Glaumbar can be a very good concert venue, but it also can totally suck. On this Airwaves Friday I could see both sides of the coin. The small dancefloor in front of the stage and the huge bar in the middle of the room on the one hand evoke a good, lively atmosphere for concerts, because the space in front of the stage gets filled very fast and you pretty soon have a tight crowd. On the other hand – and this should primarily affect the singer-songwriters this evening – the actual size of the room lets people in the back not feel part of the audience, so they start talking and treat Glaumbar as what it was built for: a bar.
I had been lucky enough to be offered a seat by a group of friendly Americans in the front, where I could store my stuff and see the concerts of the night with them from a comfortable position. Getting them to know felt a little easier with a beer and the dirty blues rock of Contalgen Funeral. Not just having nice looks like just arrived here from the ’30s, their songs about dodgy individuals, alcohol, drugs and even more drugs provided the perfect soundtrack to get some beers sitting in a pub and not feeling awkward talking to strangers. The ambient murmur rather fit well to the music than disturbed it.
Unfortunately this was different when singer-songwriter Svavar Knútur started playing. His songs rather cautious and low-key, it took a while for people to actually realize that he had started his set, because everyone was still in drinking-mode. He managed to get people to pay attention after a few minutes, however there was still some flurry in the back of the room. This stood out especially annoying during sad and intimate songs like Emotional Anorexic. This took a lot of the emotion that usually reigns in this guy’s gigs. Nonetheless it got a nice concert, first because of Mr. Knúturs ability to engage his audience and second because of the nice idea of bringing a girl’s choir on stage for the last songs of his set, which added great to the music and not at least provided the necessary volume.
The next solo-artist, Kalli, had the same problems with people talking everywhere while playing his heavily Americana influenced songs. This way his nice songwriting disappeared in the constant mumbling. Sad, because he didn’t seem to be an outstanding singer, but his songs definitely would have been worth a closer listen, as I like this pure, earthy old-Springsteen-style stuff.
My tablemates got a little twitchy, as they were here to party – as most of the people in Glaumbar it seemed. Cynic Guru‘s appearance should be a step in the right direction. The band’s folk rock with an obvious hard rock edge in rhythm and heaviness made the first of these guys stand up and dance to it, while the yelling and whistling at the end of the songs didn’t seem outplaced for the first time in the last hour.
In the meantime Glaumbar had also filled up, so that it started to get harder to go for a smoke or catch more beer. Asking people in the audience the evening also approached it’s highlight: Of Monsters And Men. Before that Lára Rúnars was on. Being an entertaining pop singer serving some really neat pop songs, people used her concert as a warm-up for the great finale in terms of dancing and at least moving. From my perspective, even more remarkable was Lára’s band, playing precisely and tight, while appearing sympathetic and authentic, while the singer herself seemed somehow stiff and uninspired in her appearance.
I had seen Of Monsters And Men on exactly the same stage a year before, and not one thing has changed in my opinion that these guys are the best alternative-folk act, Iceland has to offer at the moment. They simply got the sweetest voices, the neatest songs and the best sense for the right details: Their double vocals are truly outstanding and also the trumpet fit again like the dot on the I. Also they have good parts for clapping to confirm my opinion with a killer argument. They are playing Harpa Norðurljós tomorrow night, so do not miss that. Seriously!
After all this was a pretty good evening, especially because the variety of the artists was big enough not to be boring, on the other hand not as random as I experienced it before. Just sad, that some concerts surely would had been better in elsewhere. But that seems to have become my catchphrase this year…