Árstíðir – Pfalzkeller, St. Gallen (Nordklang Festival); February 16th, 2019
As far as festival gigs go, Árstíðir’s concert at Nordklang Festival in St. Gallen was as good as it gets. In fact it was a great and very fun gig by all standards. I loved it and it made me forget that I had to listen to two bands I didn’t really care for, instead of checking out the other venues, in order to keep my front row spot. They played for an hour, thus could not play their full tour set, but they even got an encore and were generally well received. The venue was amazing and the staff knew what they were doing. It was a small and very relaxed festival. 🙂
It was an early start for me as my train for St. Gallen left at 5:30 am. Despite any other plans I might have had, I didn’t sleep on the train either, but caught up with some photo editing. It was all hassle free though and before two I was at my hotel in St. Gallen, waiting for the check in to open. Dropped m things and left soon after, because I wanted to be at Bar Oya for Heiðrick’s showcase at 3. Got there with about 15 minutes to spare and was rather surprised to be the first person in the room. That should have told me already how relaxed the festival was going to be.
The showcase was nice, a lovely short set of older and very new songs, some of which had never been performed live. It was all rather melancholic, but very enjoyable nonetheless. As Heiðrick explained, most of the new songs were breakup songs. It was just him singing and Halldor on piano. I only recognized one song from the last time I’d seen him – ‘Monster’. There was a funny moment when a new song was announced and Halldor started playing, but it was wrong, so Heiðrick specified that he meant “the other new song”. 😀 Good singing, nice music, great start to the day. 🙂
Afterwards it was time to explore the city and relax a bit before the evening. Went for a nice dinner before going to the Pfalzkeller. It was a beautiful venue, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava as I learned from Guillaume after the show. It made me very much think of a spaceship. Since I wanted a good seat and didn’t have much of a clue how man people would come to the show, I never bothered to check in detail who was playing at the other venues. I saw something interesting in passing, but I knew I’d be too nervous to go elsewhere first and settled for just staying at one venue all night. I did have a great seat at front row center, but I slightly regretted not daring to check out an other bands, because from what I heard they must have been amazing.
My guys, however, were stuck with the “folk” section and while both artists were good, neither were really my cup of tea. Tallari from Finland played very traditional Finnish folk songs on violin, guitar and accordion, some sung, some instrumental. It was OK for a few, but and hour of that was too much for me. People loved it and the were all good musicians, but I would have much rather heard something else.
Next up was Danish Singer/Songwriter Jacob Bellens – he was a sympathetic guy and his singing even reminded me of Jim Kroft at times, but his music didn’t speak to me much. Some of the lyrics were nice, but overall it left me cold. He had a cool see-through grand piano and played guitar too. His song introductions were mostly just saying the names of the songs and telling us which album they were on, but nothing that I could relate to. At the end, he asked if we wanted to hear one or two more songs and someone called out for one specific song, which he played. That one was actually very nice. I would have loved to hear more of that.
Finally, after what felt like to long a wait it was time for Árstíðir. First, of course, they needed to set up the stage and they managed surprisingly quick. There was some weird vibe going on. Daníel, Guillaume and Jean-Samuel were OK, but Gunnar looked a bit worried somehow and Ragnar seemed nervous. That in turn made me nervous for them. I watched and waved hello whenever anyone looked at me, but left them alone otherwise – they were busy. Ragnar came over for a quick pre gig hug and that made the weird feeling recede. I was still nervous, but knew it was going to be OK.
Like the two performers before, Árstíðir were briefly introduced by one of the festival staff who told us they were looking forward to playing. She then tried to describe their style, realized it was impossible and told us to just to enjoy. They started with ‘While this Way’ and it was so powerful it blew me off of my feet. That is the way this song is supposed to be played! The audience agreed, cheering loudly. ‘Lover’ was next and brilliant as well. Everything was spot-on and the smile on my face grew bigger by the minute. Not only did the venue look great, the sound engineer also knew what he was doing. In fact it sounded amazing from every corner of the room as I noticed when I walked around to take pictures. Wow!
Ragnar talked about how amazing that festival was and how happy they were to be there with so many other great bands. He also talked about the tour and where they’d go next. ‘Ljóð í sand’ followed, showcasing the string section. They are always wonderful, but there are some songs where it comes out especially well. 🙂 I totally loved ‘In the Wake of you’ that night . I love the waltz like melody of it, the strings, the lyrics and Daníel’s singing too. It all came together perfectly. ‘Mute’ was amazing too, each and every song was the best it could possibly be. <3
Daníel spoke about letting the songs decide which language they want to be in and Icelandic landscapes as introduction to ‘Þar sem enginn fer’. Once again I marveled at how amazing and powerful that song is. It was followed by ‘Shades’. The combination of the two brought the house down. Usually, it distracts me from the music when I focus on taking pictures, but this night was different. I spent most of the night walking around with my camera, but it did not take anything away from how much the music touched me and how I felt every single note. I alternated between aiming for the best shots and letting the music take me over while singing along.Many times I managed to even do both at the same time. It was all sorts of wonderful. <3
For the acoustic set they only did ‘Kill Us’ this time, but they did it without any amplification. They just stepped out right in front of us, briefly introduced the song by giving us a small part of their history and played a killer version of it. Sadly there was some annoying background noise at some point, but it stopped soon. The moved back on the stage for ‘Like Snow’, talked about the meaning of “nivalis”. Once again I thought about the projections they’d used in Leiden, because they especially caught my eye during that song. It is beautiful either way though and really moved me.
When Ragnar talked again about how hard it is to pronounce ‘Friðþægingin’ it occurred to me that I still haven’t tried it. Maybe I should. I know I do it a lot better now than I used to, but I have no idea if I’m doing it right. 😉 Doesn’t matter how it is pronounced though, the song is one of my favorite live songs. If that does not make you want to move, nothing will. Need I even mention that it was a bloody awesome version they played? I did my best to sing along too. There was a bit of feedback at the start of ‘Himinhvel’, but moments later it was gone. The sound engineer really knew his stuff. There are no bounds as to how much I love this song. *sigh*
I missed ‘Entangled’, but realized then they were not going to play it. ‘Things you said’ followed as always. It’s an on/of song for me, but this night it really worked. 🙂 ‘Passion’ was announced as the final song and brought the appropriate reaction. Gunnar even said that this was the thing about festivals, having a time slot and knowing it will end after. He talked a bit more how good this particular festival was and then explained why ‘Passion’ is the song they end with. Every time I can only nod in agreement, because yes, the things you are passionate about do make you happy. I still think it is the perfect song to end with, album as well as show. And how beautiful it was. <3
Only, it was not the end. Everyone clapped and cheered so loudly and for so long that the came back out, wondering if they were even allowed to play an encore. Hell yes! They gave us a brilliant version of ‘Nú gleymist ég’ with Gunnar going from almost inaudible in the beginning of a certain line to belting out the rest of it. He’s done it before, but I kid you not – this was one of the best versions I have ever heard. One last time they stepped out, right in front of us afterwards, held out their hands so we would calm down and gave us ‘Góða veislu gjöra skal’. Somehow I managed to sing along to almost all of it and had a nice moment with Ragnar, looking at me to check if I did it right and singing with me for a bit. 🙂 “Let’s party!” was the word and there could not have been a more fitting ending to such a fun show. 😀
I told the guys how much I had loved the show, hugged everyone who wanted to be hugged (multiple times even) and spent some time chatting about the week that I’d missed and the weeks to come. It was sweet, relaxed and left me very happy. I love you guys, truly and I’m looking forward to touring with you a bit longer. 🙂
While this Way
Ljóð í sand
In the Wake of You
Þar sem enginn fer
Things You Said
Nú gleymist ég
Góða veislu gjöra skal
Nivalis winter tour: 9 gigs down, 8 to go. Next stop: Munich