Saturday night was the big Sigur Rós show at Vega
, a club complex in Copenhagen. I took a bus over about an hour before the show, and followed a crew of fans in Radiohead and old Sigur Rós shirts to the venue. The doors hadn't opened yet and there was a gathering of Danish indie-rocker diehards sitting on the slate in little groups in the shadow of the tour buses.
I was really hungry, and so walked on up the street and found a little café (Copenhagen is full of these) with outdoor seating under a big tree. I was all jittered up about the concert, couldn't really concentrate on the menu, and ordered a burger. While I was waiting for the food, I thought I heard "Er það ekki?" ("Is that right?") from the table across the patio. The Icelandic phrase jumped out at me - it was really strange to be hearing the Icelandic language outside of Iceland. I didn't believe it at first so kept listening to try to pick up the conversation.
Sure enough, there was a table of two beefy Icelanders in red sweatshirts and one chain-smokingly thin-headed guy. One of the stocky guys had an enormous gut and blonde ponytail and was swilling down beers, listening to the other sweatshirt guy. The third guy had some kind of radio microphone clipped to his shirt. They were all working on large plates of food, and they sure had the look of Sigur Rós roadies and stage crew about them.
I started thinking I'd go talk to them and introduce myself, and we'd all be fast friends, and they'd throw an all access pass around my neck and take me backstage ... but I was too chicken. So I sat there and ate my burger.
Then just as I was getting up the nerve to go over there, two more Icelanders, a youngish couple, came and sat down with the three dudes and then there were 5 people. I was thinking, "Wow, every Icelander in a 100-mile radius is here for the show." More intimidation.
So I paid my bill inside, and went into the bathroom. I vowed with myself that when I went back outside I'd at least say hi on my way back to the club.
When I got to the table, I decided to focus on just the 3 roadies. I mustered my best broken Icelandic and asked them if they were with Sigur Rós and they said yeah, they were, and I told them I was in town for the show and was going back to Iceland the next day. They asked me the usual stuff about what I was doing in Iceland, how long I had lived there, where I was from originally. The microphone man asked me if I had seen the band before, and I said oh yeah, I love Sigur Rós, these guys are amazing, and started rattling off shows in Boston, New York, and Reykjavík.
The mention of New York sent the thin-faced guy into a long Icelandic reverie, directed at the other roadies, about just how "brjálaður" (crazy) things had been at Radio City Music Hall. I was feeling a little awkward just standing there, not being able to fully follow the roadie reverie, so at a convenient pause I decided to move on. I wanted to say in my best fake Spinal Tap British, "David, do a good show alright." But I settled for "Gaman að sjá ykkur." ("Nice to see you.") And they told me to enjoy the show, and that was about it.
The concert was brilliant, of course. Sigur Rós is the only band I have seen live where the crowd is almost completely still the whole show, and the goosebumps moments come fast and furious. The Danish crowd was quiet during the music, but wildly enthusiastic at the beginning of each song, and stomped their feet on the wooden floor for an encore at the show's end.
Then as the band was taking its final bows, I had a realization. The young couple
who had been eating with the roadies, the ones sitting not 5 feet away from me, the ones who listened to my broken Icelandic ranting about the greatness of Sigur Rós, the ones I completely ignored, were Kjartan (the keyboardist) and his wife María, who plays violin with the band's permanent-resident string quartet Amina.
I was still feeling pretty jububbly about this hours later, getting drinks at Vega's downstairs bar
with some friends I had made at the concert. I was at the bar ordering a round of beers when I looked to my left and Kjartan was standing right there, shouldering his way in to order.
Now, with some nerve-calming beer under my belt, I asked him if he was Kjartan from Sigur Rós ("Are you really the first Bertucci's? Really? You?") to which he replied yes, he was. I told him they had done a brilliant show and, then, not knowing what else to say, launched into a conversation about my good friend from work who was in the same graduating class as Kjartan.
So, allt í lagi in the end. And once more, saved by the Iceland's vast web of personal connections.