09 January 2006

Confetti on the floor

There is confetti everywhere in the house today because we were against the barriers in the front of the stórtónleikar yesterday when they popped the confetti charges at the end of the show. It was a benefit concert for the Icelandic environment and featured a staggering number of performers, for a dizzying 6 hours of who's-who of Icelandic music, and thanks to my newly established Flickr account, the links in the blog are finally my own photos. Last night was a chill evening, full of swirling snow as we stood in line, and when we got in, instead of milling about and looking at t-shirts we went straight to the front, where in predictable Iceland fashion, ran into some people we knew. The hall filled quickly, and unlike the Sigur Rós concert, was almost entirely Icelanders, and mostly in their teens.

After a peculiar theatrical performance and lots of graphics of waterfalls, the concert began with an Icelandic guitar guy (I forget who he was-- help me out local readers!) We were there with friends, one of whom said his music was "good for boring parties". Still, it was a good opening act, and prepared us well for the next performer, our own neighbor Björk. Clad in green satin with a waist-length sparkly necklace and sequinned tights, she took off her red lace-up boots immediately to perform barefoot. Her only accompaniment was a harp, and half the time she sang acapella. I've never heard her live but the experience was unforgettable- her voice has amazing feeling, and she does all these crazy things with the hand not holding the microphone. Plus, the green glitter eyeshadow was fabulous.

I can't remember who was next, but we saw Múm, last seen in Boston at the MFA with a pile of Bostonian hipsters. They had added a choir of local people playing handbells and adding "ooooo"s in a few songs. After them came Sigur Rós, who only played one song. Seeing them up close was cool though- we could see the interactions between the members and the expressions on their faces as they played.

I think the next act was Magga Stína, who was all kinds of crazy with her rock violin, her white feather boa tied around her waist, the accountant accordion-man dressed in the tie, vest, and nerd specs, and the sitar-playing 60's guy. After that was a group called Rass (ass), dressed in wifebeaters and white-trash sunglasses. They would have been somewhat forgettable, in spite of the costumes, had our former upstairs neighbor not appeared on the edge of the stage. He was shepherding his group of gradeschool-aged brass players, all dressed in band uniforms that were too big for them. Of course, we had to yell his name and he gave us a wave.

Right about here, things started to get long, and this blog entry starts to become a list! There were a bunch of Icelandic bands that were basically the same two or three guys that would come out in different outfits, playing some kind of metal/rock. There was the shirtless/pink lycra tights/leopard platforms variation, complete with a ski-mask-wearing glove-throwing singer, a business suit getup, and I think one other version. Damien Rice played and made all the girls sigh and was impossible to photograph, but his bass player was a character. Damon Albarn sang a special just-for-last-night song about aluminum that the audience all sang along to, and Mugison sang along with Hjálmar.

By now, the crowd was getting a bit weary, and some people had decided to go. The two people standing next to us left, and four 15 year-old girls crowded in next to us, backed by a posse of boys that were huge metal fans, apparently. They got a little mosh-y during the metal stuff, with lots of headbanging, shirt removal, pumping fists, and gnarly faces. If it had gone on long it would have gotten annoying, but their enthusiasm and "nobody understands me but the metal-playing band" attitude was entertaining, at least for one song. If it had gone on much longer, we would have left, and missed the pinnacle of the evening for many of the kids around us, the arrival of...

Bubbi konungurinn (Bubbi, the king!), as the kids were yelling all around us. I know my American readers are doing a bit of a headscratch now, but this guy is HUGE in Iceland, like Elvis and the Beatles together. His band, Ego, hasn't played together in years, but everyone knows his songs, and he's made a continued name for himself as one of the judges for the Icelandic Idol show. His stage presence verged on aerobics instructor with lots of "see how sproingy my sneakers are" jumping and a skintight blue shirt. During the second song, the security guards in the gap between us and the stage cleared all the photographers out of the space and set up the charges, which we thought were going to be fireworks, given the time of year and the ongoing enthusiasm for fireworks here. After the last song, the hall went totally black and the charges popped. In the dark it seemed like we were getting showered with ash, sparks, fallout of fireworks, or something, but when the lights came up, we were all covered in confetti.

After the concert, we had discussed going to our favorite dive for beer, but after 6 hours of standing in a close and sweaty embrace with 5000 strangers, all we wanted to do was go home. As we overheard someone else say, "bara heim, bara bjór" (home, beer).

In that last photo you can see another noteable feature of the evening. J's hat, bought at the Geysir gift shop, was much loved by the photographers in front of us. I think every photographer we saw that night took a picture of it. Today we hurriedly flipped through all the newspapers that were published today, but only one had a photo of anything about the concert, and there were no articles. Maybe on Monday.

All in all, an astounding evening, and something that will be hard to top. It was an excellent crash-course in Icelandic music, and we were so close that I might recognise some of these people if I ran into them on the street. It's Iceland- it just might happen. Next up will be a coffee morning at our place with Björk attending.

Ship sighting: Bet you thought I wouldn't add this on such a long blog, huh? Today I saw Akrafell from the living room window, fully loaded with cargo and on the way to the dock. Later in the day, J and I went to IKEA (new stools! neat!) and I saw the Samskip dock where they were busy unloading the containers. Thanks to my new photo uploading, you can also see what the harbor looked like at Christmas, and also why I am always going on about boats. This is the view from our balcony, so I can sit and watch all the boats come and go all day long. I would also like to mention that this view, five minutes after this photo was taken, was a furious snowstorm. It only lasted 5 minutes and then it was sunny again. Ahh, Icelandic weather.

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