Easy travel, a Polish song and a killer after party

Ragnar Ólafsson – Meskalina, Poznań; October 29th, 2021

A bit over two months after the last tour I was back in Poland yet again to see my friend Raggi play and really happy I could see three of the five concerts he played. The first stop was Poznań, where the Meskalina is like Café Rósenberg in Reykjavík – no matter where the location, it always feels like home. The shows there are always great and this was perfect, light hearted fun all evening. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the after party was legendary. 😀

With Poznań being only a 2.5 hour train ride from Berlin the trip was easy for me this time and didn’t involve getting up in the middle of the night for a change. I arrived in the afternoon, checked in, changed and went straight to Meskalina to have dinner before the show. Soon I was greeted by Bartek and then by Bennek the owner of the club, the food was amazing and after they let us in I got a perfect spot. Greeted Raggi with a hug, said hello to Monika, who had sung with him on the last tour and saw a few more familiar faces. I already had a good feeling about it.

The show started with Raggi walking towards the stage from the back playing ‘Meanderings’ on the ukulele. <3 It was awesome! He was all smiles, looking very relaxed. I felt none of the tension of the last show at this place. This was going to be fun. He greeted us in Polish, bantered with the audience and continued with ‘War’. I loved it and he seemed into the grove already.

He asked us if had seen him play before and how many of us were there in August. It wasn’t many, but he still promised a different setlist. This one was going to be a bit Halloween themed, i.e. including songs about murder for lack of songs about ghosts in catalogue. Fine with me. 😀 ‘Sleep now’ was the first of said songs and performed perfectly with just the right intensity throughout. It is always a highlight for me.

Monika joined him for ‘Dozen’ and they reminisced about the house show in Obrzycko where they had sung together for the first time, especially about the afterparty of which Raggi claimed to have no recollection. He explained about the democratic love songs and how the banner came about (yes, he had brought it back to Poland!). They sang beautifully and I noticed just how good the sound was that night. Monika stayed for the second song about murder, Ask the Slave’s ‘Catch 33’. We heard the story of John Wayne Gacy who worked as a clown and strangled 33 people. So there might be a reason to be afraid of clowns. 😀 It was great with Monika singing wonderful harmonies. <3 After the second verse, people started clapping along – it worked nicely.

‘Bravery’ was announced as the song he always plays, but still finds ways to explore. Before “starting the engine and seeing where it goes” he asked what bravery means in Polish and learned a new word. As he started playing, the mic stand on his left dropped and Bartek joked that he was doing magic. 😀 Since we were already laughing he played the start of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and then Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a Prayer’ just for fun which lead to the story about playing it at a Polish wedding.

Raggi switched to the piano and needed a drink of wine first, telling us how he was hungover because “mixing red wine with vodka was a bad idea”, wishing Bartek had told him. Bartek countered “100 concerts in Poland and you still learn something new”. ‘Red Wine’, “the saddest song I have ever written” followed. I still love it very much. The song after, I loved even more. It was a new Árstíðir song in Icelandic, called ‘Endatafl’. What a gorgeous piece of music that was. It’s in Icelandic, so I could not understand, but I felt it. In the end, he even invited us to sing with him – not “Lalala” this time but “ohhhhoooohooo”. There is something very powerful about singing  together. <3

He joked about planning to name every song on the first album something wine, but not doing it in the end. There is ‘Wine’ though and he played it for us, unplugged and stepping down onto the first step that leads to the stage. It was amazing how quiet everyone was. Monika returned for ‘Petals’ and did a killer job on it. I loved the power in her voice and how they harmonized.

Raggi spoke about traveling down the Mississippi, how it felt and how much the atmosphere influenced him until he eventually wrote a blues song, never planned to put it on the album and liked the recording so much, it ended up there anyway. It’s always fun and this was no exception. In the end there was a clap along going too. He commented on how much power we held in our hands and how much energy that gave him. It lead to mentioning Patreon and how he asked us to use clapping emojis so it’s not too quiet after the song.

“This is the last song before the encore,” Raggi said and I responded with “awwww”. He laughed so I said “Someone’s gotta do it!” Of course it was ‘Southern Nights’. He explained about the sing-along and asked us to go crazy. Raggi joked that singing is therapy and has kept him sane for years. It does help. 🙂 We did our best, clapping along and everything. It sounded really good too.

There was lots of cheering for the encore and just hearing it, one could have thought the show was sold out. We were loud! He was back soon and talked about the tradition of playing a silly cover and, in case of Meskalina, playing ‘Hero’, but he felt that two months before he had taken it as far as he possibly could, describing the scene of balloons on stage and everything, so he wasn’t gonna do it that night. Instead, he tried something different, but just as silly. “If you know the words, sig along” he spoke and launched into a Polish song. Everyone sang with him. It was really fun and they forgave him for only knowing one verse. I later learned it is called ‘Dźem’ – what a great surprise! 😀 Afterwards he asked people if they actually liked the song and someone told him that it was the true Polish national anthem. 😉

We got one more murder song, ‘Where the wild Roses grow’ and Monika helped him, explaining how this was the first time she was going to sing it and Bartek added they had decided on playing it ten minutes before the doors opened. either way, it was great! Last song of the night was ‘Dragonfly’ of course with Monika on Glockenspiel and Bartek, in his cow costume, on the piano. He even brought a confetti cannon shooting flower petals. Woohoo! A fun end to a good show.

The night, however, was far from over. A group of us gathered at the bar for drinks and stories, talking about all types of things, including the planned birthday gig in January, Àrstíðir’s new album and how different people experience music differently and even clap along differently. We even moved on to another bar later for shots. I left after the first one so I have no idea how long the party lasted, but it sure was fun!

Setlist

Meanderings
War
Sleep now
Dozen
Catch 33
Bravery
Red Wine
Endatafl
Wine
Petals
Muddy Waters
Southern Nights

Dźem
Where the wild Roses grow
Dragonfly

They say hope is a fickle thing but I’d rather hope than face another frozen spring

Svavar Knútur – Neues Schauspiel Leipzig; September 12th, 2021

Svavar Knútur’s concert in Leipzig was the funniest one I have seen on this tour and that says a lot, considering I was rolling with laughter each night. It also had a very beautiful setlist, which made it the perfect last show for me. 🙂

With Leipzig just a short train ride away, I had a relaxed morning in Dresden, before moving on. I had enough time to go for lunch and get some sleep before going to the concert, which was a good thing considering I’d have to leave around 4 am the next morning. It was a long walk to the venue, which turned out to be a nice small theater with adjacent bar.

We were all seated far away from the stage which was the first thing Svavar noted at the beginning of the concert. He thanked us for coming on a Sunday night, referring to “Tatort” being on. It is a well known German crime TV series, running on Sunday nights, that used to keep people at home. Before starting with ‘Fagurt er í Fjörðum’ he gave us a rough translation and remarked that he’d start with the sad songs and play happier ones later.

‘Your Love was death to me’ as next and he explained how it is about a toxic relationship, musing that sometimes they are toxic because the people involved bring out the worst in each other. It is a good song, I’m glad he rediscovered it. He talked about how he likes playing zoom shows because he can see people when he does and played ‘Hard Things’ for us. Another great old song. 🙂

Since 99.9 % of the best days of his life started with a morning, ‘Morgúnn’ was up next and immediately put a smile on my face. Before ‘Spór’ he explained that he wanted to wrote a sad song, but realized he’d rather write a song about his daughter instead and changed it. I had not heard that one in a while and forgotten how beautiful it is. 🙂 ‘Tiger and Bear’ was next and this time he made sure to put the capo in the right place, determined not to fuck up this time. And he didn’t. 😀 It came with a long winded rant about how writing about love is boring and how “The Sultan of Brunei” sounds like a gay diva from the Glasgow club scene. 😀

The was talk about language differences again for ‘Undir Birkitré’ and it seemed to get funnier each night. This time it somehow included a story about Faroese and kindergarten sounds. Being a fellow language nerd, this is so much fun for me. After the song he told us a story how making a joke about “Fiege” beer in Bochum had unforeseen consequences. He then changed his mind about playing a song in English and played ‘Ölduslóð’ instead. The last song before the break was ‘Wanderlust’ and ended with a great sing-along. I had missed this one. <3

Svavar mentioned how he had broken a string on his ukulele the previous night and wondered if that was rock ‘n’ Roll. I’d say so! He continued with the ‘Song about the Raven’ and explained what the song is about first. The beautiful ‘Vetrarsól’ followed – it truly captures the how lovely it is to see the sun in Iceland in winter. He joked about Icelanders who escape the winter and fly to canary islands, especially when they are people supporting the Icelandic equivalent of AFD and then complain about Schengen while vacationing in the EU.

We got a lesson in songwriting on the guitar and how most songwriting starts from a few basic positions. He illustrated the use of G, C, D minor, A, E and F making up songs on the spot as examples of what these chords are mostly used for, like tragic love Songs or Blues. 😀 A bit of history about Iceland formerly being a slave society in the 1800 followed – it was interesting to hear and lead to ‘Lady Winter’ and ‘Hope and Fortune’. I love ‘Lady Winter’ and was so happy to have it back in the setlist. <3 ‘Hope and Fortune’ was great as well and really feels like a continuation of the story.

Of course we could not miss the songs about Svavar’s favorite months of the year to “appreciate the unappreciated”. He joked how they had given all of their reasons to celebrate to December so that month would not be so shitty and boring. January was praised as the bringer of light when the sun is coming back and November for being a time of reflection. ‘Janúar’ and ‘November’ are both great songs, no matter what one may think about the months in question.

Because of the broken string, i had brought my ukulele for Svavar to use and given it to him before the show. However, he decided not to play ‘Girl from Vancouver’ to end the show but “a song I haven’t played enough on this tour”, which was ‘The Hurting’. Yay! It is so good and always such great fun!

To loud cheers he came back for an encore and played ABBA’s ‘Like an Angel walking through the Room’ and ‘When all is said and done’ for us. Both were wonderful and I even cried a little. He plays them so well too. Afterwards he built up to ‘Mana Mana’ by telling us it was an Italian jazz song, originally in a  erotic documentary about Sweden (Sweden – Heaven and Hell) and how we could find the movie on youTube. So my ukulele was used after all and everyone had fun singing along. 😀

When it was over I gathered my things, said goodbye and got a hug for the long way back to my hotel. What a great night!

Setlist

Fagurt er í Fjörðum (Látra-Björg)
Your Love was Death to me
Hard Things
Morgúnn
Spór
Tiger and Bear
Undir Birkitré
Ölduslóð
Wanderlust

“Song about the Raven” (Icelandic)
Vetrarsól
Lady Winter
Hope and Fortune
Janúar
November
The Hurting

Like an Angel walking through the Room (ABBA)
When all is said and done (ABBA)

Mana Mana