Photos by Jill Rachel Evans
Review by Chris Senn
Reykjavik Calling brought unique, unprecedented collaboration to the Crocodile on Friday night. The free show showcased some of the finest Icelandic musicians from Seattle’s sister city of Reykjavik collaborating with Seattle musicians. The four pairings in this showcase were inspired and inspiring. The exchange of culture was uplifting. Most of the musicians met each other earlier that morning only adding to the spontaneity and immediacy of the collaborations. The free show attracted a large crowd to say the least. The line stretched down the block and around the corner and The Crocodile reached capacity shortly after the first pairing took the stage.
That first pairing was Icelandic singer/songwriter Petur Ben and Seattle musician Nathan Wade of Nathan Wade and the Dark Pioneers. Highlights included a Hank Williams cover and a spirited audience sing along of “Billie Jean.” Ben’s own songs featured muscular acoustics. “Something Radical” contained the hard hitting, progressive and memorable lyrics “Do something radical and do it fast, focus on the future and forget about the past.”
Next up was Lay Low paired with Jason Dodson from The Maldives. Dodson started off with The Maldives’ standard ” Lay Low has a thick accent when she speaks but when she sings her accent disappears. Her strong vocals seemed to float on a breeze and her guitar work was technically perfect. Her performance of “By and By” seemed so effortless.
Rachel Flotard and Rusty Willoughby were paired up with Sindri from the band Seabear. Before bringing Sindri to the stage Rusty and Rachel captivated the audience with their vocal harmonies. In honor of what would have been Gram Parsons’ 64th they performed a faithful version of the Parsons/Emmylou Harris duet “Streets of Baltimore.” Sindri came out to play a few solo songs. He joked about just doing his stand up routine instead of playing. He was able to get some laughs with some of his one liners. He used three microphones. One was normal with the two others featuring various degrees of reverb. “I Sing I Swim” is a beautiful, understated piece of pure pop escapism.
Before the last act of the night, KEXP DJ and host of Reykjavik Calling, Kevin Cole, took the stage with a member of the Icelandic Consulate to talk about the collaboration to bring this event together. KEXP worked to make this show possible and the sponsorship of Iceland Air made it a free show.
The showcase, up until now, had been mostly acoustic. That was about to change. John Roderick from the Long Winters took the stage, plugged in his electric guitar and performed a short set of Long Winters’ songs culminating in a rousing version of “Nora” featuring Icelandic musician Mugison on keyboards. His sound varies from straight forward singer-songwriter fare to what I can only describe as hardcore sludge blues. He has a distinct gravely, bluesy soul voice peppered with heartbreak. During “I Want You,” a song about his wife leaving him then coming back, the audience could almost hear his heart breaking.
Most of the night’s musicians joined Mugison on stage to close out the show with an impromptu performance of “Stand By Me.” This was a most unique experience. To see favorite Seattle musicians creating and collaborating with top Icelandic musicians in a venue as small and intimate as the Crocodile was a real treat. Thank you Reykjavik and please come back soon!