Under the radar and all over town

Árstíðir – Monarch Tavern, Toronto; June 13th, 2013 and The Central, Toronto; June 14th, 2013

The moment I read that Árstíðir were playing at NXNE in Toronto I wanted to go there, but I thought it was impossible, because even then, way back in March, flights were horribly expensive. When they finally announced the specific dates in April, I kept checking, because I really wanted to see them at their first gig in Canada, despite having Springsteen tickets for that weekend. I had already given up and was about to book my flight to London for Springsteen when it occurred to me to check once again and I found an affordable flight that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. I didn’t even think about it, just booked. When I told the guys they were happy, but not even really surprised any more. So they are getting to know me better. 😉

Time went by fast and before I knew it I was sitting on a plane to Chicago, wondering about my new degree of craziness. Then again, it’s not the furthest trip I’ve taken for anyone. Either way, I could hardly wait to see them again. Since I had less than two hours time in Chicago, I only brought carry on luggage and hurried through the airport. I made it in good time, only to hear that we were missing a pilot and the plane would be delayed – it ended up being more than two hours. While I was waiting, I wondered if the guys were on the way or already in Toronto. I got my answer when I arrived. Pretty much the first person I saw when I entered the baggage claim area was Ragnar – what a nice surprise. We hugged, then I went over to hug the others who were waiting by the luggage belt. Favorite band welcome committees are really great. Can I please have that every time? =P I stayed with them an chatted for a long while before I got out of their hair and made my way downtown. Arriving at 9:30 pm all I wanted to do was sleep and I did soon.

Jet lag caught up with me the next morning. I was unable to go back to sleep after 5 a.m. – not the greatest start to the day, but I knew it would only get better from here. Shower, breakfast, checking emails and then I was out to meet my friend J. whom I had not seen in almost two years. We spent a great day out and about in Toronto despite some rain. Had originally planned to see a movie and maybe a few bands before Árstíðir, but was just too tired. Rested for an hour, met J. again for dinner and we made our way to the Monarch Tavern after, figuring we might as well see who was playing there before the guys.

Unfortunately it was rather empty when we arrived. The only good part was scoring the best seat in the house on a sofa right in front of the stage. The first two bands we saw were basically the same people minus a guitarist and with changing of the singer. Familiar Wild were listenable, but nothing to write home about. T. Nile was better, but also nothing special. Not bad music, but nothing to fully grab my attention. Could have been much worse though. It was a nice enough way to pass the time. I finally met Linda too. She was about as excited as I was.

While T. Nile was still playing I saw the guys arrive. Some of them were hanging out watching and waiting. Soon they had to set up the stage and it got pretty hectic, because they only had 20 minutes to do so. People who had watched the other bands stayed and a few more came too. Still not a large audience though.

Those who had made their way to the Monarch Tavern, however, were treated to something special. The sound was very beautiful and clear – Jón even had a grand piano to work with. The audience slowly came closer. Even after the first song they already got more applause than the previous two bands. I wondered how long it would take them to take over this audience. I knew latest with ‘þér Ég Unni’ the transformation would happen and I was right. The cheers grew quite loud after that. The song is like magic, it gets them every single time. 😀

Árstíðir played the same set they did on tour with Pain of Salvation – it proved to be a great choice. I had expected them to play more English songs this side of the pond, but they chose to stick with Icelandic except for ‘Shades’. Well, I can only repeat how well their selection worked. It grabbed people’s attention and held it, cheers growing louder with every song. I was quite busy taking pictures under pretty bad light conditions, so I didn’t see the audience reaction that much, but I sure heard it.

Once in a while I did settle down on the sofa next to my friend and just listened. It was such a lovely intimate concert, almost as if they were playing in a living room and J. enjoyed it as much as I did. Of course they only had roughly 40 minutes to show their talent, but they did use the time well. After the show many people came up to the guys telling them they loved it.

Setlist:

Á Meðan Jörðin sefur
Heiðin
Við dagsins hnig
þér Ég Unni
Ljoð í Sand
Nú Gleymist Ég
Shades / Tárin

Árstíðir stayed and so did J. and I. The next band started and they were so loud it became impossible to talk – bummer! I really felt the jetlag so we left once they were done. It was 2 a.m. after all , thus already 8 in the morning in my own time zone. I was beat and by the time I made it home I all but collapsed into bed, still smiling.

Toronto greeted me with lovely weather the next morning and I felt much better rested than the previous day. Still dreaming about the previous night I looked through the pictures I had taken and made plans for the day ahead. It occurred to me that I was there mainly to support the guys on their first venture to North America rather than to see the concert. I just wanted to be a witness and see them conquer a new audience.

Had lunch with J., then took off to see a documentary movie about The National and took a lovely walk after. Went back to the Monarch Tavern to take a picture and ran into Linda, Daníel and Karl who were there to pick up some of their stuff I guess. Made my way to The Central, the venue for the night a while later, met the guys, chatted a bit and hung out. When a few people arrived for the concert I changed my place at the window for one near the stage and soon got to watch the guys setting up their gear. Seeing them get ready for work still is interesting and I love all the concentration and smooth teamwork where everyone has their place. 🙂

Árstíðir were the “under the radar tip of the day” for this night so I had hoped more people would come, but it wasn’t a huge crowd. However, every table in the room near the stage was taken and the audience was really attentive too. When they started playing my first thought was “It’s too loud, I might need my earplugs”, but then again I was sitting right under one of the speakers. The sound was amazing though, just as clear as the previous night, but somehow blending better. Too bad Jón only had the e- piano this time.

Either way, it was just perfect from the first second. This time they immediately captivated the audience and had taken them over by the second song. YES! 😀 For ‘þér Ég Unni’ they stepped off the stage and I had to move out of the way. It was rather nice having them sing right next to me. <3 During ‘Nú Gleymist Ég’ Gunnars microphone kept moving downwards and for a moment I considered becoming a human microphone stand, but then Daníel shared his mic and eventually the stage tech came to the rescue and fixed it. It was a funny incident that made everyone smile.

I felt this second concert was better than the first, even though I liked the first venue better for it’s bigger stage. I can’t really put my finger on the why though. Maybe because the sound was better, maybe because there were a few fans apart from me or maybe because I was not as tired. Either way, I had the most wonderful time and a really good spot to watch them too. 😀 The music was well received – they sure could have played an encore had there been any time at all. Everyone was happy with the gig and while I hung out at the merchandise stand, quite a few people came to talk. Success! One woman brought them a beautiful poster she had made for them – it will look great on whichever wall it ends up on.

Setlist:

Á Meðan Jörðin sefur
Heiðin
Við dagsins hnig
þér Ég Unni
Ljoð í Sand
Nú Gleymist Ég
Shades / Tárin

The night wasn’t quite over though, there were drinks and stories shared as well as more music at other venues. Once the guys had brought all their instruments back to the hotel, everyone was relaxed and happy. We talked about the concert for a bit, Jón remarking that it felt weird to have traveled all this way for so few people to see them. I reminded him that the most important part was that they won over those who were there. There surely will be a bigger audience next time.

I had a great time just going with the flow. Seeing Svavar Knutúr was a highlight. He is such a funny storyteller and I quite enjoyed his songs too. The last band of the night were Lakes of Canada who gave me a deja-vu feeling when they stepped into the audience for an a cappella number. Just lovely. <3

It had gotten quite late and knowing I’d have to check out at ten in the morning I didn’t have much of a choice if I wanted to get any sleep at all. Thus, I finally said goodbye, even though I didn’t want to leave. We hugged and assured each other we’d meet again in three weeks. Despite being dead tired I felt like bouncing all the way back to my hotel.

The next morning it was time to check out and take one last look at Toronto before I went to the airport. Had to change planes twice, but it was a smooth ride. On Sunday afternoon I was home, blinking, wondering if this all had been real. Being totally exhausted was one indication of having traveled, but the most surefire sign, apart from the wonderful memories lounging in my head was the fact that my soul felt well rested and my heart was content. Only the best trips leave you feeling like this. Going to Canada may have been my best decision this year (so far) and I would not have wanted to miss this for the world. <3

pictures from Monarch Tavern

pictures from The Central

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