On Hringbraut, across from the Cemetery, in a structure attached to a block of apartment flats, is a humble bakery.
Not an on-site bakery; it receives daily shipments of pastries and breads via truck. Near the University and the Radisson Blue Hotel, it is one of those corner shops that are common throughout the city. I can’t figure out their economics, but they seem to do all right. Most of them have survived the Covid crisis; people’s needs must be met. When I ate there in 2018, it was OK, and cheap enough—almost like a neighborhood diner, with coffee, sandwiches and, of course, baked goods. The picture above shows a glimpse of the bread in the center window, a reflection of the current street in the left two, and a photo of what I assume was an original location of the bakery reflected in the right.
A time-travel mirror?
Re: The Professor’s deafness
Saw an ENT specialist who confirmed that my ears were plugged-seriously plugged. He drained both, applied drops, and prescribed more as well as some Prednisone: Batty on steroids! My tubes are draining and my hearing is coming back, albeit slooowly.
As I recover from Covid I find that my ears are so clogged that I am almost deaf. So, in lieu of another Airwaves video (since I can’t hear it properly to make any audio adjustments), here is a long-lost Betty Boop cartoon from 1938 that has been recently re-discovered and restored. A dazzling display of virtuoso animation, it is one of only two that feature Betty’s impertnent niece Buzzy:
Reykjavík-based Gróa are three young women whose approach to music is exuberant and relentless. Fríða Björg Pétursdóttir on bass, Hrafnhildur Einarsdóttir on drums, and Karólina Einarsdóttir on guitar; they share vocals.
Also apppearing with them in this video, on “hype drums” and recorder, is Marta Ákadóttir—never one to shy away from an outré musical encounter.
The video becomes especially trippy played back at .25x speed…
A Huldar and Freya thriller
By Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
Translated by Victoria Cribb
Another mystery from "The Queen" of Icelandic crime fiction. I found it in the Keflavík airport on my way home from my recent trip. At 450 pages, it is really a bit hefty for an airplane book, I needed a few days at home to finish it.
A mysterious doll is hauled up from the ocean bed in the Faxaflói bay that abuts Reykjavík. Five years later skeletal fragments are found in the same spot. Those unidentified remains, a missing teen-aged girl and forays into the underbelly of Reykjavík’s drug scene make this a complicated case for Huldar, lead investigator for Reykjavík’s serious crimes unit. Because the girl was in the foster care system, Freya, a child psychologist (and once upon a time Huldar’s lover) is called into the case which quickly expands with additional murders revealed, including some that were initially deemed to be accidents.
Overlaid on all this plottage are vivid descriptions of various locales in Reykjavík. If you are familiar with the city you should get a kick out of them, if not, it won’t be a hindrance. Because the plot is so convoluted, there is a lengthy denouement which does tie up all the loose ends, albeit in a somewhat tedious fashion. This is one of Yrsa’s better novels, if you are a fan of her work you should enjoy it.
Cyber is a spin-off from the immensely popular and influential musical collective Daughters of Reykjavík. This video was shot in Yeoman, an upscale fashion boutique in downtown Reykjavík. This song is a parody of a pop karaoke but they have also done a ton of other material, as a duo and with guests—check out their YouTube performances.
Salka Valsdóttir (aka Neonme)and Jóhanna Rakel are the performers here.
Another great Iceland Airwaves 2022 off-venue show.
Discretion is the better part of valor, so they say. I was in bed by midnight, I just couldn’t make it to the end of Airwaves.
Today is a travel day, the bus to the airport, three hours spent waiting to board, and then six and a half hours to MSP where my honey will be waiting.
Words are failing me now, but faithful FITK readers will be rewarded in the coming weeks with more ruminations, photos, and even some videos. Until then, here are some random images from the last week for your enjoyment:
The weather, while still warm by November standards, had turned a bit windy, so I spent most of the afternoon in the hotpots at Vesturbæjarlaug swimming complex. While there I talked with some Airwaves attendees and even a couple of performers (Hi, Pale Moon!) I spent a long time in conversation with Lárus Halldór Grimsson, a Icelandic music veteran who had been in the prog-rock band Eik in the seventies. He was full of stories; he had even hung out with David Bowie! He knew everybody in Iceland, and was full of arcane references, but I think I surprised him when he mentioned Baggalútur and I mentioned that I had seen them perform. I spoke of Pascal Pinon and he said that he knows the twins father well. We also spoke of the late, great Jóhann Jóhannsson whom he knew back in Jóhann’s days in Ham.
I reluctantly left the pool to get ready for the evening’s festivities, which started off in the Smekkleysa off-venue where I caught the Electronica duo DJ Bounty, who were afflicted with a strong case of mid-bass-itis:
Gróa, a favorite of mine from the 2018 Airwaves came on next:
“Bouncing on the stage with their hype dancer… the three-piece band emits infectious energy which the attendees eat up. The buildup and release of each song becomes more intense as the show goes on, with discordant instrumental clashes competing with repeatable lyrics, all blending into a chaotic riotous bundle of joy.” ~ Gabríel Benjamin, Line of Best Fit
Gróa is Fríða Björg Pétursdóttir, Hrafnhildur Einarsdóttir, and Karólina Einarsdóttir and they are rowdier than ever. The already high energy level in the tiny venue was boosted considerably when Marta Ákadóttir, one of the fabulous Ákadóttir sisters, began drumming and dancing with them. When Marta took off her cargo pants and climbed up on a balcony next to the stage (wearing bloomers on her bottom with the logo “Granny Pants” stitched on them) the place went berserk.
I actually knew of Marta’s dancing talent before hand, so I was pleasantly surprised to see her collaborate with my favorite Icelandic “riot grrls.” After the set I spoke with them briefly (as they were cooling off outside) and I thanked them profusely for their great show. SMILES ALL AROUND. I mentioned to Marta that I had seen her videos (see link previous) and she was mortified/thrilled. “I thought no one had seen those! I did them for a class,” she said, with another big smile. I had a break for supper and went to see Högni's art installation in a food mall by the harbour. I'll have more on that at some later date.
Tonight’s play was the musical Sem Á Himni, originally a Swedish production. It is a crowd pleaser, but not really my cup of tea. I had read that the big production number (at the end of the first act) was so good that the rest of the play suffered in comparison. I left right after it: if that was the play’s high point (and it was very good) I didn’t want to see any more. Well sung, but lifeless staging, especially compared to the two previous plays I saw. Definitely dinner theatre fare:
After leaving the play I went on the prowl. First stop was Gamla Bío, with Axel Flovent from the UK playing his bummer songs, backed by a full band:
From there I went to Airwave Headquarters, a venue in the old Kolaportið building, where the Faroese rapper Marius DC was… well… rapping… in Faroese:
A quick stop at Hurrá, a small club, where I saw the guitar band Brimheim, led by Faroese musician and songwriter Helena Heinesen, pounding out three chord masterpieces. Hurrá has consistently had the best sound of any the venues:
I headed back to Fríkirkjan, the church on the pond. Arny Margret, a capable singer-songwriter was there. She mentioned that she had played her first public performance a year ago in that very place. She only had one song then, but more tonight, with very tasteful accompaniment from a pianist and electric bassist:
My apartment was only 20 meters away from the church and my bed was beckoning, so farewell, Airwaves 2022!
Another day of music and theatre and the theatrical element of the duo Cyber is not to be denied. They played an off-venue show in the same boutique that JFDR did yesterday. It was a wild show, their uninhibited dance moves fit the hip-hop backing tracks perfectly, with some social commentary thrown in, like the song No Cry about a disconsolate twerker's dealings with sadness (but not romantic sadness!) It had a scream-along part in the middle that the whole crowd got into.
Moving on to another kind of theatre:
One of the goals of this trip was to catch some Icelandic Theatre.
Tonight’s play is in the tradition of the National Theatre’s fantastic stage productions—Tyrfing Tyrfingsson’s play Sjö ævintýri um skömm (Seven Adventures of Shame). Expanded from an earlier one-act play, this play has been a popular hit. Several of Iceland’s most celebrated stage and screen actors were in it, including the lead Ilmur Kristjánsdóttir (from the TV series Trapped!), Ólafía Hrönn Jónsdóttir (White Night Wedding), the venerable Kristbjörg Kjeld (who starred in the film Mamma Gogo), and Hilmir Snær (101 Reykjavík) playing against his usual leading man type. This play was a series of vignettes that start with an analyst(?) who is trying to help Ilmur's character deal with her rage issues while he is getting drunker and drunker. It goes wilder from there. I’ll just say that it had the most outrageous artificial insemination scene-gone-wrong, followed by the most outrageous natural insemination scene-gone-wrong. This was not standard dinner theatre fare:
Immediately after the play, there was an old-school cabaret in the cellar of the theatre, featuring classic burlesque routines. It was a little naughty (almost quaint compared to the play) and even had a sword-swallowing clown!
After all that I did manage to catch the band Altin Gün at the Art Museum venue, they were competent, with dual drummers, guitar, bass, keyboards and even an electric bazouki!
Moving on to another theatre, Gamla Bío, I caught a late show by HAM, the outrageous bad boys of 80s Icelandic rock. They are older but still untamed, with the scary Óttarr Proppé growling out the vocals. If you like this kind of punk-machine-metal music it doesn’t get any better than this:
Iceland Airwaves started last night, albeit unofficially, with various off-venue acts (two shown above).
This morning I had an appointment with the President of Iceland, along with music from Sycamore Tree and Júniús Meyvant at the Grund nursing home (below):
In the afternoon I saw JFDR at a Yeoman, high fashion boutique. Playing amidst the clothes, at times it appeared as if she was performing in a closet. She was charming, confident, heavenly:
I stopped in to see Apparat Organ Quartet, now a trio since the demise of the late great Jóhann Jóhannson. They joked that they were an Apparat cover band (“Better than the original”). The performance space was dangerously overfilled so I had to make an early exit. I made up for it by dashing over to the Norren Husið to catch a set by Dawda Jobarteh, a Gambian player of the African harp. He was exceptional:
Fríkirkjan, the church right next to my apartment, featured Systur which started things off singing an Icelandic hymn, a cappella:
I then went to the Art Museum where I saw Júniús Meyvant for the second time today; he was appearing with a full band. I’m beginning to think that Júniús needs a new drug, and definitely not lithium. I left after a few songs. Going over to Gamla Bío I was pleasantly surprised by the Kaktus Einarsson band, playing real pop songs, with real instruments. An even nicer surprise was seeing Ásthildur Ákadóttir (of Pascal Pinon fame) on keyboards:
I had secured a front row balcony seat so I stayed put through Nation of Language, which was almost all programmed instruments except for Vocals, Bass and a smattering of guitar. They reminded me of 80s synth-pop. They were a hit with the audience, however:
So then JFDR played, for the third time in 24 hours. A bad sound mix blemished the set, although it was nowhere near the disaster of the 2018 Airwaves. Backed by Josh Wilkinson, Unnur Jónsdóttir and Karl Pestka on strings and sister Ásthildur on piano, JFDR
led the group through some of her songs, both old and new. The ensemble played well and at times JFDR was a real guitar-slinger. I've gotten a kick out of her fearless attitude since I first saw her and her sister perform in 2009, also at Airwaves:
This afternoon I had lunch with Siljá Ađalsteinsdóttir, a Laxness in Translationcontributor, writer, editor and theatre critic. Our discussion ranged from Halldór Laxness (of course) to theatre (of course) and we even touched upon Páll Óskar! A wonderful day and the theatre tonight!
The stage play Vertu úlfur (Be a Wolf) is based on Héðin Unnsteinsson's autobiographical narrative of the same name.
I saw it tonight in the National Theatre (Þjóðleikhúsið). The show took me on a crazy journey through the “… dangerous places of the mind into a world of anarchy and despair and back again, the struggle of a man who manages to break out of the vicious cycle and manages to turn his most terrifying experience into the strength needed to change.” The book was nominated for the Icelandic Literature Prize and was made into a solo play by director Unni Ösp Stefánsdóttir.
This really pushed me out of my comfort zone with its 100 minutes of Björn Thors’ nearly nonstop monologs in Icelandic. The stagecraft and Björn’s masterful emoting and body language enabled me to be thoroughly enthralled throughout.
Before the play started I was sitting on a bench in the outer lobby when woman came in and sat down next to me. We started talking about Icelandic theatre, she was a regular and I mentioned that I had seen Þetta er allt að koma by Hallgrímmur Helgason. She had known Hallgrímmur since he was three years old! She said was what a great man he was—and that was the second time I heard someone say that on Tuesday!
When the woman, whom my bench-mate was waiting for, came in she said to us “Ah! Brúðkaupsbekkurinn!”