Sunday, October 21, 2007

Blue Lagoon "Hangover Party"

An annual tradition of the Iceland Airwaves music festival is the Saturday "Hangover" party at the Blue Lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon is a huge thermal pool that is a by-product of the adjacent geothermal plant. Seawater is pumped into the ground and super-heated, which then turns turbines and generates electricity. The waste product is hot water full of minerals, silica and algae. The silica is what gives the water its blue look, and the bottom of the lagoon is full of silica mud which feels really nice on your skin.

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For the hangover party, a sound system is setup and DJs spin as the audience soaks. This year, Flockids and DJ Detect from France provided the entertainment. The music was fun, upbeat techno which had everyone bobbing in the pools.

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You can see the geothermal plant in the background, with all the steam coming of it. I overheard someone saying, "this place is so great. Too bad they built that power plant right next to it!" A bit unclear on the concept I guess. DSC_0117.jpg

I'd highly recommend a trip to the Blue Lagoon, it's an amazing sight and the combination of hot water and cold air is exhilarating. There is also a spa, bar, and places to eat. I'm not sure if you can normally drink beer in the lagoon, but for this we could.

The water is different temperatures in different areas of the pools. The entire thing is warm, but some sections are really hot, so by moving around you get your choice of heat. Hot water with cold air feels great; it really is a good way to wake yourself up on a Saturday. I wish I had taken some before and after shots of the people on the bus with us... everyone was half awake going out, and totally happy and relaxed on the way back.

Merin suggested SomaFM do some some sound installation there; Groove Salad and Cliqhop music in the "lounge" pool, and a Drone Zone-inspired multispeaker/multichannel installation through the larger and more distant pools. Maybe even some underwater sounds. (Like a giant version of the "Drone Dome" we did at Burning Man a couple years ago.)

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Night Update from Iceland Airwaves

I'm a bit backlogged on updates; it's taking forever to edit and upload all the media (not to mention I filled up my macbook drive)... perhaps if I wouldn't shoot so indiscriminately I wouldn't have this problem!

Quickly: saw the Samúel J. Samúelsson Big Band give an incredible performance, too bad they didn't have more time. Imagine the "Taking of Pehlam 123" soundtrack meets James Brown and you kind of get the drift.

Samúel J. Samúelsson Big Band

Then, the Motion Boys - Icelandic German Electro sassiness...

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The big performances of the evening finished up with Gusgus at NASA.

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(All images in this message are actually video grabs from a Canon TX1!)

PS- Hi to Jerry, Kelly, Paul and a bunch of other nice folks we hung out with tonight!

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CDs are SO EXPENSIVE in Iceland

I am amazed that there is any CD market at all in Iceland when CDs sell for 1995-2295 ISK, or about $30 each.

Even when artists are selling their CDs directly at the venues, they sell them for 1500 ISK, or about $23.

I can't believe how expensive CDs are here.

I was hoping to come back with a big wad of CDs. But I'm not so sure now.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

What's in the Bag?

Moe asked: "What's in the bag?"

I'm sure you're referring to the goodie bag that you get at festivals like SXSW. In the case of Iceland Airwaves, the only goodie bag is to the press, so while we got one, unlike SXSW the typical attendee didn't.

So what's in it? Not too much. Mostly just a bunch of flyers, party invites, a couple CDs.

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Unlike SXSW, I could actually look at everything in the bag. Also unlike SXSW, I will save most of the stuff because it's useful info.

If you're not there is still a lot of schwag and tshirts you can buy, and it's being sold at most of the venues and the show HQ.

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Food Prices in Reykjavik

Last night, we had dinner at Vegamot, a bistro/bar in the city center. The decor is stylish, nordic modernist; the music was good and just loud enough that you could still talk but actively listen to the music as well. It was a combo of chill-house and downtempo, right up my alley... and the food looked good so we sat down.

I was surprised when I saw how relatively affordable it was. Merin had the curry satay salad and I had the chicken enchiladas. US$42.35. Food was good, although the Enchiladas were a creative yet non-standard configuration (i.e. not rolled). A glass of wine each would have added another $20 to that, but we just had water. Ok, I know, that sounds insane by US standards (or European standards!) but food is really expensive in Iceland; generally 50%-100% more than food in the US or EU.

The day before we shared a large pizza at Eldsmiðjunnar, supposedly one of the best pizza places in town. (They were playing some hipster indie rock, one song was an indy/emo cover of Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean" that was really well done.) With a local beer each, it cost US$54.32.

It was a real pizza, not as good as the best I've had in Italy, or not as good as Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco, but definitely a good pie. Still, that gives you a price check. Comporable Pizza in San Francisco would have been $30 with two beers.

I won't even go into the cocktail prices here... in the land of the $10 beer, the $13 baby shot, and the $16-20 cocktail you realize that people do a lot of drinking at home before they go out... luckily there is lots of housing close to the city center so you can live near the action and not have to drive.

This also has the side-effect of people in music venues coming more for the music and less for the drinking. When a band is playing, people are watching and listening... not ignoring them like often happens in US clubs. DSC_0018.jpg

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Internet/Telecom in Iceland

I can't make a good judgement call about the net in Iceland, because I have a weak WiFi signal at the hotel, so I'm not sure how much of the slow net is due to the WiFi, the connection of the Hotel, or the connection of the continent.

I did notice that .is sites come up faster than US .com sites... and my photo upload speeds to Flickr seem to be in the 10-15k range a second at best.

However, the internet is everywhere here. Tons of cafés have free WiFi, and every café has people working on laptops in them.

Until I can test speeds at a few more places, I can't really attest to the speed of the net here.

The GSM network supports EDGE but because of the high data roaming charges, I haven't tested it. The cell coverage is pretty impressive, it works everywhere I've been since getting here.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Some of the standout acts tonight at Iceland Airwaves

Two bands who I really liked tonight both have a lot in common: they mix "indie rock" (e.g. guitars and emotion-laden vocals) with electronics.

This is a direction in music that I'm very interested in, there is some really creative stuff being done, and did I mention that Elise and I are working on a new SomaFM channel for just this kind of music? (Coming January 2008 under the current plans.)

Icelandic bands do this really well. Björk is an obvious one to point out. Múm is another. Emily Torrini. You get the idea. They're really into this fusion of rock and electronica over here, and tonight I heard a couple of bands that I really liked and we'll be featuring on the new channel.

Soundspell

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Their guitar player also plays synths, often at the same time. They have another keyboard player who mostly plays piano and a few synths. A simplistic description of them would be Jeff Buckley meets Radiohead, but it's more than that.

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And they can rock when they need to.

Listen to some of their music here

Shadow Parade

Shadow Parade I'm not sure how to describe these guys except that they are a little less electronic than Soundspell, but I'm sure they all grew up listening to progressive rock. Their songs are catchy yet complex, backed by rock-style beats that make you want to dance like a good house track. Some people call this "post rock".

Listen to some of their music here

That's the 2 bands that impressed me tonight.

NASA is a good space; the sound quality was excellent - not too loud but just about right.

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Not all pre-parties are created equal

I was a little nervous because we went to a pre-party at Organ on the "second floor", a sort of loft space with just a bunch of bright florescent lights and a "bar" that only had 2 bottles of vodka that ran out before we arrived. Not only was their nothing to drink, but there was no vibe, and while I stuck around to hear a couple songs by Skakkamanage I felt sorry for them having to play in what felt more like rehearsal space than a performance venue. Luckily, this turned out to be a fluke and didn't set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Skakkamanage

(Note to self: if Finlandia ever sponsors a party of ours, they better bring a lot more than 2 bottles of Vodka!)

The music I've heard so far has been very good. The Reykjavik music scene is very good; I'm looking forward to what we'll hear in the next few days.

The weather has taken a slight turn for the worse. It's started raining, and the wind is now blowing hard. Let's hope that changes before tomorrow night. Reykjavik is a walking town, and the city center is small but still, walking 4 blocks in 30 degree weather with 25 mile an hour winds is pretty harsh.

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I'm going to be tired the next few days!

Photo 68.jpg We have the press pass, we have the goodie bag. We have invites to lots of parties. We've gotten a bunch of CDs. Now we just have to cover it all, edit the audio/video, write the blog entries, upload the audio/video, etc.

And let me know if you think there are some artists that I have to see which I may not know about, especially the off-venue stuff.

Did I mention it's cold here? Time for a coffee.

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Iceland Airwaves starts tonight!

Iceland Airwaves kicks off tonight, with a pre-opening party at Hressingarskálinn (aka Hressó) in downtown Reykjavik.

We've gotten our badges and wristbands, now it's time to get lunch, take in a few sights, do a bit of planning and get ready to see Soundspell and Shadow Parade at NASA tonight. (NASA the club, not the space agency!)

It's a chilling 33 degrees right now around 1300 local time, good thing we'll be inside for most of the night!

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