So on Friday, in a continuation of the French Spring festival, I went to the Nouvelle Vague concert down at Hafnarhúsið (the harbor house, AKA Reykjavík Art Museum). It's a smallish venue with lots of lobby space and a well-organized ticketing process, so there was no standing around outside, no rushing the doors, or any of the usual concertgoing mania one gets when Not In Reykjavík. In fact, the only line I stood in was the line for my free beer. Although I'm sure the price was built into the ticket, it was so unexpected (FREE BOOZE! Are we still in Iceland?) that everyone started the evening off with that frisson of joy that free stuff gives you. Plus, when it's an audience of Icelanders, it does take a while to loosen them up for the clapping, the swaying, and sing-along, even when regaled with Latin American syncopation.
The crowd was Pretty People Reykjavík- lots of suits, lots of edgy and expensive glasses frames, lots of carefully styled disheveled hair on the women, and square jaws, dewy lips, and high cheekbones everywhere. Pleasant crowd-watching for sure. We situated ourselves at the perfect acoustic distance from the speakers, at a place where I could see through all the very tall people in the audience (even with heels making me about 5'11", I felt short there).
I'd only heard three songs by the group, and I don't know any of the band member's names, so like usual when I go to concerts here, I had no idea what I was in for. Adventures at every turn! Anyway, the group came out almost perfectly punctually (no opening act)- two female singers who I'll call by their dresses: sparkly and fringy, a guitarist, a bass player (the classical kind), keyboards, and percussion.
For the uninitiated, this is basically a cover band, playing songs by Blondie, Billy Idol, the Specials, the Clash, and a slew of others. They've Done Stuff to all of them, so for some people this is probably scandalous. However, when they're sung by a beguiling befringed babe with arm movements reminiscent of the illustrations of the famous 19th century singer Yvette Guilbert, it's hard to be angry.
They may have been borrowed tunes, but "Dancing with myself" done as a 30's jazz club ditty is actually pretty cool, and the two singers both had fascinating voices. Fringy had pipes like Janis Joplin crossed with a vintage singer that should have been draped across a piano, and Sparkly was husky, personal, and full of emotion. When they sang together it was another feeling altogether. They were fun to watch too, and actually looked like they were actually enjoying performing themselves (the glasses of what I am pretty sure was wine probably helped a bit too).
The rest of the group was equally entertaining. I couldn't see much of the keyboardist and his Mac thanks to Mr. Viking Banker in front of me, but the Brazilian flavors of the percussionist were catchy, and the bass player's one moment of glory was very moving. Plus, his red cowboy shirt was scorchingly awesome.
We managed to clap and stomp and "meira" our way to two encores, but the gig was up after only 2 hours, which caused another concertgoer to grumble that even concerts on Tuesdays didn't end so early. It did mean that the night was plenty young enough for a round of drinks up the hill at b5, where about half the place was carrying the bags from the CD sale table at the concert.
The other half was busy being beautiful or, in typical Reykavík fashion, watching or playing the chess game that was going on at the long table next to us. Yep, one of the style hound bars of Reykjavík, on a clear Friday evening, contains people playing games of strategy over beer. And there you have it. Friday to Saturday in our fair city.