Our five hour flight from Newark arrived this morning at around 7 AM. The area around the airport seemed practically untouched and the sun did not proceed to rise until 9 AM. We are north indeed. We took an hour bus ride from the airport to Reykjavík, where we are staying for the next week.
The town is small but beautiful, located along the ocean. The sky was overcast but it was actually pretty warm. We spend the day exploring the city; finding good places to eat (yummy hot dogs!), drink coffee, and buy records. It is crazy how in 24 hours you can seem to orient yourself pretty well for somewhere you had never been yesterday.
After a long morning on our feet, we ended up going for a swim at the Sundhöll bathhouse. Icelanders go swimming a lot, actually. They are completely comfortable with their bodies, which is why as you are about to enter the pool, it is mandatory you shower with soap (separated by gender) in the nude. Some Americans are not comfortable with this idea. A little girl in the locker room told us, “There’s no reason to be shy!” And for that she’s right. We all are beautiful human beings.
This first evening of Iceland Airwaves, Mani Orrason played a nice show at Harpa Silfurberg at 8 PM. He had a good sized crowd, bringing in a little more than half capacity. For the half hour performance, he opened and closed with songs from his recently released album, Repeating Patterns. However, the majority of the rest of the songs were actually new things he has been working on, such as the song “Blue Fire.” As a singer-songwriter, in his recent album it was clear he was dabbling in different genres trying to get a feel for where he belonged. Hearing some of his new pieces tonight, it is obvious he is going in the direction of the more traditional folk singer-songwriter vibe and leaving behind some of his experiments in electronic. His voice sounded as good as on record, however the solo guitarist in his band seemed to overpower him a bit on stage. He was more enthusiastic with his chords than with his words. Towards the end of the set, he covered a Bruce Springsteen song, which was an interesting choice. It seemed to work for him, however he put himself down a bit by asking the crowd if it had been boring. Considering this performance was something he has been looking forward to for a while as well as his young age, he did well with his first Iceland Airwaves performance.
Shortly after, the line into Húrra Bar stretched down the street waiting to see Sturla Atlas at 9:20 PM. Clearly a popular artist, Sturla Atlas far exceeded expectations. Húrra was the perfect intimate bar to see the popular hip-hop artist, packed full with people from side to side and front to back. All of the members of the band brought a crazy and wonderful energy to the stage which bled straight into the crowd. Not only did they seem stoked to be on stage and perform, everyone in the room seemed completely stoked to see them there. Besides the basics of getting people to feel the music run through them, the crowd had unifying moments from jumping when the beat dropped to bringing everyone down towards the floor.
A few minutes after midnight, Retro Stefson took the stage at NASA. The seven piece alternative dance band brought out a huge crowd, packing NASA full. Their set was almost an hour long, being the closing artist of the night. The show started fantastic, and only got better. Practically every single person in the room was dancing, clapping, and singing with the band. The interaction between the artists and the crowd was fabulous. The music never stopped. Everyone got grooving to the electro-disco music. With a few solos from different members as well as vocals that switched between members, there was not a dull moment. As the clock neared one there was a stage dive, which really got the crowd excited. But even better than that, the crowd was split into two down the middle of the floor for a dance competition.