Last fall, I was fortunate enough to go on a fun trip to New England. This is the story of that journey.
My trip was facilitated by a woman named Gerri Griswold. Some people are more prolific than others. And Gerri Griswold is certainly one of the hardest working folks you’ll ever meet. I can attest this.
After her first visit to Iceland, Gerri seems to have grown really rather obsessed with this barren rock. She’s returned many, many times since, often bringing along a bunch of folks who have purchased a trip to Iceland with her DIY punk rock travel agency, Krummi Travel (The Krummi motto: “No crybabies, cranks or panty waists allowed”). And some of those folks were turned on to the idea of visiting Iceland through Iceland Affair, the incredibly ambitious festival Gerri stages annually, to celebrate the island of her affection.
Last year, I published a comprehensive English-language book about the popular music of Iceland, ‘Blue Eyed Pop’, the first of its kind (it’s still in print—find it at quality bookstores and record shops everywhere). This eventually resulted in me being invited to speak at Gerri’s festival, offering a crash course in the history of Icelandic popular music. I’ve always been fond of New England, so it was thrilling to get to spend time there at the peak of fall, as the autumn leaves fell and the environment was transformed by the season’s beautiful colours.
Gerri is an adventurous woman, and she seems to have more hours in the day than most people. She lives in the countryside with her husband Eddie, who used to play bass in a New Wave group called The M-80s. Eddie and I instantly bonded over our mutual love for UK New Wave band XTC, which happens to be our all-time favourite band ever. One of the trips highlights was when I, Eddie and Snorri Helgason took turns playing songs from Eddie’s vast record collection, challenging one another to guess the artist.
Gerri and Eddie’s country house (well, farm—they call it “the Filthy Farm”) is full of life, home to all kinds of animals. Thus, a big part of any visit is having some fun with the resident beasts. The goats and the bats are fun, sure, but we had the most fun with a pig called Abe R. Ham. Abe is a really smart pig.
The 2014 edition of Gerri’s festival takes place in two tiny towns in rural Connecticut. It kicked off with an all-day celebration of everything Icelandic at Winchester’s Grange Hall. The lawn in front of the hall was full of Icelandic horses and sheepdogs you could pet or whatever, and on the inside you could enjoy all kinds of lectures and sample Icelandic culinary delicacies. I gave my pop talk to a room packed with Iceland enthusiasts, and everything went okay. Later on, I ate some dried fish and petted some Icelandic beasts, which felt kind of odd in autumnal New England.
That evening, the festival’s accompanying concert went down at Norfolk’s Infinity Hall. Gerri’s handpicked artists included Kristjana Stefáns, Myrra Rós, Lay Low, Björn Thoroddsen and Snorri Helgason, all of whom were greeted very enthusiastically by the ample crowd. As the night reached a climax, I was brought on stage to do the first and, as of yet, only North American performance of my super kiddie pop hit “Prumpulagið” (“The Fart People Song”). The hall was full of people, the kind you see in intellectual American movies about people who drive Volvos and Saabs and are eternally working through some sort of existential crisis (or maybe they’re getting divorced or something).
Besides all the Gerri-related activities, we Icelanders had great fun drinking and eating. There are of course many exciting options for those interested in drinking and eating in the USA, with ample mouth-watering variations on offer. It was pretty good, the drinking and the eating.
I guess I’ll have to write another book—about Icelandic lava or something?—so they’ll invite me back sometime in the future. Because there was a lot of stuff there that I didn’t manage to eat or drink, and I’d like to eat and drink that, and maybe hang out with Abe R. Ham some more. What a great fellow, that Abe.
Want to know more about Gerri Griswold and an Iceland Affair? We did too. Read more about them here:
If you happen to find yourself in Winchester, Connecticut at just the right time this month, you can observe some bona fide Icelandic horses grazing below the autumnal foliage as you chew on a strip of authentic harðfiskur while taking in the sounds of some of Iceland’s premier musicians. Yes, Winchester, Connecticut. Of all places.