In the absence of Björk, John Grant stepped up to the plate as the big headline act, the one that required queuing to get separate tickets to (though they were included in the overall festival price) and so we queued for a couple of hours with maybe a thousand or so other people to eventually get our golden tickets, albeit at opposite ends of consecutive rows.
We spent the remains of the day wandering around Reykjavik in the persistent rain. In all the years I’ve been coming here, this is the most changed I’ve seen it. Laugervegur, the main street, is lined with cranes and many of my favourite little hidey-holes and pieces of street art are now gone (I was also shocked to see a Dunkin’ Donuts). I don’t mean to imply that it’s all over for Reykjavik – far from it. Change is inevitable wherever you go and I enjoy watching its evolution and ever-burgeoning street artscape (thanks in no small part to Iceland Airwaves Wall Poetry project). It’s also helpful to remember that Harpa only appeared in 2011 and it’s my second favourite building in the world (after the Sydney Opera House) and it too was surrounded by controversy at the time, though that had more to do with the cost in a time of Global Financial Crisis.
At its heart, it’s still my beloved Reykjavik and most of its weird and wonderful institutions remain such as Bonus Supermarket where we did a weekly shop for supplies (including my favourite treats, Lindu Buff), and the Iceland Phallological Museum aka The Penis Museum. It seemed like a funny idea to go in but I’ll admit, it kinda grossed me out to see the dismembered ‘members’ of so many creatures – whales, dolphins, elephant, horse, giraffe, hamster, mice and yes, human (with contracts signed for more upon the donors deaths). It is a genuine biological museum, earnestly curated and no doubt very interesting for the less squeamish, such as Karina.
But I digress. We headed back to Harpa to take up our seats in the concert hall for John Grant’s performance with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. A single, well-played violin will elicit an emotional response from me. I think I counted at least 14 stringed instruments on stage in concert with John Grant’s already affecting music and the delirium of my jetlag and sleep deprivation… there were tears.
For the remainder of the night, we ducked in and out of shows, including some big hitters like Mercury Rev, Father John Misty and The Pop Group, to add to the smaller acts we’d seen throughout the day in shops, bars and record stores. It was 3.30am by the time we got home for some hard earned late night/early morning noodles.