Desert Island Discs-Sirius This Week

Tune in tomorrow, Tuesday November 13, on Volume 106, 7 PM East, 4 PM West.

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More Reykjavik

That’s why you travel, for the perspective! You think you know what’s going on, have a hold on the situation, and then your whole world view is blown apart. Live in the U.S. and you believe it’s a hip-hop world, listen to the bands at Iceland Airwaves and then you find out it’s not.

You see there are three figures of acts, playing in multiple venues across the city, none of them beyond walking distance. And you listen to the buzz, and you make some mistakes, and you discover… Eivor, a woman from the Faroe Islands who’s released ten albums and filled up the National Theatre. That’s one thing that wowed me, the coughing up of respectable venues for this theoretically unrespectable music. Like the Art Museum, and Reykjavik’s crown jewel, the nearly-new concert hall Harpa. And a church and…

We stumbled upon Eivor. A tall blonde woman who fronted a trio whose music was percussive and whose voice was wailing and held the assembled multitude in rapt attention. Our driver said every Icelandic male knew Eivor, I’d never heard of her.

Equally as impressive was the following act, Solstafir, metal with melody and psychedelic and classic elements, I love this sound, and the act delivered, kinda like the Aussies, as in tight! In America everybody is following trends and trying to make it, bitching while they don’t, not deserving attention to begin with, and then you stumble upon acts who’ve been honing their craft for years unaware or not caring of trends and your jaw drops…is this the way it is in the rest of the world?

And then that same night, after midnight, Hatari, who sounded like a weird melding of Kraftwerk and Rammstein with a healthy dose of fascism mixed in. There was that driving beat, that had Sigi near pogo, and the way the vocalists spit out the vocals, it was funny and intriguing all at the same time.

And the thing is unlike with the big bands, the big venues, not that all of these were tiny, was it was only about the music. Not everybody was on their mobile. You needed no distractions, the music was enough. Like it was the seventies or eighties all over again, you were glued to the sound.

And last night, after a few misses, too many droning guitars and airy vocals, I went to see Junius Meyvant who fronted a soul band with two horns that brought that sound back without being so reverential that it was a recreation, but something new. I couldn’t tear myself away, the music made me feel good, everything vaunted today has to have an edge, has to push your buttons, or has the classic drum sound of the TR-808 and no choruses. I’d rather listen to Junius than Ariana Grande any day of the week. Sure, she’s got the pipes, but the material is too often mediocre, she’s selling celebrity, which was not the case with the acts at Airwaves.

And on Friday night we went with a group to Essential for dinner, and what struck me most was we were a tribe, just when you think the scene has splintered and dissipated, that you’re alone and everything you knew has evaporated, it turns out that’s not the case, there are still people who live for the music, without having to wear leather and put down your opinions.

As for Iceland, as for Reykjavik, like I said, the dining is expensive and incredible. Last night, on Daniel Glass’s advice, we went to Fish Market. Since we had not made a reservation, they told us the only seats available were at the chef’s table. We said yes, that turned out to be the right decision. Whether it be the conversation with the Icelanders back home from L.A. where they were trying to make it in the entertainment business or the geologist from Alaska who was eating puffin. And the conversation with the help was even more interesting. The chefs interpreted the dishes for us, as well as the lifestyle. Turns out the restaurant is the creation of Hrefna Rosa, a young woman with an international footprint. But she was not there, all those in the kitchen had graduated from or were still in cooking school. As for the head waiter, he’d gone to hospitality college, his dream was to own his own restaurant. Turns out ninety plus percent of Icelanders go to college.

And yesterday we went on a tour of the Golden Circle. You see where all the tribes met for nearly a century to hash out legalities and drown those deserving it. It all took place at the Law Rock, about a mile from where the tectonic plates of Europe and North America meet in a big black strip.

As for the geysers… Have you ever been to any geyser that’s gone off on time? I certainly haven’t, Old Faithful is anything but. Our guide said every five to eight minutes. We waited about twenty for a little puff of water. And we’d taken his advice and stayed fifteen feet away, out of the wind so as not to get wet. Felice had seen enough, but I just couldn’t believe that was it. So I went right up to the rope and waited. The water was percolating, going up and down, but there was no eruption, and then… A blast comes out of the hole, goes about twenty feet in the air, full-throated and wide and I’m running from the rope as fast as I can so as not to be burned, don’t mess with Mother Nature.

And then on to the waterfall, which is quite a sight.

And then to the tomato house restaurant Frioheimar, where we did not have a reservation, so we could not eat, but we did go into the hothouse and see the ripening vegetables and the bees that pollinated the vines, kinda cool.

And after our driver took us to the top of a volcano, the rock within striped deep red and green, we ended up eating at a bakery in a town thirty or forty minutes from Reykjavik. Like stopping in one of those burgs in western Colorado, where there’s a grocery store and maybe a Subway and a few people who look like they’ve never left. But in this case they did speak English and seemed completely normal, but you wondered what they did all day, the only diversion seemed to be the land and the internet, then again, maybe they worked at the power plant, run from steam deep beneath the crust of the earth. Our driver told us Iceland is the only place where they have to cool the water down for consumption. Is this really true, I don’t know!

And we saw the second largest lake and the third biggest, or maybe it was the second biggest, glacier, just an endless sea of white.

And then it was back to town. Which, like I said, defies expectations. It’s all low-rise and intimate and everybody’s friendly and there is no crime and maybe now I know why no one leaves.

But the sun didn’t rise until ten and I can say it never was really bright, with the orb so low in the horizon. And we debated which was worse, the short days or the short nights, we’re still not sure, we’ll have to go back to find out!

On Demand

We live in an on demand culture. There is nothing after Spotify and music radio dies. I know these are unpopular sentiments, but that does not mean they are untrue.

Let’s talk about streaming… Just because we’ve been through so many iterations of formats, that does not mean another one will come down the pike. It’s not so much about Spotify itself, but the technology it is based upon, the aforementioned on demand. You get it when you want it, instantly, with no waiting. Forget about the Luddites complaining about the obscure albums still not on streaming services, forget about the misinformed who believe you need to be in cellular or wifi range in order to listen, not knowing you can synch thousands of tracks to the hand-set, forget about those who need to own something, all these people get way too much press, and speaking of which, the press is run by oldsters, who can’t handle progress, if I read one more NYT article about flip-phones or mobile-free days I’m gonna puke, talk to the youngsters they’ve got no problem with technology in their lives, and they’ve got no time for terrestrial radio.

BECAUSE IT’S NOT ON DEMAND!

Terrestrial radio is like network TV before the clicker and before cable, no one wants to go back to a land of limited choice. And once you got a clicker, you were flipping channels like crazy. You want to go back to the past?? Radio is a passive medium in an active world. Which is why Beats is such a bust. The idea was created by oldsters and it’s been soundly ignored. Zane Lowe went from hero to zero. Zane should declare victory and quit, he had more influence at the BBC. There’s a place for his skills, but it’s not with Apple.

Kinda like record store owners. We had to listen to testimonials about how they were so good at their jobs and couldn’t do anything else. But their stores went out of business anyway.

So I just did a presentation and got the inane radio questions, this time from public radio people. Waxing on about BBC 6 and…

It’s about the IMPRIMATUR, the singling out of tracks, not the listening, not the repetition. And, what act has broken from public radio in the past five years, since streaming has taken hold. And if an act has gotten traction, it’s amongst the oldsters. Radio is a circle jerk made up of people who see out of their asses. Since they had a job in the past, since they grew up on radio, it must exist in the future. Kinda like automobiles, other than in the demented U.S.A., which is now run by bozos, every country in the world, all the big manufacturers, are going electric. Hell, have you driven a Tesla? That’s why Porsche is going electric, it can’t beat the acceleration numbers. And BMW and MBZ too. But we keep reading the words of the wankers how internal combustion is improving and gas is forever when the truth is it loses because it’s too inefficient, never mind the pollution problems.

Anybody bringing the future is pilloried. Like Spotify itself. Until all of a sudden the recorded music business turned around and everybody was making money. Well, not everybody, those who triumphed in a limited system are not making money, but not everybody survives when the world turns and the future arrives. But ain’t that America, where everybody believes they’re entitled to their gig forever.

So when it comes to delivery systems, of whatever type, think about instant. Amazon Prime, you get it in two days. Instacart, you get your groceries delivered to your house. Sure, you don’t get to pick the fruit, but you save so much time! Think of all the time you wasted waiting to hear your favorite song on the radio! That’s how we sold records to begin with, people couldn’t wait to hear them.

And this benefited the record companies, but radio was always in a different business, selling ads, and record companies don’t need to only have their wares exposed on radio. Hell, the internet gives them many more options. It’s just a matter of adjusting to the new reality.

No one wants to adjust, everybody wants to self-righteously promote their identity in the past.

Sure, I loved free format radio…IN 1968!

Sure, I loved iTunes…FIFTEEN YEARS AGO!

Sure, I downloaded a lot of tracks from Napster, et al, but what a waste of time! That’s right, people will pay for convenience.

Go where the people are, give them what they want.

Radio’s got a huge future in non-music products. But not on AM, new cars come without AM radios, turns out electric motors interfere with AM. You reinvent the wheel. Who’s the most famous guy in radio, the most profitable, the one with the most impact? HOWARD STERN! Rush Limbaugh doesn’t come close, his audience is made up of old codgers who are fine with living in the past, but not Howard’s. And Howard almost never plays a record, he’s telling a story, he reinvented the format.

The past always comes back, BUT WITH A TWIST!

Don’t tell me how it once was, but how it will be!

The Soup!

Isi is a concert promoter. He bought Airwaves out of bankruptcy. He’s putting the pieces back together. And he’s mostly excited about his Ed Sheeran dates next year. Why is Ed the biggest act in the world? And he is! This summer he was the only performer to consistently sell out in the U.K. Taylor Swift, who he once opened for, could not. Is it because of the SONGS?

Contemplate that. The performance is fascinating, Ed alone on stage, but if you think about it, even though he’s collaborated with rappers, seemingly everybody, Ed’s sound is almost retro, just a boy and his guitar, well, a little bit more on record. And he’s paid his dues, from the streets to the stadiums, from the Liverpool docks to the Hollywood Bowl, as Ian would say. Why is no one following in his footsteps?

And after our convo with Isi and his lieutenant Will, we moseyed on down to the Saga Museum, on the recommendation of the concierge, to experience the history of Iceland and the Vikings and… The iron smelter’s son was a poet, a thousand years ago. Made me think of so many poets who’ve been forgotten. And even back then religion has people killing each other. But mostly, the museum gave me the impression that people back then thought they were modern, what are people in the future gonna think about us?

And then we ate lunch in the museum restaurant. Which normally I’d avoid, but Felice is a three meal a day girl, however small, I tanked up at breakfast and could wait for dinner, eating a Balance Bar to tide me over, but she pointed to the soup on the menu and I caved. The concierge recommended the restaurant too, but how good could it be?

EXCELLENT!

First there was the bread. I know, I know, I’m trying to avoid carbs after going overboard last night, but the worst bread in Iceland is better than the best bread in the U.S. The crust is firm, the middle is moist and the butter is soft…you could make a meal out of bread alone!

But then they served the soup.

Let’s see, it’s billed as “Halibut Soup with Mussels, Apples and Raisins.”

Who’d come up with that?

Then who’d come up with the dessert of “Rye Bread Soup, Raisins Soaked in Black Tea, Brown Butter Ice Cream.” We didn’t have that, but the soup!

The bowl was served with the halibut, mussels, apples and raisins, and then the server drenched it in a white liquid which evidenced oil spots and when you dipped your spoon… WHEW! The raisins were as big as olives, the apples were diced, the halibut was big and flaky and the mussels were shelled and all together it was dream-like. It’s like the Icelanders know food is the thing, but then they push the envelope. Kinda like Ed if you think about it. If you’ve never seen him live, with the loops and…

The rewards go to those testing the limits. They don’t always succeed, but when they do we’re titillated, thrilled to be alive.

But it’s risky out on the edge. People want you to fail, because they don’t have the courage to put it all on the line themselves. And instant adoption is never the case, your audience is small and limited until everybody gets on board, and then you’ve got to repeat the process. The audience might like where you’ve been, but if you stay where you are, others pass you by. So an artist is always climbing the mountain, it’s positively Sisyphean if you think about it.

But we live for the rewards.

MATUR OG DRYKKUR – Restaurant