From Iceland — Íslands In A Stream: Live From Reykjavík

Íslands In A Stream: Live From Reykjavík

Íslands In A Stream: Live From Reykjavík

Published December 4, 2021

John Pearson
Photo by
Yael Bar Cohen

Live From Reykjavík—Iceland’s newest live music event—had its second annual outing last month. It’s a hybrid affair: a live stream to bring the music to an international audience, with a few hundred people present at the event’s four venues to bring an intimate vibe.

The festival presented 16 of Iceland’s best musical acts, and highlights of the stream are still available to watch. But to give you a flavour of the event, we’ve sharpened our focus on four sets by emerging artists—spanning jazz, folk, bouncy house and agitprop pop—which we know you’ll love.

You can catch highlights of these performances—and exclusive artist interviews—on the Reykjavík Grapevine’s YouTube channel.

Laufey

A god’s-eye view of the divine Laufey… photo by Yael Bar Cohen.

Laufey Lin really came into her own during lockdown. The classically trained multi-instrumentalist made good use of her time at home, creating a healthy YouTube fanbase by posting simple clips of her singing and playing cello, piano and guitar.

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This is Laufey’s first ever hometown gig, and the location of Fríkirkjan—a serene old Lutheran church by Reykjavík’s duck pond— is poignant for her, as it’s where she used to perform classical music as a youngster. Tonight however she’s left her cello at home, and after kicking off with a couple of tunes at the grand piano, she moves centre-stage to coax warm diminished chords from her lovely red Gibson guitar.

Buoyed by the rich reverb of the church space, Laufey’s mellifluous voice sits perfectly in the traditional groove created by the likes of Billie Holiday. Her lyrical topics—often reflecting lost loves and longing, which belie her youth—are exemplified in set highlight “Dear Soulmate”, a song already written for the perfect partner she has yet to meet. But we’re pretty sure we’ve just found our ideal jazz artist for the 2020s.

Árný Margrét

Árný Margrét being watched over… photo by John Pearson

Taking the church stage before Laufey—but coming from folksy rather than jazzy roots—is Árný Margrét, a 20-year-old singer-songwriter from the Westfjords. Since taking up the guitar six years ago she has been honing her craft, quietly producing increasingly accomplished musical creations.

Árný appears diminutive on stage, performing alone beneath an imposing portrait of Christ, (an unavoidable feature of the stage set in Fríkirkjan). But Árný prepared for this—her biggest show yet—by making it her fifth gig in four days, and she remains unintimidated. Exuding a quiet confidence she delivers a flawless finger-picked guitar performance, accompanied by a voice at times reminiscent of Jeff Buckley. “Cold Aired Breeze”, an ode to the raw natural charms of her Ísafjördur home, is a definite set highlight. Wonderful gentle folk, in every sense.

Inspector Spacetime

Inspector Spacetime keepin’ it cosy… photo by Baldur Kristjánsson

Across town from the church, in the black-walled rock ‘n’ roll venue of Gaukurinn, three young MCs bound onstage with more energy than Iceland’s entire geothermal power system.

Inspector Spacetime raise a buzz despite the room not being packed; pandemic restrictions are still restricting audience sizes. But crowd members soon follow the trio’s example, and bounce so hard that the TV cameras capturing the action jump in sympathy.

However, Inspector Spacetime are more than mere youthful enthusiasm. Set highlight “Dansa Og Bánsa”, (which translates, unsurprisingly, as “Dance And Bounce”), is equalled in accomplishment by the more subtle “Hitta Mig”—a track that draws on two-step, a form of UK garage which had come and gone before any of Inspector Spacetime were born. These musical waters run deeper than might appear.

BSÍ

Julius and Silla—who comprise pop-punk powerhouse BSÍ—create challenging, vital, vibrant music that wears its heart permanently on its sleeve. The title of their album, ‘Sometimes Depressed… But Always Antifascist’, openly reflects the band’s self-doubt, while emphasising their vehemence about their principles.

And their show at Gaukurinn is truly in the DIY spirit of punk. Julius plays bass, but also uses his feet to control floor-mounted samplers and keys—performing in his socks to remain nimble-of-toe throughout the show. Silla sings while she drums; or screams, whichever is most appropriate in the moment.

Their set highlight has to be the surf-soaked “Vesturbæjar Beach”, delivered tight, bright and jangly. But standout moments also arrive in the shape of “Boo On You”, where BSÍ make a stand against the deportation of refugees from Iceland. And then there’s Silla’s reaction to the somewhat shambolic run-through of an untitled new song. “Needs a little practice still. Oh well!” she shrugs. What’s not to love about BSÍ?

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