Of lonely foxes, eating bananas and horny whales

Svavar Knútur / Kyle Wolard / Selsbak – Weltempfänger, Cologne; September 11th, 2016

On an unusually warm September evening I found myself at Weltempfänger in Cologne-Ehrenfeld for an evening with Svavar Knútur, Kyle Woolard and – as I had only learned the previous day – Selsback. Svavar plays there all the time, but since it is not near the central station and his concerts there usually start at 9 pm, even mid-week, I had so far been reluctant to make the track. There was no way I could have known a gig there would be so much better than the other two I had seen in Germany so far. It was totally worth having to run to the train station afterwards and being home at 1 am on a worknight. The concert made me forget time. space, the heat in the room and the fact that I was really hungry. Instead of thinking about those things I listened, sang along and laughed a whole lot. I also walked away with some mental images I never wanted to have, but I’ll get to that later. 😉 what a great night!

Arrived at the Weltempfänger around 17:00, spotted Svavar, got a drink, settled down in front row with my book and waited. After the late beginning of the concert in Duisburg in February I didn’t expect anyone to be on time, but more people showed up soon and by 18:00 the place was nicely filled. I still hadn’t seen Kyle around and was quite surprised when I saw him walking in. He smiled at me and waved so I waved back. Then he motioned liking my The Anatomy of Frank T-Shirt and I shrugged with a smile.

Soon Taylor Selsbak, the first act of the evening walked on stage. He introduced himself and started playing. He had  a nice bluesy voice that I liked very much. He was playing a four string guitar and described himself as a “glorified ukulele player” who could not handle two extra strings. His music was nice, but got a bit boring after a while with songs sounding similar. His assessment that Svavar needed to teach him how to talk to an audience was rather accurate too. It wasn’t bad though and he managed to get a decent sing-along from the audience. 🙂 Sadly, quite a few people walked in and out of the venue during his performance which was a  little distracting at times. During the break I said hello to Kyle and he asked me if I had any requests. I didn’t, was just curious what I would hear.

Just like Selsbak Kyle was introduced by someone from the venue before he entered the small stage. He started with ‘Blurry’, then introduced himself briefly and explained that in the US there are only three cool places to be from: New York City, California or Colorado. He pondered the reason and decided that the reason must be that all these words have four syllables and sound really good in songs. He gave a few examples of spontaneous lyrics about those places like “some … about about a river in Colorado”. 😀

‘The Girl from Ipanema’ was next. I had forgotten what the song sounded like and loved it. 🙂 Kyle continued talking about the magic trick he did last tour and joked that it didn’t work so he was gonna do a different one this time. He asked us to hold out our arms out, rotate, cross over, link fingers, wiggle fingers and then turn the hands back up. It was funny because it’s impossible to bring the hands back up like that. I suspect that the moment Kyle told someone she was doing it wrong he must have switched hands. It was quick though. Nice one. 😀

The always beautiful Minnesota part 1 was next and I realized I was missing part 2 – put it on my mental list for the next gig. A story about omens followed about wanting to go to a nature pool, getting typical Icelandic instructions (complete with the accent) and discovering a ram just standing there and starring at him. He ignored it, walked by “and you know what happened 30 minute slater?” “Nothing, I had a great swim”. 😀 ‘Lake Air’ the new song was beautiful. 🙂 Kyle wasn’t done with omens yet and asked us for the German word which incidentally is the same as in English: Omen. The second story was about playing in Súðavík with Myrra Rós a town that once had been buried by an avalanche. Apparently it was stormy and Myrra had a bad feeling about it, but again nothing bad happened, his point being that superstitions might keep us from doing things.

He mentioned thinking about playing ‘La Llorona’, but thinking better of it after he heard the story of Stuwwelpeter. Yep, that’s German children stories for you. 😀 Another new song ‘The …. boat’ with a great crowd sing along. Perfect. Last but not least was ‘Vancouver’ just like I’d hoped. The audience managed that sing-along perfectly as well and when it was over clapped and cheered so much that I am sure Kyle could have done an encore.

Setlist:

Blurry
The Girl from Ipanema
Minnesota Part 1
Lake Eyre
The Landing of the plus ultra flying Boat
Vancouver

Another break, Svavar sound checked quickly and I walked out for a breath of fresh air, got another drink, sat back down. Another brief announcement, applause and Svavar unceremoniously launched into ‘Bang Bang’. This was already funny and it only got better from there. He didn’t play all that many songs in the two hours that followed but told stories that had everyone in stitches. Before getting into the first story he mentioned that he’d been drinking one beer after the other since four in the afternoon. I’m not sure this was the reason for the type of stories that night, but either way I had a blast.

He explained about the important trilogy of Weltschmerz, Waldeinsamkeit and Wanderlust and how he always tries to build a bubble around himself at the start of the gig that expands and draws everyone in. When it doesn’t work he explained it’s like showing up late for a party where everyone is talking about “Game of Thrones” when you’re not watching it. Only once he failed – in Duisburg of all places with two people at the front who crossed their arms and just watched. He went into great detail of how the bubble stopped and all sound became distorted by it – complete with sound effects that are impossible to describe. We learned that “Weltschmerz” is really good for musicians because the pain helps with songwriting. Waldeinsamkeit then is being alone in the woods where you only hear the birds and maybe a lonely fox. Off he went music what a lonely fox sight sound like and if maybe it was masturbating. Of course in Iceland there are no woods so there is Buscheinsamkeit rather than Waldeinsamkeit with lonely men in the bush. What? 😀

Of course he had to tell us that he likes making people sing because “music is better for you than sports” and claimed that he can still reach the tip of his toes without bending his knees at age 40. From there he went into talking about orgies being a problem in old people’s homes – for the staff, nut the old people. It’s the age when you are too fucked up to care and thus anything is possible, but of course the people who never get to be part of the orgies are those who did sports. Good to know. 😛 I was already laughing so hard then I had trouble taking pictures. After ‘Undir Birktré’ Svavar mentioned how he was invited to play at an international chess tournament. I was looking forward to hearing the story again, but it went into a completely different direction, going through what national anthems really are like, the reaction of the chess players (none whatsoever) on to whales that could be heard in the distance and how Icelanders learn their language and thus understand the whale songs played during yoga classes. Of course whales are horny (is there a pattern?) and “they are the assholes of the ocean that’s why we kill them and eat them one delicious steak at a time”. 😀

I didn’t cry that night, but was very close to tears from laughter. I may not have needed to know anything of what I learned, but I sure won’t be able to forget it. 😉 To Wanderlust being important I can relate. Svavar claimed that musicians without Wanderlust are boring – how can they not want to carry their music out to the world and just put it on youTube? The song also brought the first of many sing-alongs. 🙂 Then he announced ‘The Curtain’, a song he write with a Swedish friend, but first he had to tell us about the sound of the Swedish language and illustrated it with a story about Swedish Hell’s Angels wanting to rob you and then taking off on their motorcycles that sound like sewing machines since they are made by the same manufacturer. 😀

Our lessons weren’t over yet. The next one was about the difference in humor and laughter between Germany and Iceland. ‘Tiger and Bear’ based on the Janosh story “How beautiful is Panama” was next, even though “Our prime minister destroyed Panama for me because he was in the Panama Papers”. Afterwards he shared man secrets “Every one of s at one time tried to suck his own dick…” *laughter* “.. some succeeded, like…” *more laughter* and the rest of this is going to remain a secret. 😛  The amazing ‘Emotional Anorexic’ followed. I had been hoping to hear that song and enjoyed it very much. <3

‘While the World burns’ brought the second sing along of the night, even without being prompted. <3 By this time everyone in the room was into it and those who weren’t had long since left. Someone walked in though, trying to make as little noise at possible and failed because the door squeaked which lead to a comment about quicker being better. ‘Yfir hóla og yfir hæðir’ was of course introduced as a song about sex on a mountain complete with instructions on how many blankets to bring and what type of clothes to wear.

At some point Svavar mentioned that Icelanders are considered to be adorable and thus he can get away with almost anything. Well, with a lot anyway. 😉 He tells his stories with just the right mixture of tongue in cheek, outrageous claims making you wonder if he really said that, self-depreciation and sweetness that the only option is to laugh about it. I certainly did! What I really liked was when he said how he does not want to be adored and he’d rather have friends than fans. Fine with me! With ‘Girl from Vancouver’ and a story about turning into Hodor from Game of Thrones when meeting a cute girl the main set ended.

For the encores he asked us which song we wanted to hear and the vote was for ‘Leipzig’. I had never heard this one and it was hilarious. Concluding us Svavar told a story about going home in Hamburg and meeting a bunch of drunk guys in the subway station who asking him if he was the party man with his ukulele. He ended up playing ‘Eye of the Tiger’, ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ and even a Prodigy Song before he managed to escape them. Afterwards he asked for another beer and completely out of the blue wondered if vegans swallow before deciding to end the show with his very own version of ‘Hallelujah’ which included an alien spaceship attack and other weird things. There could not have been any better ending to this night. 😀

It was time for me to go if I wanted to catch my train. I managed to quickly say goodbye to Kyle and Svavar, hugged both and promised to come back on Friday. They must have talked about me because Svavar asked me if I was Stef. Yep, that’s me. 🙂 With a huge smile on my face and mental images I didn’t ask for but might never get rid of I went home. 😀

Setlist:

Bang Bang
Vetrarsól
Undir Birktré
Wanderlust
The Curtain
Tiger and Bear
Emotional Anorexic
While the world burns
Yfir hóla og yfir hæðir
Brot
Girl from Vancouver

Leipzig
Hallelujah

pictures from this concert

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