Mammút are the wakeup call we needed. Enthusiasm abounds, and they make enough noise to set off car alarms and shake the rain drops out of my clothing. Their songs are short and sweet, and probably better suited to Reykjavik’s late nights than this early slot. It works, though, and they draw a hefty crowd. Extra points for glowing clothing.
How many festivals have a van serving lobster tails? Or one serving kjötsúpa (Icelandic meat soup) for that matter? ATP does, although I’m starting off with a burger from Hamborgarabúllan, which has taken time out from conquering the world to be here tonight. It’s a far cry from the usual festival fare. I’m all for it.
Photo: Magnús Elvar Jónsson/ATP.
Pascal Pinon is in Andrews Theater. Now with an extended line up—Jófríður explains that the guitarist was found in the street, the bass guitarist is a housemate—to flesh out their folky, whimsical songs. It sounds as if they’ve been given a new lease of life. Old favorites such as ‘Ekki Vanmeta’ and ‘Bloom’ are still here, but the new stuff sounds much more mature, and I can’t wait to hear more of it. New found confidence in place, they finish with the new ‘White Sun,’ which sounds sublime.
Surprise of the night came from Low Roar. Previously just Ryan Katazija and his guitar, he has gained a stage presence and following to match. Aided by Mike Lindsay from English folk band Tunng, and Silla presumably borrowed from múm, Low Roar are now something to behold. They fill the theater with their lush, deep sound revolving around Ryan’s fragile songs but are clearly not afraid of electronics, looping or occasionally breaking into dance. Excellent stuff.
Portishead. Photo: Arnar Bergmann Sigurbjörnsson/ATP.
Speaking of dance, Samaris are up next. Despite the best efforts of Jófríður (back again—busy girl!), for some reason dressed in unseasonal tinsel, the majority of the performance fails to connect, probably as we were all seated and this is primarily music to dance to. By the end of the set, they are hitting their stride, though, and even the maudlin sounds of the clarinet can’t bring things down. Somebody should have put Samaris in Atlantic Studios, where they could have got the crowd going a little more easily.
If the start of the night was all about Iceland, then it ended being all about one band from, and named after, a little town outside of Bristol, England. Portishead were in top form, and showed exactly how it should be done; from the atmosphere building, the lights and visuals to the heart wringing that Beth Gibbons pours out during every song. Classics were played—anything off Dummy was met with applause and a sing-along, whilst ‘Machine Gun’ is still terrifying, ‘Over’ is as emotional as ever and ‘Cowboys’ is a forgotten masterpiece. It doesn’t get much better than this,
And it has stopped raining.
Edward Hancox lives in in the United Kingdom with his wife and two small, noisy children but spends as much time as he can in Iceland. Music—especially contemporary Icelandic music—is his other passion. He writes about both subjects for Iceland Review and in his debut book, Iceland, Defrosted. He does not consider himself an expert on anything.