After almost eight hours on a plane and even more time spent in the airport, my class finally arrived in Iceland. It wasn’t really a long flight, less than six hours in the air between New Jersey and the airport just outside of Reykjavík, but it was made so much longer by the fact that I didn’t sleep at all. But as I walked out of the terminal and took my first-ever steps outside of the United States, sleep was the last thing on my mind (well, maybe not the last thing). Soon after our plane landed and my classmates and I did some shopping around the airport, we headed out into the freezing cold and onto a shuttle bus that took us into Reykjavík and to our hotel right in the heart of the city. We spent most of our day today finding our way around Reykjavík, visiting all of the Iceland Airwaves venues we’ll be reviewing bands in over the next few nights. We ate hot dogs at the famous Baejarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand, listened to an organ player at the Hallgrímskirkja church, and went swimming at a popular Reykjavík Sundhöllin swimming pool. As I’m typing this blog, I’m barely thinking about the fact that I haven’t slept a wink since 6 am Tuesday morning back home in Chicago. All I can think about is waking up tomorrow and setting off to explore again.
RED BARNETT @ HARPA KALDALÓN:
Red Barnett is a classically-trained composer and a four-time Icelandic Music Award nominee. Red Barnett’s on-stage performance was a bit of a draw, being made up of just Red Barnett himself to him plus a 10-piece band. Last night at Harpa Kaldalón for the first
night of Iceland Airwaves, Barnett brought his entire orchestra. A keyboard player, drummer, two guitar players, two backup singers, and a string quartet made up his band. The beginning of his 5-song set list was all guitar and drums. The volume of the instruments completely drowned out Barnett’s voice. By the time Red Barnett got to the title track of his latest album Shine, the volume seemed to be fixed and the group’s catchy and soothing vocals were finally put forward. Red Barnett’s song “My Island” was by far a favorite of the performances caught tonight. The song gave a sort of celtic vibe, especially at the beginning with the guitars and sounds from the keyboard. The song sounded like it was written by Phil Collins for a Disney movie. The violins in the string quartet, drums, keyboard, and vocals combined perfectly to create a beautiful, emotional song.
HIDE YOUR KIDS @ HARPA NORÐURLJÓS:
Hide Your Kids is a group of Icelandic kids in their 20s making feel good, alternative rock music. Imagine Arctic Monkeys meets Two Door Cinema Club. Last night at Harpa Norðurljós, Hide Your Kids’ lead singer Daníel Jón delivered powerful vocals. The way his accent came through as he sang gave this band something unique. This band has serious potential to be big worldwide. Jón was timid on stage but just funny enough to come off as cool and approachable. Their live show was a little lacking because the only band member that moved around much was the guitar player and even he stood still for the most part. Their light show didn’t do anything for them in terms of making the stage more interesting but when the music’s good, it doesn’t always matter how the band moves. If you can make the audience move, that may be all that matters.
FURA @ HARPA KALDALÓN:
FURA are an electronic-pop trio from Iceland and Denmark. Their new album FURA was released in Iceland just three days ago. FURA’s lead singer Björt Sigfinnsdóttir said on stage last night that the Iceland Airwaves show was the first live performance the band has done since drummer Emil Vissing and guitarist Troels Hodlt joined the group. The line outside of Kaldalón before FURA’s performance was probably 50 or more people long and inside the venue, there were few empty seats left when the show ended and after sitting through the performance, it was easy to see why. Despite a slight hiccup during the first song where it appeared Sigfinnsdóttir’s microphone wasn’t working properly, the show was really great. The electronic beats in all of FURA’s songs were catchy, danceable, and original.