Friday, June 10, 2016

Icelandic Music Walking Tour

Arnar at the Hitt Húsið.
What does that mean?  Read on.
I think that a great way to get to know a new city is to take one of those organized "walking tours."  Sometimes, some places, they are free.  Sometimes they cost money.  But they're usually a bargain regardless of the price.  And the walking tours are even more fun when they are organized around a theme.  See, e.g., Spanish Civil War Tour, Barcelona, Spain (Sept. 24, 2015).

So which Reykjavik walking tour would be right for me?  I chose the Reyjavik Music Walk, a 90-minute walk that's all about the Icelandic music scene.  We did not meet Björk, but we did get to meet a member of the Icelandic Parliament who once upon a time was a member of an Icelandic power pop band Ske.

The host of the tour was Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen, who is a music scholar rather than a working musician.

The tour started in front of the Harpa, the premier concert hall in Iceland.  It's architecturally weird, with these glass hexagonal shapes that look like a wasp's nest.  Except there are no wasps in Iceland.

Off we went past the harbor.

We got to see the longest-running rail line in Iceland.  It appears to be about 30 feet in length.  It's the longest running rail line because there are no trains in Iceland.  This is the remnant left over from when they learned the lesson that rail doesn't work on a sparsely populated island nation.

We then turned to the Björk part of the tour.

A lobster restaurant is the Björk part of the tour?  It is in that building that the Sugarcubes first starting gigging in Reykjavik.  Arnar, our tour guide, was outraged absolutely outraged that the sign said "Lobster & Stuff," when there is a famous Sugarcubes's lyric that references "Lobsters & Fame."  Björk's old apartment across the street was pointed out.

I snapped a picture of this house while walking.  Does it have a connection to Icelandic music, other than maybe a resident once playing a Sugarcubes' CD?  I don't remember.  I can't recall.

Next we reached Hitt Húsið, mentioned in the teaser up top.  This is the place where they hold Musiktilraunir, an annual contest for the best young musician(s) in Iceland.

And who won in 2010?  Those crazy young kids in the Icelandic pop band Of Monsters and Men.  Nice kids from the Reykjavik suburbs.  In describing this band's place in the otherwise quirky Icelandic scene, a member of the band once said, "We're not normal because we're normal."  Yeah.  Learned that on the tour.

This square in downtown Reykjavik was the center of the Icelandic punk scene, when punk hit Iceland about 10 years after it did the rest of the world.  The punks called their home square "Not So Cool Square."  I'm guessing "not so cool" because of the astro-turf, and worn-out astro-turf at that.

We then reached the stone building ahead, which is the old Icelandic Parliament building.  It was in this neighborhood we had a chance meeting with an actual Icelandic musician.  And Icelandic Member of Parliament, one and the same:  Guðmundur Steingrímsson.  Formerly of the Icelandic power pop band Ske (pronounced "skyur"), a band that Arnar's description made sound like Red Hot Chili Peppers, only without the nudity.

I know what you're now thinking:  When are we going to get to the Sigur Rós part of the tour?  Well, for that we have to go to church.

Specifically, to Fríkirkjan.  It was at this church, in the early Aughts, where the band played a concert packed with record label executives.  And thus the legend of Sigur Rós soon went global.

I snapped this picture of an onion-domed house because I thought it was cool (unlike, say, a park covered in worn astro-turf).  Maybe an homage to Boris Spassky?  Doubt it.  Nobody homages the losers.

The tour ended at a record store on this street.  Where they did not have any copies of either Ske CD.  I totally would have bought me a souvenir copy of "Life, Death, Happiness and Stuff" if they had one.

Up at the end of that road, at the top of the hill, is the famous Reykjavik landmark Hallgrimskirkja.  But that's another post.


  1. Replies
    1. There was some graffiti in downtown Reykjavik. Were you expecting lots, little or none?