So it’s technically day 12 of my 100 days of blogging, but too many nights out (2) as quite the introvert means I’ve been exhausted for most of the week and I’m behind but this weekend I promise to catch up. I’ve even started pre-planning for next week which will include the madness of spending 5 days in Iceland for the (now) 4 day music festival that is Airwaves.
So it feels fitting to post some recommendations of bands that are playing this year, starting with Vök. Vök are I think now a 3 piece, sometimes 4 piece electronica – poppy type band, with sax and amazing vocals. We saw them last year off-venue at a packed out Bryggjan Brugghús and I also had tickets to see them in the UK earlier this year but was too sick to go. I really want to see them again this year, but with schedule clashes nothing is guaranteed.
Another band we saw last year were Hatari, the drummer in Hatari also plays guitar in Vök ~ this is how it plays out in Iceland, you can see the same person perform multiple times over the festival in many different guises. Hatari are some obscure mix of industrial, dancey-goth, dressed in a mixture of bondage gear and some semblance of steampunkish.
My final recommendation for today is Mr Silla. I’ve seen Mr Silla perform now more times than I can count, on stage as a solo artist, as one part of Múm, with Snorri Helgasson, with another band I can’t remember the name of and everywhere from a proper theatre stage, a church and a clothing shop.
Mr Silla’s solo stuff is electronic poppy, soulful music and released her debut solo album back in 2015. She has a fantastic voice and over the past couple of years its been great to hear her experiment with the vocals on some of her best known album tracks. Breathe has to be one of my favourites and that intro still never fails to give me googsebumps. Rumour has it there will be new music at this years airwaves – you’d be mad to miss her!
You can still get tickets to this years’ festival from Tix.is
Day 10/100 and I’m aware I didn’t post yesterday. It just wasn’t possible – I went straight from work to the train station and off to Bath to see John Grant perform at the beautiful art-deco Bath Forum. This also meant I returned home very late, and went straight to bed – not even a pre-bed cup of tea!
So whilst the Forum is a nice venue, it’s not one I’ll be rushing back for. We booked months ago and requested to pick the tickets from the box office, when we got there our tickets hadn’t even been printed, we had to wait whilst the box office chap looked up our seats on a plan, and then handwrote the ticket details out. Then there were the queues for the bar – because of a no-glass in the auditorium policy all bottles have to be poured into plastic cups – this slows down the service immensely. The venue would benefit with either working with the local brewery that they use to have plastic bottles or allowing pre-ordering of drinks that are then pre-poured. Or getting more staff on the bar. Or having a bigger serving area.. during the interval I needed some water to take some medication and after waiting for over 20 minutes in a queue, with John Grant due on stage in a matter of minutes, I ended up grabbing a cup and chancing the water from the taps in the toilets marked ‘not drinking water’.
Anyway back to the gig – due to trains we sadly had to leae shortly before 10pm, meaning we saw little over an hour. But what an hour – I wasn’t quite expecting such a frenetic and colourful show. John was on stage looking very relaxed with a trucker cap on, and then he belts out that deep and rich voice that could melt butter. Several tracks from the new album were played, with the current 6music favourite and title track Love Is Magic interspersed with older tracks and accompanied by some interesting graphics – in particular what appeared to be coyotes eating the flesh or something.
Being sat up in gods it was hard to see how the crowd was reacting, but from where we were it took Pale Green Ghosts to really get the crowd to show some movement. However it wasn’t long after this I had to leave to grab my train after such a short but sweet set.
I feel the need to state that I really like the band from what I’ve heard online, so much so that I fully encouraged my husband to buy the vinyl at the gig when he was uming and ahhing whether to buy it. They’re great! However they didn’t really prove to be super anything tonight.
The gig held great promise – as we entered there were signs ‘warning’ us that there would be ‘inflatables and balloons’ and we’d seen photos from gigs around the U.K. over the past week involving the lead singer ‘crowd surfing’ on an inflatable sea mammal.
However we had none of that , there were two band members who seemed to serve no purpose other than to ‘dance’. Eliminate those and maybe we’re getting there. Then after about 35 minutes the entire band apart from the singer left the stage – I don’t know why? Maybe to ‘perk’ up? But during this time alone with the audience to chat the singer started crying with emotion and then told us how unusual it was for her to do this.
At this point I suspected it was some weird ploy for sympathy before launching the dolphin crowd surfing thing, but no.
Just one final song then leaving the stage after a grand total of 40 minutes. They didn’t even play the entire album. For a gig that was advertised as having an 11pm curfew- finishing at 9:40 is really taking the biscuit.
Part of me is hoping that there is a genuine reason for the short gig other than ‘this is just how many songs we play live’ but we’ll see.
I didn’t plan very well and therefore don’t have much to post about, so here’s a few photos from last weekend when we attended Ritual Union, a one day multi-venue festival featuring a good mix of local and not so local bands. Pictures here include Warmduscher, Boy Azooga, Husky Loops and Peaness. Can’t wait for next years tickets to go on sale
For our second day of airwaves we were quite lazy, heading back to the Viking Brewery as it was close by and had fairly decent priced beer. Vio were the first band on, and to be fair we had intended to leave and go elsewhere afterwards. Vio played a good set but the whole time I was hoping for … well the only song I know by them ‘You Lost It’ which they finished with. We then ended up hanging around for Between Mountains which in my head I had them pegged as good, but they exceeded expectations! Two girls from the Westfjords who recently won the Icelandic music awards (that to be fair a lot of airwaves artists have won) with one who plays the keyboard and other who plays accordian and xylophone. They were very melodic and happy and we were left impressed.
Next up was Airwaves staple, Una Stef ~ with an expanded band, she belted out her BEyonce inspired song (mama funk), her happy song and her song she wrote when she was a teenager. Then it was eventually time to leave the cosy but fast filling brewery, we had planned to attend the Reykjavik Grapevine’s off venue show at Gallery Port with Soley, however it became clear that it was going to be shoulder to shoulder standing room only in a space that is smaller than the bedroom we are sleeping in tonight, we left. So our next show we caught the end of Rugi’s set at Reykjavik Letterpress whilst waiting for Mr Silla. I was hoping to see more of the venue/space but sadly not. They did have lots of hand printed cards you could buy though. And free chocolate bars. Mr Silla was her usual enigmatic self, and did a cracking set that had the children (and a few of the adults) in the audience dancing. She mostly performed songs from her previous album (which is ace), and I think we got one new song ~ I’m certainly hoping there’s more. After this we had a quick pit stop back at our apartment for food before heading out to Gamla Bio.
Une Misère were fabulous dark metal, no idea what the lyrics were, but suitably scared by the front man’s stares and climbing on the barrier like he was going to dive into the crowd.
Next up was Hatari. Now these were super scary. Entering the stage in spiky bondage gear, I was reminded of the scary guy in Mad Max. Again I have no idea what the lyrics were about, but I’m fairly sure they were angry about something. There was also a couple of dancers, who’s routine also included sucking on lollipops and handing them out to the crowd.
I have to say by this point, we were wondering what could possibly top it off, but then we hadn’t seen Grísalappalísa before. Although I’d seen recommendations for the band I wasn’t overly excited by what i’d heard online prior. However the live show is where they come to life ~ with a front man who reminded me of that guy from the 1998 film Velvet Goldmine. There was crowd surfing, multiple times, tearing off of shirts, leaping around and two parts samaris on percussion for the last song ~ not to mention that one of the guitars ended up in the crowd with a random person playing it, this gig was definitely a great big party!
So for us the night ended with the comparatively mellow For A Minor Reflection, who’s instrumental soundscapes are truly something else. A band we’ve seen numerous times off-venue over the years and they never dissapoint. Their post-rock killer tracks entranced most of the audience I strongly suggest you give them a listen.
We started off what will likely be our last airwaves for a couple of years (but never say never right?!) pretty chill. We collected our wristbands from Harpa not long after midday (after a much needed epic sleep) then headed to Bonús and Vínbúðin to stock our kitchen up for the long weekend ahead.
Our first off venue gig then was Vök at Bryggjan Brughus, a really cool micro brewery where I settled in with an imperial stout as my first beer of the day.
I’ve been dying to see Vök for a while and was ecstatic as they played most of my favourite songs … although I can’t remember the first song the remaining set list was: Figure, Show me, Ég bið þín, Polar, Before and then they finished with Waterfall ~ so much energy it was an amazing start to airwaves.
Next up we decided to see where the new off venue described as the Viking brewery was as it was close by. We arrived as Dadi Freyr was starting, which turned out to be one of those surprise way better than expected shows. It turns out we’d seen Dadi before at our first airwaves in 2013 as one part of Retrobot.
It’s also worth pointing out what an awesome venue this is ~ with 10 taps and a flight of any four beers for 1000isk. It would also appear that any large beer is 800isk which beats prices in most bars for airwaves.
So we stuck around for Úlfur Úlfur, although for the most point I have no idea what they rap about they have cool music vids and were great performers even taking the time to teach the audience how to sear in Icelandic.
Then it was back to the apartment for some food before the official scheduled acts. We headed to Gamla Bio for Hugar, an ambient neo classical style two piece who combines beautiful visuals of the ocean.
These were followed by Valdimar an eight piece with amazing vocals!
Also playing on of my favourite songs Syn, I highly recommend going to see these on their other official performance on Sunday night at Gaukurinn.
In only a few weeks we’ll be heading back to Iceland once more for airwaves, so I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to listen to at least a couple of songs by all the acts on the bill I’m unfamiliar with. This has been no mean feat with over …. acts performing and at a conservative estimate I’m probably quite familiar with about 10% of those meaning I had to whip up a spreadsheet to track who I’d listened to, their style and a rating out of 10. The plan being that I could then rank artists in some sort of order of preference to help choose who to see
So here’s a few new (to me) artists I’m hoping to check out, as nothing is guaranteed and even the best laid plans can go out the window
Sólveig Matthildur alerted my radar as part of Kælan Mikla, a synth punk band I’ve already heard a few tracks by, however these tracks are nothing like that.
While the synth is still there, these tracks are darker and as the EP title tells you she is “taking you on a journey, through unexplained miseries to the acceptance of sorrow”.
Pranke is a band I hadn’t heard of before, but with a descriptor of Kraut Rock, I was duly interested, particularly as their Soundcloud hastags were Math Rock/Pop – what could that mean?
Odd time riffs definitely, loads of energy seems certain.. I was also reminded of one my favourite Canadian experimental bands, Holy F*ck.
With only 2 tracks on their Soundcloud it’s hard to judge, but one band I’ll be aiming to see this year.
Hugar are Bergur Þórisson & Pétur Jónsson, both of whom have been making music in Iceland for many years.
It came as no suprise for me to read that one half of the duo supervised the BAFTA Award winning score to Broadchurch by Ólafur Arnalds, as the ethereal instrumental tracks feel familiar yet new with heart-rending strings and gentle uplifting piano.
Úti (Outdoors) and Upphaf (Beginning) have turned out to be my favourite tracks so far, but I’m looking forward to seeing more at Airwaves.
If you’re going to Iceland Airwaves this year, let me know in the comments who you are planning to see!
I realised today that I don’t often post about music on my blog which is really weird, considering that I listen to music pretty much every day and that me and my husband plan most holidays around gigs both here and abroad. So I figured I would do well to start sharing some of my favourite music.
Starting off with an artist I literally discovered 2 days ago, one of those cool things that happen on twitter , where you see something by chance, follow the trail and discover something new.
Just one of (there are many) favourite artists Olafur Arnalds replying to someone (the tweet quote doesn’t really work that well), I thought Aerocity had an intriguing name (ok I was also curious about this person who doesn’t own a record player) and followed his bio discovering his bandcamp page where I grabbed a free track download of Stranger (see below) which I loved so much I then bought the Escapism EP as well.
I will say, his style reminds me of Olafur Arnalds stuff a fair bit, maybe that’s why I like it. Self described as neo-classical glitch, I can’t say fairer than that, lots of strings too… I’m a sucker for violins and stuff that like that. I’ve listened to it all evening, which seemed to go perfectly with the sun setting. I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic like that too.
Tomorrow (April 22nd) is the tenth anniversary of Record Store Day, I think I first heard about in 2012 or 2013 and if you’ve never heard of it, quite simply put it’s a day designed to encourage people to shop at independent music shops. They do this by getting hundreds of artists on board to release special and limited edition records (but also sometimes CDs and tapes make it) that can only be bought in Independent record shops or in their own words
A Record Store Day participating store is defined as a physical retailer whose product line consists of at least 50% music whose company is not publicly owned. In other words, we’re dealing with real, live, physical, indie record stores – not online retailers or large corporations.
So if you live in Oxford there’s a couple of choices in the form of Truck store and Blackwell’s Music. There is also Rapture (sister store to Truck) but that’s out in Witney, so if you’re visiting Oxford city centre for the day, these are your options and I’ll give you the run down having visited both in 2015 specifically for RSD (In 2016 I was in Newcastle for the weekend, and yes I checked out a few stores there and came back with a few extra records for my collection), although I’ve shopped in both quite a few times over the past couple of years (when i’m not buying directly from artists or bandcamp).
Truck Store, 101 Cowley Rd, Oxford OX4 1HU
Probably the more well known for RSD, and yes the same Truck who run Truck Festival – the queues here start early, we arrived around half 7 one morning, the shop opening at 8am – we were kept warm with their in house coffee shop taking orders down the line (it was a really cold April morning) and got in the store around 10am. I’m not really familiar with the many possible formats for running a record store day event, but Truck allow a handful of people in the store at a time to browse. This means if a group of people decide to browse for half an hour, tough you’re stuck outside, as far as I remember there wasn’t a particularly logical order to the RSD stock, so it meant literally looking through everything they had for RSD to see if they had what we wanted (yes for 1, no for 2 others). My previous experiences back in Manchester with Piccadilly Records were vastly different (people start queuing the evening before for a start, in fact as I write this people have already been queuing for several hours), they provide people in the queue with a photocopied list of what they have in stock, when items sell out it’s shouted down the queue, so if you’re queuing for that one illusive item and it’s gone, you don’t have to waste another few hours in line only to be disappointed. Another thing I like is that they also hold all the RSD stock behind the counter, so you have to go in and ask to buy/look at it – this leaves the rest of the store free for customers browsing for non-RSD items (and yes there were plenty) and also helps the queue go faster.
Your second option in Oxford, Blackwell’s music : I’ve not been here first thing on RSD, but it doesn’t strike me as somewhere that would generate large queues, and it doesn’t seem to get any press. So last year my husband sauntered down to Blackwell’s at lunchtime and picked up what he wanted, no queuing or fuss. The year before after queuing at Truck, then going to warm up and have breakfast at Tick Tock, we decided to swing by Broad street and found that the sold out items from Truck were here in stock. Obviously they don’t stock a huge range, but they do a fairly wide range of genres and we’ve picked up AIR and Jesus and Mary Chain here along with some RSD slip-mats. The staff are really friendly and it’s a proper music shop in that it sells sheet music, instruments and some pretty cheeky music inspired gifts (a Chopin board anyone?), they can also order stuff in for you.
As well as being one of my favourite book shops in Oxford, the Last Book Shop also has a second hand record section (top of the stairs that go down to the second hand book section), it’s proper crate digging, whether you find a gem or not is anyone’s guess but prices are sensible. They also sell coffee, cake, the aforementioned books – new books are £3 each or 2 for £5, large second hand section in the basement.
Open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays – I think Saturday is the best day for records and music although there are stalls on a Thursday selling old records, the guy who is there on a Saturday has a really good selection spanning plenty of genres – also the whole market is a good place to shop for vintage, handmade, quirky stuff.
OK not independent (well not anymore), the recently opened Oxford branch is conveniently located on Gloucester Green Market so you can kill 2 birds with 1 stone if you visit on a Saturday. Good range of vinyl as well as CDs, DVDs, books and good prices, as they’re now owned by HMV they can afford to be more competitive. For me Fopp fills certain gaps that Truck leaves in terms of range but is by no means comprehensive for my tastes. Side note it has a very good foreign DVD range, particularly Nordic/Scandi noir Tv series.
Oxford has a plethora of charity shops, really I’ve never seen anything like it in a city so small. I pretty much only visit them for books, but plenty sell records, obviously this is another crate digging expedition to find anything worth while – and the Oxfam shops here are very switched on so you won’t necessarily snag a ‘bargain’. In fact some prices are just ridiculous, one ‘vintage’ shop that shall remain nameless had a box of ‘vinyls’ (yes really) priced from £5, for items that wouldn’t sell at a record fair for 50p!
This week has been one of good omens, or coincidences, which ever you prefer. At the weekend me and the husband were discussing some of our favourite trips, and Luxembourg came back into the conversation – we travelled there for a gig just under 2 years ago to see DJ Shadow. We’ve made city breaks for gigs a bit of thing now, but especially since moving to Oxford where a lot of bigger bands don’t play, particularly non-UK based bands: they’ll often play London and Manchester and sometimes Glasgow. Travelling to London started becoming an unwelcome expense – not just the travel, which sometimes included a horribly basic hotel or having to get a late night coach home that takes 2hrs, but also drinks being incredibly overpriced (£5 for a very bland lager sir, single vodka and redbull that’ll be £9 madam etc..). So we made a concious decision to start travelling, to gigs especially to cities we’ve not visited before and bonus if the venue is just that side of smaller and more intimate.
So that is how Luxembourg came about initially, it also helped that at the time I had a fair amount of nectar points that can be exchanged for easyjet flights making the weekend even cheaper. We saw DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist in den Atelier, a really cool intimate venue where you could pretty much see the stage from anywhere, it felt like the crowd was probably only 500 people, but according to their website they can accommodate up to 1200, but it felt like seeing them in a small club.
So the day after we’d been talking about how nice Luxembourg was, another favourite band Interpol* announced a European tour, with UK dates in Manchester and London. So we checked out where else they were playing and narrowed it down to Copenhagen and Luxembourg (both weekend dates). After a quick search it was clear that Luxembourg was going to be the cheapest option by far, so to cut this rambling short: exactly 2 years to the day we saw Interpol play in Amsterdam, we booked tickets to see them in Luxembourg. Also the same day a blog post about Luxembourg came up on my feed, so it felt like all the signs were there.
So two years later, I’m going to tell you about my favourite things in Luxembourg, as it seems I never bothered to blog at the time!
The first thing we did was pick up at Luxembourg Card similar to city cards, its actually valid for the whole country, getting you into many attractions and exhibits for free and to be honest is actually a lot cheaper than most other city cards. We picked up a 2 day card and definitely got some good use out of it just with Luxembourg city. It also includes public transport in the price making it super easy to get around and we actually managed to make it to at least 5 attractions over the 48 hours as I recall (would’ve been 6 but the Bock du Casemates is closed in winter).
These included the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (MUDAM) a contemporary art museum where the building itself is as impressive as the art it holds (€7) and the next door fortress Museum Dräi Eechelen (€5), Casino Luxembourg (which is now free, but was I think the standard €5) which was full of typography and graphic design. Not to mention the historical Musée d’Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg (€5), Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art (€7) and Villa Vauban – Luxembourg City Art Museum (€5) ~ it’s worth noting that some of these venues we probably wouldn’t have bothered going to without the card, and I’m glad we did because they were in stunning buildings with loads of history. It was good to see art and artefacts that were outside of our usual tastes, and of course all these venues meant seeing parts of the city that we might otherwise have ignored due to the comfort of staying within a certain walking radius. If you have the means and will to go further afield there are breweries and swimming pools and other stuff included in your Luxembourg card that is valid up to 3 days, worth noting the days don’t have to be consecutive either – so if you want to spend a day doing museums, a day travelling or doing nothing, then another day doing something then that’s ok – you just fill out the days you actually use the card.
Luxembourg is also home to a what I was going to simply say, a delightful park to walk along that follows the flow of the Pétrusse river, particularly from where we were based close to the Rue Dr Charles Marx, it was a nice walk into the centre via the infamous Adolphe bridge but as the Luxembourg website says so much more eloquently “Laid out along more romantic lines, the Pétrusse Parks combine steep slopes, strange rock formations and the ruins of fortifications and bastions to form a harmonious unit”
Other things to do include the Notre Dame cathedral, maybe not as impressive as it’s Paris counterpart but still a beautiful church, very close to the gold lady war memorial. In the same area is the Place Guillaume II which has a few statues and the surrounding streets are very picturesque.
So after all this we’re very excited to return, particularly as it will be high summer, rather than winter, so we’d love to hear any more tips of what to do in the comments!
*not just a favourite band, but a band touring their first album, of which several songs were ‘our songs’ early on in our relationship so actually hold a really special place in our hearts