering Napoleon in Amsterdam (I like this venue a lot). I saw the band last year as well and they were good once more, clearly fans of Hendrix, they do it well. After that I was intrigued enough to go back to the Art Museum to see what Everything Everything were like. They’ve had a lot of radio play and hype in the UK so this seemed like a chance to have a look. Unfortunately for some reason there was a frustratingly long wait for them to come on stage and the large crowd were pretty restless. Nevertheless as the lights finally dropped there was a huge cheer. I’m afraid I left after two songs, I found the voice vaguely irritating (much more so than on record) and I decided my time was better spent elsewhere.
Back to Amsterdam again to have a look at The Caterpillarmen (great name) . People in there were loving this lot and their prog-rock influences, and the singers marvellous hair. They were fun, and better than what I had just come from. Next up was Hafdis Huld (above) in Risið, having seen Hafdis several times last year this was my only chance to see her this year. As ever I found her an engaging, cuter than cute performer with some really excellent songs. Most of this set came from her latest, second, album and as with the previous night it was a real shame that Risið was so sparsely populated. I headed straight of the road to have a look at Hurts, another much hyped UK band. They were such a contrast to Everything Everything. I was really surprised with how much I enjoyed the performance, and the clearly fabulous set of tunes they're packing - yes, they could hardly be more "eighties" but so what, I had enormous fun, everyone was singing and smiling. Hurts (photo, right, from grapevine) were loud and technically very good indeed. They were having fun, interacting and seemed (convincingly) to be really pleased to be in Reykjavik.
I did leave this one slightly before the end but this was no reflection on Hurts, this was because I wanted to be sure of getting a good spot to see Nóra at Iðno. Nóra have been getting a lot of good local press for their debut album and having enjoyed that a lot I was really keen to see them. Iðno was comfortably full and the band clearly do have a loyal local following. I had no idea what they even looked like before they ambled onto the stage. There’s a lot of them (6 or 7?) and I must admit I’m over the sight of kids wearing bow ties and cardigans (!), but I can’t fault the way they sounded at all. They played the vast majority of the album, it all sounded great (highlights were Haeðir, Skóflaðu Mér and especially the wonderful Bólaheiðfall) and was really well received – this is a gentle, well-put together folky brand of indie music, the two main voices complement each other very well. This is the best new Icelandic band I’ve seen in 2010. A fabulous end to a musical feast of a day.