Monday, October 17th, 2011


Notes from Iceland

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangHello all. Have you been keeping well? That’s great.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been on a bit of a working holiday the past week in Iceland, the working part being Iceland Airwaves and the holiday being everything around it, and I just got back in last night, hence the light posting last week. Festival coverage will begin tomorrow when I’ve had a chance to go through photos and gather my thoughts, but having arrived in Reykjavik a couple days before the Fest for tourist purposes, I’ll offer up the equivalent of holiday snaps today. And for real holiday snaps, head over to Flickr, I’ll be posting more there as the week goes on. And for reference, the “we” on this trip were Carrie of Live Baby Live, Lauren of No Shame Promotions, and Lauren of Amplify This; a finer group of traveling companions I could not ask for.

The list of things we’d planned to do in Iceland but didn’t get to is pretty long: marvel at the glacier bay at Jökulsárlón, drive at least a portion of the Route 1 ring road, gape at the majesty of the Aurora Borealis, walk the basalt beaches of Vík í Mýrdal, go snorkeling over the continental divide at Þingvellir, witness Geysir, the namesake of geysers around the world, visit an island of puffins, and meet up with many other music journo types from around the world also in Reykjavik for Airwaves. And yet even with so many things on the to-do list left unchecked by the time I left, the past week will go down as one of the most memorable ever: I got to luxuriate in the world-famous Blue Lagoon twice. I had my third ridiculously fancy prix fixe meal of the year as well as some super-tasty hot dogs, I saw some of the most spectacularly desolate yet beautiful landscape in the world, I befriended a pair of gorgeous Icelandic ponies (well I think we’re friends now), I visited the site of one of the oldest parliaments in the world just down a trail from a thousand year-old man-made waterfall. I learned that the rules of roundabouts work differently in different countries. And oh yeah I crashed my first car. Those last two points are not entirely unrelated.

So to begin. Following a Monday night red-eye that was only barely long enough to qualify as such and discovering our rental apartment which looked all kinds of awesome online was even moreso in person, we took advantage of what was forecast to be the only sunny day of the trip to explore the compact capital and put the excessive amount of camera gear brought across the Atlantic to work. Then it was back to the airport to pick up the European quarter of our contingent and on the way back to town, a short – okay long – pit stop at the Blue Lagoon. It’s not unreasonable to expect the experience of the lagoon to be overstated, but the truth is that it’s really an astonishing place. I can’t comment on the therapeutic benefits of it – though I will say my messed-up shoulder certainly didn’t mind the experience – but drifting in a milky, lava-heated, silica-saturated man-made lake is something else. Going on the Tuesday turned out to be a smart move as crowds were sparse, and getting there for sunset was just luck. And word of advice? If you’re wearing contact lenses, don’t dunk your head. It’s sea water and sea water and contacts? Do. Not. Mix. There’d been an ambitious plan to drive out of town later that night for Northern Lights spotting, but the frailty of being human won out over the marvels of nature and instead of aurora-chasing, it was sleep.

Wednesday was also ambitiously planned – 10 hour road trip anyone? – but in this case, nature was victorious thanks to its ability to whip up gale-force winds and horizontal rain. Compound that with Iceland’s rather spare approach towards highway signage and you get us missing an off-ramp on the highway and while technically we were still going to reach our destination, we were on the extra-scenic, 600-mile longer route. All of which is to say that within an hour and a half of setting out, Mission: Glaciers had been aborted and we went to an outlet mall and supermarket instead. Don’t judge. The weather remained intermittently dismal back in town but sightseeing still happened, though said sights were largely wet and grey. But the fish & chips were remarkable and antique shops well stocked with interesting gewgaws and in all, what was supposed to be a day spent on the road was instead down chilling around town and in out apartment and you know what? Totally fine with me. Things would start getting crazy the next day – or more accurately that night. We’ll get to that tomorrow.

And for those of you wholly disinterested in my travels, well here’s a handful of concert announcements I didn’t get around to posting last week.

On November 13, British trio Peggy Sue will be at The Garrison as part of a short North American tour in support of their second album Acrobats, which will be out over here on October 25. And if you think you knew what they were about based on their debut Fossils & Other Phantoms, think again. Someone bought themselves some amps.

MP3: Peggy Sue – “Cut My Teeth”

This is probably coming too late to be of any use as it’s likely sold out, but Bon Iver announced a second show at Massey Hall for December 7, the previous night having sold out faster than you could say, “hey remember when Bon Iver made a video set in Iceland?”.

MP3: Bon Iver – “Holocene”
Video: Bon Iver – “Holocene”

If you were wondering when and where Toronto would fit in St. Vincent’s touring itinerary for Strange Mercy, the answer is December 15 at The Phoenix. And if you were wondering how much, the answer is $20. And if you were wondering what she might say if asked questions by Arizona Central, The Vancouver Sun or The Province, well now you know.

MP3: St. Vincent – “Surgeon”
Video: St. Vincent – “Cruel”

By : Frank Yang at 8:25 am
Category: General

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RSS Feed for this post3 Responses.
  1. Chuck says:

    If visiting an island of puffins is your bag, look no further than an ocean sightseeing trip in Bay Bulls, Newfoundland. Puffins galore, I sez!
    Plus, based on what I saw in the Sigur Ros film “Heima,” towns in Iceland bear a striking resemblance to parts of Newfoundland (and I’m from there, so that’s GOTTA count for something).

  2. Marius says:

    Cool otherworldly pics Frank ! Gotta love those horses with their rock and roll type manes.

  3. James says:

    Welcome back Frank! I knew you’d love it, and we also did the Blue Lagoon twice. It’s very hard to resist.