From Iceland — Of Men and Mongeese

Of Men and Mongeese

Published October 6, 2007

Of Men and Mongeese

When the Grettir Kabaret sponsored show at Organ began, the lineup was still a complete mystery to me. I had managed to pick up a couple of names from rumours and hearsay around town, but was having a hard enough time figuring out what time the show was to start. According to one of the band’s myspaces, 20:00, according to the venue owner, 21:00, and according to a guy who knows a guy who supposedly was organising the event, the show was starting promptly at 22:00. No ads, no info, no buzz. Even the Grapevine had missed the finer details of this show in its listings, and when the concert began at 22:30, I was simply relieved that it was starting at all.

The enigmatic gig began, happily, with an intense sort of drum-circle by percussion veterans Sigtryggur Baldursson, and Steingrímur Guðmundsson with Ben Frost acting as an on-stage mixer and resident wizard. The collaboration, called Steintryggur, was an engrossing take on “world music” jam, with Sigtryggur on drum kit, Steingrímur on the tabla, and Frost infusing the heavy and consuming drum symphony with an electronic edge. The tables were literally vibrating with pleasure.

Mr. Silla & Mongoose delicately picked up the shivering mood. The room was sparsely filled. Their first song began simply, heavy bass beats emitting from the computer infused at times with electronic synths and pangs and an assortment of random sounds such as juggling keys. Anchored by Maggi’s steady guitar, Silla’s mesmerising voice floated above it all. Ten foot bear, their fifth song, was a twangy blues inspired ditty in which Silla’s voice twisted and contorted, expanded and softened to fill the notes, her body shifting like a soft twitch beneath the microphone, her mouth hovering around it like a magnet. Her voice was so full and consuming that, almost inadvertently, it grabbed you by the little hairs on the back of your neck and thrust you into the melody. The two stood there innocent and unassuming, Silla wearing a black and white striped shirt and hard blue jeans, and Maggi ‘Mongoose’ a white tee with a cat on it. Inconspicuously brilliant.

Pétur Ben followed, unexpectedly, to me at least, steadily building up steam to turn his soft compositions into something quite cutting and intensive, while maintaining, beautifully enough, a delicate edge. When his set ended, the crowd, which had peaked for Silla & Mongoose, reached an all time low. Not surprisingly, considering it was 00:30 and that a Monday night. Or Tuesday morning really.

As I was preparing to leave and go home to bed, I was alerted to the fact that there was yet another act I should’ve been expecting. Gabriel Braun, a German DJ, was about to grace the wrong stage at the wrong time. His thin pulsating Berlin beats were not the most welcoming sound after the two-hour-long concert. One guy of the eight people remaining in the audience was standing and pulsing along. Yet for me it was too late and inapt for the occasion. I was going home to my badly advertised, but intimately cozy and pleasant bed.

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