And then it is boring again. It almost feels like playing a show with my old band, somewhere in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Everything is just concrete, multi-laned roads and petrol stations, and you just wait, walking around in absolute nothingness, waiting for the thirty or sixty minutes on stage, waiting to explode and finally do something, waiting to show the people something you are good at and why you came to their place. But for Kai and me, Reykjavik does not offer this outlet.
After a hung-overed Sunday spent watching DVD’s and sleeping, we were quite confident that the contacts we made in advance, mostly via email and per Kai’s previous visit in April, would get us off the ground quite quickly and put us in contact with interview partners very soon. But our well full of contacts had run dry. Most responses were “give me a call”, but after calling the couple of Icelanders who had given us their phone-numbers to no avail, we were feeling bleak. The only fruitful contact had been made with Haukur, guitar player and singer in Reykajvik!, and editor of the Reykjavik Grapevine, who told us he’d organise a meeting with his band. But we had heard nothing of him for two days, so on a sunny Monday morning in the capital of Iceland we did not know what to do.
We decided to max the tourist cards we had received from the tourist office and to give some museums a go, and in true Sonic-Iceland-walking-style headed off to the 871 +/-2 archeology-exhibition, walked around the harbour to the maritime museum and finally settled for a coffee in Cafe Paris on sunny Austurvöllur-square. Just walking around downtown we passed new mayor Jón Gnarr and Georg Hólm of Sigur Rós, and probably another cohort of musicians and artists that we did not recognise (yet). As, after returning to headquarters, no further interview-confirmations had trickled in, we set for another walk around the university and towards the sea, which the tourist map of Reykjavik confirms as “very romantic”. Not that you get the wrong impression about the relationship in Sonic Iceland, but at that stage we were pretty bored and needed something to do, and drinking beer seemed not to be the appropriate thing at the time. The part of our neighbourhood Vesturbær near the ocean is… pretty, but does resemble your typical, orderly neighbourhood with elderly ladies taking their dog for a walk while their husbands water the lawn, so the two tourists from Germany and Ireland felt a bit displaced. At least Kai could take some pictures.
The area we walked through when returning to the city (around the Radisson Saga Hotel) even resembled socialist Germany pre-reunion. Cheery buildings made of precast concrete slabs, a lonely petrol station and no glacier or volcano to be seen anywhere. While sitting at dinner downtown later, we finally received a phone call from Haukur, who invited us to join the band at their rehearsal space. Due to some misunderstandings on the phone we started walking to the rehearsal space of the band, only to find ourselves in a seemingly deserted part of the harbour, surrounded by closed supermarkets and storage depots. After some inaccurate walking we finally heard the typical, muffled sound of drums and had reached our destination: a rehearsal space-building right at the water, where over 20 Icelandic Bands rehearse, as we found out.
After the interview, we are invited to attend the rehearsal and enjoy the very loud output of the Reykjavik!-boys. I tried to record a couple of songs, but my trusted interview-recorder is not set up for the loudness of the band. Jet engine, anyone?
We walked home towards the Sonic Iceland-headquarter (as we were calling our apartment) in a very elated mood. Our interview with Bloodgroup felt a bit awkward and clumsy, but the chat with Reykjavik! touched some of the main questions we wanted to talk about: the perception of Icelandic music abroad, and what it’s like to play and tour in Iceland. Suddenly the grey buildings in the harbour did not look as gloomy as they did an hour ago.
It’s time so learn and see something about the history of Iceland
Travel: Reykjavík Museums
If you are remotely interested in Icelandic history and arts, and find yourself looking for a place to escape either the bitter cold in winter or lashing rain in summer, go and spend some time in a museum in Reykjavik. City centre is virtually plastered with museums, and you can reach most by foot, and most are in close proximity to each other. Admission is free with the Reykjavik tourist card in almost every museum in town. Some museums we visited include:
Reykjavík 871 +/-2
The Settlement Exhibition is an interactive display of the foundations of a Viking house that dates from 871 A. D., roughly. It sits in a nondescript building around the corner of the town hall and has a small shop. And one thousand year old peat on display.
The Reykjavik Maritime Museum is located directly at the harbour, and has – despite a recent modernisation – the appeal of a village museum, completely with mannequins wearing traditional garb and fake dried fish. Or maybe just very old dried fish. The most interesting part of the exhibition is the the Coast Guard Ship Óðinn, a veteran of the Cod Wars that saw action against the British in the North Atlantic. Was out of bounds when we wanted to visit, though. The museum comes with a cafe attached, but we can recommend a coffee in the traditional coffee shop from the 50s next door, almost a museum in itself.