Sigur Ros @ Iceland Airwaves 2012 and The Coolest Hostel in Reykjavik

Today was a great day – we moved from our eerily quiet guesthouse on the edge of town to the coolest hostel in Reykjavik right in the centre, Kex.

kex noticeboardKex is host to some bands during the festival. Dubbed ‘off-venue’, they’re a series of mini gigs in hostels and bars around town where you don’t need a ticket to go. When we arrived at Kex a band was just setting up to start a new day of music.

Benni Hemm Hemm
Benni Hemm Hemm at Iceland Airwaves

“Wow!” we both said as we walked in. Kex is trendy. And homely. And just really really special. Everyone was wearing chunky traditional knitwear and tapping away on their Macs in the bar/diner area or lounging in hammocks under the warm glow of the low lighting. The location was perfect – a view of the bay and mountains on one side and only one street away from the main street through the centre of town. It was warm and beautiful and the sort of place you could comfortably hang out in all day and night.

kitchen at kex
The communal kitchen at Kex

The food wasn’t cheap but the quality was incredible; gorgeous home-cooked traditional foods like pulled pork and horseradish sandwich, baked beetroot and goats’ cheese or salted cod.

After a chill out and a fantastic meal we set off towards the venue for the Sigur Ros gig. It was like going on a pilgrimage where what seemed like the entire population was walking in the same direction; a large sports centre on the edge of town. It felt like a scene from the X-Files; it could have been a crowd of microchipped abductees heading for the light for all I knew. But I do have an overactive imagination.

If I’m honest the venue was hot and uncomfortable. We’d layered up for the walk and couldn’t find anywhere to put our coats so once everyone was packed in it just got warmer and warmer. Everyone was in there by 6.30 for a 7pm start, but without any announcement, the band didn’t walk on stage ’til 8. I have no idea whether that was the intention, or whether they didn’t get the 7pm start memo, or whether there was a technical issue, but it was a frustrating start.

Sigur Ros at Iceland Airwaves 1Despite that, when Sigur Ros eventually came on it was spectacular. Images were projected onto a thin veil covering the stage, and the sound was as pure if not purer than a recording. Then after two or three songs the veil dropped and we could see the band clearly. The most memorable moment for me was the beginning of one of my favourite songs, Svefn-G-Englar. It gave me goosebumps it was so atmospheric; lights on the stage lit up the band dimly as if by candlelight then died back into darkness, until the song built up from single rhythmic notes into a spectacular crescendo. The pain in my back and feet and the heat seemed to disappear as I was transfixed.

Sigur Ros at Iceland AirwavesThe band did a mixture of a few newer songs and then some of the more iconic well-known tracks like Hoppipolla. The tempo was generally slow and etherial and nobody really moved an inch for the whole 2 hours that the band played. By the end I was too hot and felt a little unwell so I sat on the floor for the three or so songs of the encore. It was a relief, and almost meditative. All I could see was the coloured lights reflecting on people’s faces, and I felt the deep roar of the drums and bass go through my whole body.

Sigur Ros at Iceland AirwavesWhat an experience. Only last year we were saying wouldn’t it be amazing to see Sigur Ros live in Iceland, and here we are living the dream.

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