Friday I’m in Love with Sónar Reykjavík

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On Friday, I wanted to get to Harpa early to soak in the atmosphere and catch the first few acts of Sónar Reykjavík. Walking up to the building, the façade lights set the mood: if you’re familiar with Harpa’s light display, you know it usually shifts slowly, its movement and mute colours reminiscent of the northern lights. Last night the lights were programmed to change in time with the music inside. They were pulsing rapidly in rainbow colours across the building, and got me pumped for the night.

Photos by: Therese Precht Vadum, Berglaug Petra, Steinunn Lilja, Ásgeir Helgi, Aníta Björk.

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Berndsen

This band was the reason I showed up at 8 pm, before the Sónar crowd had really gotten going. It was worth the effort! With their two synth players, two singers, guitar, bass, and drums, Davið Berndsen’s music sounds like an 80s high school movie soundtrack, in all the best ways. Davið’s resonant voice reminded me of Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields) in his more 80´s inspired moments. Being at this concert felt cozy, like jamming with your best friends in your parents’ garage, if your best friends could actually play their instruments. The crowd was disarmed, pulling out their cheesiest dance moves with smiles on their faces and not a hint of shame. For the last song, Davið ran off the stage, screaming through the crowd. I’m not sure we had had enough Tuborg to feel that moment, but it was a good start to the night!

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Samaris

I sauntered over to Silfurberg to check out Samaris, curious to hear how they would fit a clarinet into an electronic music trio. Verdict: despite all odds, it worked! I had heard lead vocalist Jófríður sing solo, but in this configuration her energy was much bigger and she showed a totally different sound. The sequined outfits, swinging hair, and light displays made me feel like I was listening to a band of mermaids from the future. I’m excited to see how this group’s sound develops.

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JOHN GRVY

The first revelation of this show in Kaldalón was that “GRVY” is pronounced “gray”. Who would have thought? John started the show with an apology, informing us that the band’s equipment had been lost on the flight over and consequently the set would be a bit shorter than planned. The drummer had been relegated to cameraman, and the remaining two band members did what they could to get the crowd going. With his tight black turtleneck and slicked-back hair, John was like a 70s Casanova. Even though Kaldalón is a sit-down venue, it wasn’t long before people were dancing on the stage, in various states of inebriation. Kudos to this group of pros for triumphing over a difficult situation.

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Sin Fang

I arrived in Norðurljós shortly before the Sin Fang show began. On the stage were a tuba, some keyboards, and a camping tent. As the lights dimmed and the music began, a video projection appeared above the stage… of Sindri Már Sigfússon, from within the tent. Sin Fang’s music is delicate and introspective, and this choice of performing via screen inside a tent made me ponder about the artist’s intention. Was he pointing toward our societally rampant addiction to screens? Was he asking us to consider what constitutes live performance in a technology-obsessed age? Was he mad about tourists who camp on the delicate moss in the Icelandic wilderness? I didn’t stick around until the end to find out, because I wanted to catch the beginning of:

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GusGus

For more than 20 years, GusGus has made Iceland dance, and Iceland loves them for it. This group’s show was everything I expected: a loyal crowd surrendering to killer grooves. Every show of theirs should have the fantastic space, lights, and crowd we were gifted with tonight.

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Oddisee

I have two words to describe my feelings in this show: major crush. Oddisee’s a masterful rapper. He can boast relevant lyrics, articulate delivery, and rhythm for days, and he knows how to work the crowd. It doesn’t hurt that he’s easy on the eyes as well. Each song in this set was better than the last, and those of us who were hearing them for the first time couldn’t help singing along.

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Sleigh Bells

One word: intense. This trio’s not to be messed around with. Their dark sound was matched by their energy on stage. Definitely a great performance.

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Moderat

The Sónar crowd was clearly pumped to see this headliner, packing the largest hall of the festival before the set began. A message projected on stage asked us to refrain from using flash as the performance was intended to be “very dark”. This was a solid show by a veteran trio who knows how to pace themselves but doesn’t fail to deliver, which is exactly what you want in a lov—I mean band. Definitely mean band. Extra points for the lights and intriguing video projections which took advantage of Harpa’s technical possibilities.

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