Last Friday’s Reykjavik Calling showcase was a huge success, as music fans packed Neumos for the free show. That people were excited about the pairing of Northern artists from Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands with local musicians shouldn’t seem too surprising — not only is the Iceland music community one of the most productive, original and exciting in the world, but Seattle actually has the largest population of Icelanders living the U.S. (a fun fact revealed that night by hosts Kevin Cole and Hlynur Gudjonsson, Consul and Trade Commissioner for the Consulate General of Iceland). But the proof in the evening’s success is how well the artists from thousands of miles apart can perform so well together. Seattle’s Shelby Earl matched with Greenland’s Nive Neilsen and our own David Bazan with Iceland’s Snorri Helgason each traded songs in their sets while also intertwining on select songs, but perhaps the most like-minded pairing was Grand Hallway’s Tomo Nakayama with the Faroe Islands’ Gudrid Hansdóttir, as the two played nearly every song together, learning each other’s songs as if they were there own. Tomo was so into the northern sounds, in fact, that the only song he performed by himself was a spare, hauntingly beautiful and nearly a capella version of Björk’s “Unravel.” Seattle’s Sean Nelson debuted a new project he’s working on with Kyle O’Quin (of Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground) and a wild-eyed (and crazy-legged) Ólöf Arnalds delighted the audience with her on-stage antics, a loose version of Nirvana’s “Polly,” and a sing-along of the comical traditional song “The British Army.” (Another fun fact, the flowers in Ólöf’s hair are origami made out of toilet paper!) The night closed with nearly all performers muddling their way through Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” with help from the entire audience who sang along (and kudos also to David Bazan for keeping the guitar line). In all, it was a diverse, exciting night that, as fruitful as it was, provided only a taste of the amazing musical discoveries to be found in Iceland and its neighboring islands.
Thanks to everyone who came out! We hope that this second year of Reykjavik Calling is only the start of a relationship to last years to come. Thanks also to Iceland Naturally, who made this free show a reality!
If you want more from Iceland artists, keep checking the KEXP blog as we share more and more recordings and videos we made during our week as guests of Iceland and during our live broadcast from the KEX Hostel in Reykjavik.
Nive Neilsen and Shelby Earl:
Gudrid Hansdóttir and Tomo Nakayama (of Grand Hallway)
Snorri Helgason and David Bazan
Ólöf Arnalds & Sean Nelson with Kyle O’Quin
Encore with Tomo Nakayama, Gudrid Hansdóttir, Nive Neilsen, Shelby Earl, Snorri Helgason, Ólöf Arnalds, and David Bazan: