Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Fríkirkjan, Reykjavík, November 2, 2023

The congregation sits in silence.

Every nuance of the performer’s skill is duly registered.

While this hardly a traditional service, its import is the same.

Mortals seeking the answer to the eternal question: Why?

By Professor Batty

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Monday, November 27, 2023

Cyber Monday

Cyber is a Reykjavík-based pop-music/performance-art duo.

By Professor Batty

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Friday, November 24, 2023

Cheese Curds Here

In honor of yesterday’s Thanksgiving feasting, here is a rare FITK food post:
Minnesota State Fair, August 29, 2023
“O, that way madness lies; let me shun that; No more of that.” ~ William Shakespeare
“Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es” ~ Brillat-Savarin
… or, as it is more commonly phrased, “You are what you eat.”

What to make of coated and then deep-fried cheese curds?

They originated in Wisconsin, where culinary finesse dies an agonized death. I have, for strictly research purpose, sampled this dish, and was left wondering if there was something so very wrong with me that I didn’t enjoy consuming bland lumps of congealed whey that had been coated in an anonymous batter and then blasted in an industrial deep-fryer. My qualms evidently weren’t shared by the curious. As you can see in the above photo, taken at 10:15 A.M, they were a hit with the after-breakfast and pre-lunch “snack-time” crowd.

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Seattle Succulents

Seen on a recent trip to the Emerald City, definitely click to embiggen.

By Professor Batty

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Monday, November 20, 2023

The Audition

Rural Minnesota, a basement house, and a bottle of Southern Comfort.

Sounds like the plot for a mumble-core movie or, perhaps, a recipe for despair.

It was the winter of ‘75-‘76. I was single and recently freed from four years of a loveless affair. Jimmy, one of the guys in a band that I had been following, had moved to rural Minnesota, near Cambridge, where his wife worked in an educational institution. A group of us has taken a train to the small town and then were ferried to his digs, literally digs in that he lived in an underground house, a basement that the upperfloors were awaiting construction.

We were suitably entertained, lots of smoking and drinking, and when it was time to go home Jimmy suggested that I come up next weekend to discuss a recording project he was doing. By chance, I had access to a friend’s van and returned, alone, to his hovel on the prairie. His sister-in-law and her friends came up as well, we spent the day in wholesome fun, skating on a pond that we cleared of snow. after they left, Jimmy had a number of audio questions and I had a smattering of knowledge (and had already produced acceptable recordings for his band.)

Eight hours and a bottle of Southern Comfort later, we both passed out but this was no routine bender. For both of our lives had changed that night. I went on to join his band which had a meteoric rise and fall over the next 5 years which ended when, crying in my arms, he told me he had to leave the group.

We both went on to raise families, creating more sustainable lives, with all that that entails. He moved out west but we stay in touch; a phone call every year or so.

Thanks for the audition.

By Professor Batty

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Friday, November 17, 2023

Fyrir ást á pylsum

Influencers being videoed at Bæjarins beztu pylsur, Reykjavik, 31 October, 2023

By Professor Batty

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Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Freedom of Choice

There are always products in foreign countries that are different from home. Candy is almost always different, even with the same name brands. The above display in 10-21, a Reykjavík convenience store, is just the tip of the iceberg. There are some familiar names there but many of the Icelandic candies have liquorice “surprise.”

Much of Iceland’s processed food comes from the UK, as these Mayonnaise varietals will attest:
I wish my local mega supermarket had the variety that this small grocery has! (Click on image to embiggen)

By Professor Batty

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Monday, November 13, 2023

Giving the Drummer Some

Icelandic punk-rock band Gróa at Lucky Records, Reykjavik. The band gives some R.E.S.P.E.C.T. to the drummer Hrafnhildur:

Image: Bob Cluness, Lucky Records

BTW, I'm the guy in the white jacket underneath the framed picture on the wall to the left of the stage…

By Professor Batty

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Friday, November 10, 2023

Iceland Airwaves 2023 Index

Due to image hosting limitations some of the 2023 Iceland/Iceland Airwaves
posts may not show up in a scroll.

Here they are, complete, in date order:

October 29: Back On the Rock
October 30: Making the Scene
October 31: A Room With a View
November 1: Day 0
November 2: Day 1
November 3: Day 2
November 4: Day 3
November 5: Day 4
November 6: Recap

Note: The group pictured above was made by the AI program Dall-E 3. Any resemblance to the Icelandic punk rock band Gróa is strictly intentional coincidental.

By Professor Batty

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Monday, November 06, 2023

Iceland 2023 Recap

After having safely returned to Flippist World Headquarters from my recent trip to Iceland, I’ll offer some reflections on the experience.

Despite the admonition in the graffiti in the above image, I can’t imagine a more hospitable travel destination than this lump of lava in the North Atlantic. Nearly everyone I dealt with was pleasant and friendly, starting with the Passport Control agents in KEF at 06:45. Because I came just before Halloween, my food choices at Kronan were wider than usual:
Halloween is an odd festival, a throw-back to ancient paganism, that manages to maintain its archetypal appeal to children of all ages. To see the decorations and the costumed children around Reykjavík is common ground to me; Flippist World Headquarters is located in The Halloween Capital of the World™. Reykjavík, under a nearly full moon, found its iconic sights to be even more enchanting as shown in this view from my apartment window:
This trip was especially notable for my lodging, part of a house overlooking Tjörnin, the pond in the center of town. My rooms were the opposite of often-sterile travel accomodations: filled with intriguing objet d’art, most of it original, quirky mementos, and even a guitar! Most hosts were warm and welcoming, two adjectives that would come to define this trip. My daily walks, my time spent in the the heated pools of Vesturbæjarlaug, interactions with service personnel and, of course, the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival experience.
The Iceland Airwaves has changed over the years; from an economic viewpoint it has always been marginally successful. This problem is clearly delineated in Jón Trausti Sigurðarson’s Reykjavík Grapevine article “Is Iceland Airwaves Past Its Prime?” which paralleled my Airwaves experiences, and why I had stopped going for nine years. The festivals basic dilemma is that international fans want to see unique Iceland artists while Icelanders want to see foreign acts. The music business has, for a variety of reasons (including Covid) made it hard for up-and-coming acts to tour and, at the same time, mega-stars command a bigger slice of live performance revenues.
Another problem with modern music, and not just with Airwaves, is the dearth of original new acts. As social media has supplanted the older forms of music exposure, those groups that do get traction tend to be corporate-controlled re-hashes of existing styles, with an emphasis on visuals, rather than the music itself. Eurovision anyone? This has always been true to an extent, but the trend has gotten much more pronounced.

Iceland has always had an advantage here in that its educational system is very supportive of musical exploration, even to the point of subsidizing new acts, allowing them to compete on an international stage. Groups such as Retro Stefson (2006), Pascal Pinon (2009) and Samaris (2011) were touring Europe and Asia while their members were still in their teens. Other teen acts such as Ateria and Between Mountains, both of whom I saw in 2018, were fully developed. While I did see a few teen-aged acts this year, they were still a year or two away from being ready for a broader stage. The most vibrant young act that I saw this year was Gróa, who made their Airwaves debut five years ago.
All of this rumination about youth leads to a related phenomenon, the “graying” of the audience. I attended my first airwaves when I was 56 years old. I was usually the oldest person in the room. This year I was 73 and often found myself surrounded by other grey-hairs seniors. This, in itself, is not a bad thing, but the vibrancy of youth is its greatest asset, one that cannot be faked.
There were many subtle moments of joy I had this year while meeting and bonding with several people who were, like me, interested in all aspects of Icelandic culture, other “fellow travelers” in this quixotic adventure. Special mention must be made of Kevin Cole, program director of Seattle radio station KEXP and DJ par excellence. The way we kept running into each other was almost comical. While KEXP hasn’t been able to resume their remote Iceland broadcasts post-Covid, Kevin was here, faithfully connecting with and still supporting Icelandic music (and doing a killer DJ set at Smekkleysa that featured Icelandic artists.) I had first met Kevin in Seattle in 2011 but we were both veterans of the Minneapolis music scene of the 70s. In the 80s his stint at REV-105 introduced me (through my children) to a new generation of music.
Various highlights of this trip:

Look at the Music! — signing poetry with choral compositions to match…

Hallgrímskirkja lit up in purple…

Chatting with Björk (not that Björk), my Airbnb host…

Chatting with numerous folk in the hot-pots at Vesterbæjarlaug…

Living through an earthquake! Twice!

Seeing two great guitarists, Halli Guðmundsson (Jazz) and Langiseli (Rockabilly) in one afternoon, Lucky Records…

Icelandic rapper GKR, extremely intense and musical…

The mini-reunion of Pascal Pinon in Yeoman, a fashion boutique…

Hekla, the thereminist, in her tour-de-force marathon performance in Fríkirkjan…

Cyber, whose teen-aged friendship grew into a delightful pop duo based on love and respect…

Magnús Johánn, an exceptional composer and keyboard performer followed by Gróa, Punk Supreme, in Lucky Records. The crowd stayed for both acts! Tres cool…

All the conversations with many people between shows…

And, of course, JFDR (Jófríður Ákadóttir), her sisters Ásthildur and Marta, and their father Áki Ásgeirsson, each of whom I saw perform this weekend.

Search for a Dancer is the memior of my 2022 Iceland Airwaves experience.

By Professor Batty

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Sunday, November 05, 2023

Iceland Airwaves — Day 4

00:20: JFDR at Gamla Bíó.

The final act of Iceland Airwaves 2023. Jófríður Ákadóttir, AKA JFDR, has been a musician of interest for me since first seeing her at Iceland Airwaves 2009 when she was 15 and playing with her sister Ásthildur in the quartet Pascal Pinon. They produced three full-length albums and Jófríður’s follow-up group, Samaris, also released three albums which were very successful. As a solo act she has released multiple albums and EPs and her collaborations with other artists are innumerable. Additional film and television scoring is also in her CV.
One of the knocks against JFDR’s singing style has been her constant use of a breathy soprano. Tonight she was experimenting with her delivery and even going into an open-throated delivery at times.
I found myself engulfed in a reflective mood as I watched her: so many performances, so much music, watching her develop as a musician for half her life. Her musical growth may have plateaued lately, with songs of vague young adult angst rather than the insightful and focused coming-of-age narratives of her earlier work.

You can’t be a teen-ager forever.

Performing with her on various keys and programmers was her husband Joshua Wilkinson. Josh and Jó had been a definite item at this Airwaves as they were seen canoodling in dimly-lit back corners of off-venues. If there had been a cutest Airwaves couple award, they would have won it. A musical marriage creates its own problems, but tonight everything was all smiles, as evidenced with this lovely curtain call:
But the afterglow from the show evaporated in a flash.

As I was heading out through the outer lobby of Gamla Bíó I heard a loud metallic bang coming from the open doors, followed by shouts. Stepping out, I saw a car up on the sidewalk and a pedestrian lying by a snapped-off sign post. The anguished driver got out of her car, saying “It was my fault, it was my fault,” as she looked in horror at the immobile man. If I had been out the door 3 seconds earlier it would have been me on the ground.
Image: RUV

The air temperature had dropped and the wind had picked up, making my walk back to my flat even more disconsolate.

My Iceland Airwaves 2023 was over.

By Professor Batty

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Saturday, November 04, 2023

Iceland Airwaves — Day 3

It was after noon before I arrived at the pool where was met with a variety of festival armbands. Simon and Dave and Rich were photographers from Ireland who had some good stories about Iceland Airwaves. Annu and Amanda(?) were a couple from Boston and hard-core Iceland enthusiasts, it was their ninth trip as well. We had a great talk, going beyond music into traveling in general and how you don’t find many people at home who share your Icelandic enthusiasms. My kind of people. I made it back to my flat for lunch before heading out again—only 9 acts on my schedule today. I ended up seeing 12.

16:00 Magnús Johánn, at Lucky Records, was really a great discovery:
He kept the crowd in rapture with his Keith Jarrett-styled compositions on piano and organ:
17:00 Gróa, also at Lucky Records, the absolute musical opposite of Magnús, and the crowd dug both sets:
18:00 Kevin Cole, DJ-ing at Smekkleysa. A legend (he was Prince’s DJ) Kevin is program director at Seattle’s KEXP radio station and a true friend of Icelandic artists. I couldn’t seem to escape him:
18:15 Kaktus Einarsson, also at Smekkleysa. Kaktus is another Icelandic musician that I’ve seen grow up over the years, I first saw him as a teen-ager in 2009 with Captain Fufanu, a techno duo. He is a good singer/songwriter, although what’s the thing with whistling these days?:
20:00 Guðmundur Óskar Guðmundsson (my pool-mate from Wednesday) on bass with Tilbury, Kex 2:
20:30 Árný Margrét in the art museum. Árný has come a long way since her debut two years ago, although I liked her better in a more intimate setting:
20:40 Greyskies on the IA center stage. There was a lot of buzz about him. I found him to be personable and a good guitarist:
21:10 Tappi Tíkarrass, in Gaukurrin. This was the vintage band that Björk sang with before The Sugarcubes. Unlike fine wine, they have not gotten better with age:
21:30 Elisapie at Idno. Beautiful voice, kind of gave off a Stevie Nicks vibe. Elisapie is an emblematic Canadian Inuk singer-songwriter. Bonus points for having a baritone guitar player in her band:
22:20 Sandrayati in Fríkirkan. Of Filipina-Irish-American heritage, hers was another beautiful voice.  No picture—the sight-lines in the old church are limited when it is full and it was packed. Another Kevin Cole sighting.

22:50 Dustin O’Halloran at Gamla Bíó. Dustin was another pianist/composer, backed with cello and viola. He was definitely not a Keith Jarrett!
The sound mix was excellent, especially on dynamic swells with the strings (may have been harmonically enhanced.) Kudos to the audio mixer:
23:20 Andy Schauf at Gamla Bíó. Before Andy came on, a young man sat next to me and we began to talk. When he found out I was from Minnesota, he was curious about the music scene there in the 1980s. When he found out that I had done sound for The Wallets he was awestruck! What a nice ego boost.

When Andy finally did perform it was obvious that his “groove-folk” style had a big local fan base:
00:20 The final act of the festival, JFDR, played next, I’ll review her show in the Airwaves Day 4 post.

I leave you with a parting shot of Karolina of the punk group Gróa, taken Saturday afternoon at Lucky Records.

I think Miles approves:

By Professor Batty

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Friday, November 03, 2023

Iceland Airwaves — Day 2

I happened to be awake at 0400 and I experienced my first earthquake. It would be only the first of many tremors of the day, the others being musical.

My pool-companion today was Oskar from Edinburg, and was an Airwaves regular. We compared notes (we had already been at some of the same shows.) I returned to my flat to once-again muster some reserves for the long afternoon/evening ahead. I had 12 acts on my list, as well as several others which I couldn’t fit in.

I saw 13.

I started the afternoon with a trio of groups playing at Lucky Records, a shop with a massive inventory of vintage and new vinyl. First up was a jazz trio led by Halli Guðmundsson on guitar. They were excellent:
Then came Jonfri, he was not so excellent:
And wrapping things up was the venerable Langiseli og skugganir, a rockabilly group I had seen in 2006. They rocked harder than ever, and even managed to play 5 songs in 6 minutes. They are true keepers of the Rockabilly flame:
I had to leave before the end of their set because I wanted to see JFDR (have I mentioned her before?) playing in Yeoman fashion boutique. Her sister Ásthildur was also there on piano and harmonies, as well as a string trio. When she started singing Pascal Pinon songs I got a little bit misty. JFDR mentioned that it was a treat to be performing in real-time with no click-tracks:
After grabbing a bite to eat (pylsur) I went to Fríkirkjan, where Kira Kira, musical godmother to hundreds of Icelandic musicians, was enchanting, as always:
Then came my favorite thereminist, Hekla. She put the audience in a trance on a 40 minute voyage to a musical underworld and back. The most intense performance of the festival:
From there I went to Gamla Bíó where Sigrún Stella was dishing up an Icelandic version of alt-country-rock.There was a love-fest going on with a group of fans in front of the stage. The woman I was sitting next to told me they were mostly from a smaller town in Iceland and the placed was packed with friends:
The woman was from Bellingham, Washington, and had been at the Airwaves the year before and we had seen many of the same shows including the next group, Gróa:
They were astounding. There was a point in the middle of the set where all known laws of physical reality were suspended. My companion and I were simultaneously roaring and laughing, an Airwaves moment for the ages. After their set was over I was a little reluctant to make the 1 kilometer trek to the Kex Hostel 2. It isn’t the best of venues, but I saw Neonme, whose flowing style was restricted by the cramped quarters:
Downstairs, at Kex1, the new stage, Kristín Sessala led half a band (the bass and drums were pre-recorded) through some uninspired tunes. The guitarist was very good, however:
Making it back downtown, I stopped in to the IA center to warm up where I saw the rapper GKR in full-blown mode. No usually my thing but he was very good, with a musical background (not just heavy beats) and an impassioned delivery:
Then it was over to the Art Museum, the biggest venue. The group on stage was Blondshell, an arena-rock band fronted by a woman, evidently the “Blondshell.” Half-hearted dance moves and awful singing, this is the reason I usually don’t watch American bands at Airwaves:
The final act, Bombay Bicycle Club, was a UK group that was big about 12 years ago. As the final act on Friday night in the biggest Airwaves venue they would probably be considered a headliner for the festival. To me they came across as a second-tier Flaming Lips with bombastic songs and moronic bass lines. I left after about 10 minutes of this, kind of a sour end to an otherwise wonderful day.

By Professor Batty

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