The Iceland Airwaves long weekend was an intense five days and I was thoroughly worn down by it. The absurd low-end of the Icelandic sound systems by itself is fatiguing enough, and when all you can hear is basslines and kick drums all the bands start to sound the same. Being stuck inside a venue for hours on end is tiring. As is the rumble of a thousand conversations over most every performance. Typically, for Icelanders live music is little more than an accessory to their drinking and partying — and they get drunk at home and then head out for shows. So as soon as it got a little late, all the bigger places had long queues. So you picked a place and stayed put. Which meant I missed out on a lot of stuff I’d have liked to have checked out. So this five nights in a row was a bit much for me. But there were highlights as well. After waiting in a long line outside of Idno we caught the tail end of Seabear’s set, which was the most enthusiastic I’d seen from them. Amiina played a magical off-venue show at Havari. They are getting really good — musically much more developed. Much more fluid arrangements, harmonic exploration, polyrhythms. Especially with the addition of drumming they’re coming to sound much more like Mum. Nonetheless, I’m really looking forward to listening to their newest album. I wish I’d caught their bigger show at the Reykjavik Art Museum. I also got to see for the first time Apparat Organ Quartet, which was wild. Brought me back to dance parties circa 2002. And yeah, there were a bunch of other rad shows. Then the day after I hopped on a Seattle-bound plane.
The premise is this: I fly in to Seattle, stay at the Pet Seminary house, the Mega Bog band is my backing band, we have two days to learn/practice the songs, and then head out to do a mini-tour around the Northwest with Mega Bog. The night I arrive we go to a Crayon Fields (from Australia) + Karl Blau show, which was a really good paradigm resetter for me, as the musical atmosphere in Iceland, especially surrounding Airwaves, is really strange. Well, Iceland in general, with it’s pretensions of professionalism can be an uncomfortable atmosphere. Karl Blau’s set is jammy and his stage banter funny. The Crayon Fields are really good, and the singer made at least one really funny and completely deadpan pun.
The J.A.Snake Cult band for the tour consists of Erin (Mega Bog) on drums, Zach (iji) on bass, and Shelby (Sundance Kids) on lead guitar. The songs translated surprisingly well to this line-up (most of the songs normally have lots of keyboard parts) and we nailed them pretty quickly. Also along on the tour is Allan (Humble Cub) as a member of Mega Bog. I also joined Mega Bog as a second bass player.
I caught a cold on the plane and my first few days in the northwest were a little runny and stuffy. The first show was in Anacortes, hometown to the likes of Phil Elvrum and Karl Blau. It’s a beautiful area. Trees and trees and more trees. It’s beautiful. We played at a cool record shop called The Business, and it was a nice warm-up show. After the show we went to the beach and then to the devil tree, planted upsidedown by Satanists.
The next night we played at Kaladi Bros in Seattle with iji and Neighbors. Iji was a tough act to follow, though it was most of the same band members as both J.A.Snake Cult and Mega Bog. In iji, Zach writes sweet quivery lo-fi pop (listen). Neighbors is ’90s-style indie rock, and they were good too. Here’s a short write-up about the show in the Stranger.
Next stop takes us across the border into Canada. We played at the Toast Collective, a gallery space in Vancouver, with Greenbelt and Collapsing Opposites. Shelby couldn’t come because he doesn’t have a passport. Pet Seminary housemate, Kenneth, came in his spot. I was left to play all the basslines in Mega Bog, and we all had to sing Shelby’s leads in J.A.Snake Cult. We stayed with Greenbelt–who were all fantastic!–at their ancient, giant house. There were wearwolves and ghosts. But first, the show! It was amazing. Good turn-out, extremely receptive audience (they were even singing along to my songs!), great atmosphere, and amazing bands! The other bands, especially Greenbelt, blew me away. There’s nothing like this going on in Iceland right now. I’m talking about pure excitement and positive attitude in musical form. It’s for shows like this that I’m in this, that I’m involved in live music. Coming together and creating something that only exists in grassroots music. Were this the only show, the whole trip with all the traveling and expenses would still have been worth it. The next morning we got vegan pastries for breakfast (thanks!), went with the Greenbelt gang to a temple for delicious free indian food lunch, and then to the beach. <3
More to come…