From Iceland — Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live

Published November 3, 2013

Saturday Night Live


At first glance, one would not think Sóley is a very tough person. For her set at Gamla Bíó on Saturday evening, she wore loosely tied pearls, frumpy glasses and her hair tied up in a bun. She looked, frankly, like a librarian. Then, a few songs into her set, she announced, “This next song is about a one-eyed woman.” And a lot of people in the audience laughed a bit at that. There was a heavy silence and then she replied, quietly but firmly, “I don’t see what’s so funny about having one eye. I wouldn’t want to have one eye.” And then she started the song.

Little moments like that are one reason to see live music. Now there was an interesting dynamic with the audience, and newcomers such as I gained an interesting perspective on Sóley and her music. After that, I listened harder.

It’s slow, delicate, and pretty music, and it’s all about the words. It would be fragile if not strengthened by what seems to be a strong will and a sense of adventure. Actually, it wasn’t really all about the lyrics — there were some interesting musical things going on, like the guitarist doing some subtly cool stuff with MIDI (I think) effects while playing a bass footboard. The last two songs used vocal loops constructed live, a well worn technique already but well done here.

Sóley makes sensitive singer-songwriter music, and I gotta say that that’s not the kind of music I generally listen to. But, as Sóley herself said during her set, “You always have to challenge yourself. Go out of the box. Go into the river.” So I did. And it was really pretty good.


Vök is a very promising band. Their slow-jam ’80s MTV-wave songs, bolstered by big, sturdy 21st century beats, are strong. And what a voice — the sound of the singing transcends even the wonderfully elemental lyrics. Their singer has a heart full of soul. Actually, maybe Vök aren’t promising, since that means they haven’t delivered anything yet — so let’s say that they are fulfilling their promise. I have a feeling we will be seeing Vök on bigger stages soon.

This was Vök’s eighth show in the past few days, a feat made possible, or at least much easier, by digital technology — or maybe just the lack of a drummer. Still, that’s a lot of shows, a lot of setting up and tearing down, a lot of moving equipment around town, a lot of hassle, probably some disappointing shows and some glorious ones, and probably a lot of fun that trumps all the other stuff. I wonder who the gig champ of this year’s festival is.


When I walked into Iðnó, Leaves were playing a song that strongly resembled a smoother, less burly and unshaven Screaming Trees. Their music went on to a kind of statistical average of contemporary mainstream rock music, perhaps weighted a bit toward Brit-pop, well executed but not entirely remarkable. But wow, their bass player is a strong harmony singer. And since their keyboard player couldn’t make the show, they brought on a baby-faced, teenaged saxophonist to play on one song, and he killed.

Iðnó is a beautiful-looking room but the more remarkable thing is, it’s a beautiful-sounding room. I’m sure the building is quite old, but it seems to have been designed to provide the ideal acoustics for rock music. It was a pleasure to be there. And it was a pleasure to be at Airwaves too.


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