(With apologies to Monty Python and to Finland) – There is something about Iceland that seems to get under peoples’ skins. Aside from my own experience of nearly moving here (long story), and all the other Iceland-obsessives that I have met in the last 2 years, it’s happening to the bands too.
Cheek Mountain Thief is Mike from Tunng‘s new project (very new – tonight’s set was their debut performance). I’d not realised till I got there that he’s now moved to Iceland (to the north, near the Cheek Mountains – well that’s what they’re called if you translate the Icelandic), and I’d not realised until I heard him explain at his Nasa gig last night that he’d only decided to move since playing Airwaves for the first time last year with Tunng. I knew exactly what this overwhelming sense of Iceland turning your world upside down felt like, but I also felt a pang of envy that he’d just gone and done it, and seemed to be so at home. Oh and I loved his band too – intense, more folky than Tunng but just as eclectic. And wearing fabulous woolly snood things.
British label Bella Union is also here curating one of the stages at Harpa, which is where we headed next, for bluesy rocky ballsy beardy Mugison and for Ólöf Arnalds‘ beautiful voice. I follow Bella Union’s Simon on Twitter, and it seems he’s been hit by Icelanditis as well – checking my stream late last night had several updates from him explaining how much he’d like to move here (and that’s after just 36 hours in the country apparently). I hear ya sir, and feel your pain!
But back to Mugison, who was even more fun than I remembered, with a drummer that could easily have taken centre stage too. I wanted to see Ólöf Arnalds too, partly because I’m a bit rubbish and tend to overlook singer-songwriters, even if they are amazing, but also because my friend Klara was singing with her. Klara came on stage after 3 songs, looking gorgeously va va voom, but it was their duet of Mr Tambourine Man, a song they sang together when growing up, that blew me away - Ólöf has a typically stunning glacially Icelandic voice as it is, but with Klara’s voice added the sound was like the most exquisite bells driving through your soul that completely took me by surprise.
As you might have gathered by now we are ones for variety so, news of violence in the queue for tUnE-yArDs we unfortunately avoided Nasa and headed for that must-see Reykjavik rock experience, Reykjavik! in a small dingy bar. Reykjavik! are loud, shouty, fast, but so much fun, and singer Boas regularly climbs into and onto the crowd and anything else he can get his hands on, while guitarist Haukur banters with crowd, offering them free vodka tonight if they know the words to one of the songs. Fun and sweat quota for tonight achieved. YES.