“You must love them.” “I do.”

Árstíðir – The Stables, Milton Keynes; October 22nd, 2016

It was a matter-of-fact statement, from the venue staff at The Stables when I told her I had seen Árstíðir 133 times, as well as my response. I have loved them from the first moment I’ve seen them live and the feeling has only intensified in the four years since. My love for this band and their music has kept me going through ups and downs in this rollercoaster of life and it feels like I’ve been with them trough thick and thin. They have changed and reinvented themselves a few times now and currently, with the latest change upon them I am still there, encouraging them as best as I can, knowing they will come out changed but alive and well on the other side and hoping that my presence may help them a little bit when they are in need of a friendly face in the crowd.

My trip to Milton Keynes was uneventful until I decided to walk from my temporary Air BnB home to the venue. It was a half hour walk, no big deal, or so I thought. The thing was, I was going on footpaths for most of the way and of course they did not have names. Thus, I followed Google maps, hoping I was walking in the right direction. When I hit the first road there was still no street sign to be seen, but I met someone who told me the street’s name, confirming I was still on track. I kept navigating and ended up on a dark road with no sidewalk. If I were the praying kind I would have started right about then. Walked on, somewhat unsure and felt immense relief when I came upon a sign saying “Welcome to The Stables” – I immediately knew I was not going to walk back but take a taxi instead.

It was a nice venue with a bigger and a smaller stage. Soon I met other people who had come there for the gig and we chatted. The band came back from wherever they had been, I waved to a few of them and had the chance for a bit of talk with Linda, whom I had not seen since Uden. Saw their new violinist Jean-Samuel too, but did not yet get a chance to talk to him yet.

Once they let us in I scored a spot in front row. It was close, too close to take pictures, but I soon realized it was not a night for taking pictures anyway. I needed to be in the music, feel it, listen with my eyes closed and find the place in my heart that only belongs to them. They walked in and I smiled at them, some smiled back, some were to focused to even notice me. Seeing them made me happy, it had been five long months since the last time. All of them were nervous about their first gig in the new setup and with some new equipment too. I knew they’d be OK, but I immediately got nervous too, took a deep breath and tried to spread some good vibes.

Daníel seems to be the master of effects now or he was for the night. So everyone waited for him to get the intro to ‘Himinhvel’ started. As soon as he did the show was on the road. After ‘things you said’ Gunnar told us they were going to continue with two more songs from the ‘Hvel’ album because they like the order of songs on it. Then it was time for something older with ‘Sunday Morning’ and ‘Látum okkur sjá’ to which Gunnar explained “We hardly ever play that”. I would disagree there, but they had indeed not played the song in a long time. Seeing it back on the setlist made me happy. I have good memories of it and for the first time that night I felt fully there. Before I was drifting in and out of the music, alternating between being lost in it and observing the changes to songs and arrangements. The night continued like that, a feeling enhanced by knowing most of the setlist inside out and hence not being surprised. Still, I got caught up in the music several times, closing my eyes, traveling in time, feeling how far we’ve come. It was all I needed. 🙂

They talked a lot that night, especially Ragnar, telling stories about the songs. early on, someone asked how to pronounce the band name, so Gunnar gave the usual “hours-teeth-ear, but with a rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” speech and Ragnar told us about the Facebook competition they had about this and the funny videos thy received. all this made me smile, made me feel at home. I also felt how the new equipment was still unfamiliar and they ha not yet settled into a routine working with it. At times everyone had to wait before starting a new song and there were a few technical glitches. Yet I felt that anybody who did not see them on a regular basis wouldn’t notice. I smiled at them, encouragingly, knowing they could do this.

The always beautiful combination of ‘Systir’ and ‘Nú gleymist ég’ brought the first set to a close. People loved it and I felt like a weight had been taken off of my shoulders. It went well, they made it through the first half, were going in a direction I liked. Some of the songs had subtle and not so subtle changes in instrumentation and singing. They felt new, unfamiliar a bit unpolished at times, but I liked what I heard, could see the bigger picture and knew it was going to be great. They just needed to find their footing. 🙂

During the break I wanted to hug all of them, tell them it was going to be OK. but they retreated and I only briefly spoke to Ragnar. We hugged, but didn’t exchange many words about the concert yet. Later! Chatted with Linda a bit and she too, felt it was going to be OK.

The second half started with ‘Ljoð í sand’, always a crowd favorite, then continued with a mixture of old and new. I briefly thought that a new setlist would be great, but understood they needed to learn the ropes as a new band first and do so with material they have been playing for a while. For one moment, somewhere, Karl crossed my mind and I wondered if I missed him. A little, yes, but not for long. It was more about noticing the difference in playing, the changes in the songs that were not familiar to me yet. Jean-Samuel, however, did a great job and I could already hear things going in the right direction. 🙂

To my surprise I really liked ‘Heiðin’ that night while ‘Lost in you’ didn’t work for me as well as it usually does. Stanger things have happened. The set ended with ‘You again’ and ‘Shades’ as usual. I loved ‘You again’, it stood out above the rest, even though I can’t pinpoint why. To great applause they came back for one last song: ‘Ages’ with Gunnar telling us they really only knew that one more. It was good, the audience had loved it, they’d passed the first test – it would only go up from here! 🙂

Many bough CDs and chatted while I stayed in the background, waiting my turn. Guillaume, Gunnar and Ragnar all wanted to know what I though and I told them “I see where you are going and I like it, but you are not there yet”. This was exactly how I felt about it. I also let them know I had liked it and thought it went well. they admitted having been nervous, but I assured them that nobody noticed. We talked a little more, Guillaume introduced me to Jean-Samuel, soon the guys went packing their stuff and I said goodbye. It was fun, I’m glad to have you back, see you tomorrow!

Setlist

Himinhvel
Things you said
Someone who cares
Moonlight
Sunday Morning
Látum okkur sjá
Systir
Nú gleymist ég

Ljoð í sand
You just have to know of me
Heiðin
Silfurskin
Lost in you
Shine
You again
Shades

Ages

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