On Saturday October 5th, hundreds of music fans flocked to downtown hotspot Le Poisson Rouge for a mini-festival of new artists from Iceland. Unassumingly titled Reykjavik Calling, the multi-act show was packed full of pop/rock/experimental musicians who, despite being relatively unknown in the U.S. (for now), blew the roof off the venue.
As anyone who follows the New York experimental scene will know, something of a love affair has been going on between Icelandic and American musicians over the past several years. U.S. fascination with established acts such as Sigur Rós, Björk and Ólafur Arnalds has certainly grown recently (the rock band will appear in this season's Game of Thrones), however collaborations among indie artists from both nations have also been cropping up left and right - Nico Muhly/Jonsi, Valgeir Sigurðsson/Feist and Valgeir Sigurðsson/Rafiq Bhatia spring to mind, for example, as does recent interest in Of Monsters and Men and many Iceland-centric installments of the Wordless Music Series. Saturday's concert served to shed further light on this movement, introducing a number of indie artists from both sides of the pond.
The festival opened with a set by singer/songwriter Snorri Helgason. Equipped with only an acoustic guitar, his nimble, ethereal voice and sparse backing from an additional electric guitarist and percussionist, Helgason proved that all it takes to carry a show is a solid song and a heartfelt delivery. Punctuating his songs with down-to-earth banter with the audience, his set was unassuming, honest and among the most enjoyable of the night.
Next up from the Icelandic contingent was Lára Rúnars. Touted as the next Bjork, comparisons to the fairy queen herself are apt, however Rúnars has a clear voice of her own. More influenced by dance music, rock and grunge than her predecessor, the pixie-like musician thundered through her set from behind a rig of synthesizers, her round voice cutting through the pounding accompaniment effortlessly.
Finishing up the evening was dance-pop band Sykur. A colorful, in-your-face quartet, the group is comprised of three unassuming, somewhat geeky looking boys and a space-aged cyber diva who was decked out in white feathers, sequins and what appeared to be velour pajama pants. With stage presence that rivals that of Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani or Hayley Williams, the group's powerhouse frontwoman stalked and strutted the stage fearlessly, the crowd eating out of the palm of her hand.
Petter Stakee of Alberta Cross and DJ Caveman also performed at the show. Joonbug was not present for these sets.