A legionary fortress in Wales: Rub-a-dub-dub

After visiting the civilian site of Venta Silurum at Caerwent, it was time for some military action, so I set off for Caerleon and the Roman legionary fortress of Isca.

Many of the (very cool) Roman forts in Britain were home to auxiliary units. Non-citizen troops working and fighting for Rome with the promise of citizenship and a nest-egg at the end of the period of service. A few sites, however, were home to legions; huge forces of citizen troops. Legionary fortresses were huge, the size of an large Roman town, housed at least 5000 men and had all mod-cons and amenities, and Isca was one of these. Home to Legio II Augusta, the Second Augistan Legion.

Visible remains around the modern Caerleon  include an area of barracks, an amphitheatre, stretches of fort walls, a number of ovens in which the troops’ bread would have been baked and impressive bathhouse.

I’ll start with the impressive bathhouse.

P1110315

Fort sites always have a bathhouse but, being attached to a legionary fortress, this one is particularly fine. It had all the usual hot, warm and cold rooms for getting clean but also a large external games and exercise area, an indoor exercise hall and a long swimming pool. More like an Imperial bathhouse.

The visible remains represent only a small part of the whole structure. The section of swimming pool gives a bit of idea of scale and construction. I notices that in the walls of the pool there are lots and lots of pieces of tile, mainly tegulae. I wasn’t sure why this was, except perhaps they helped in getting the stonework really level and watertight.

P1110320

Looking closely (and with the help of some handy indicators) you can see some other signs of fort life.

There are several animal footprints, cat and dog, left when those naughty animals walked across the wet clay times.

P1110279

Other, more human, animals also left their mark.

P1110284

And this more deliberate, and more official mark records the work of the unit responsible for the making the tiles and building the bathhouse, Legio II Augusta [LEGIIAVG].

P1110290

Around to an internal area of the bathhouse. This area is the end of the suite of bathing rooms, the frigidarium.

P1110331

Against the wall is a rectangular plunge pool which would have been filled with ice cold water, perfect for tightening the pores after the sweating and scraping in the hot rooms. On either side of this pool is a semi-circular recess which would have housed basins for dowsing with cold water.

P1110353

Also displayed in this area is this fragment of one of the basins. Carved from purbeck marble and decorated with the Gorgon’s head.

P1110362

Also this fantastic drain cover. It’s quite large. About a metre across.

P1110369

Dotted around the bathhouse site and in the nearby museum are other finds recovered from the bathhouse. There’s this lovely dolphin water spout, probably from the fountain house at the end of the long swimming pool.

P1110698

One of the most interesting places for finds in Roman bathhouses is…the drains. Ok, bear with me.

Roman bathhouses were undoubtedly places in which people could get clean. Bathers would smother their skin in the oil, then spend time in the warm and hot rooms, sweating out the dirt, which was then scraped off with a curved blunt instrument called a strigil. At Caerleon, several bathers seem to have had accidental breakages.  These bottle necks, complete with bone stoppers, are from the little globular bottles that bathers used to carry their olive oil to the baths.

P1110433

But these baths had other functions; they were meeting places, places where deals were done, places to exercise and to relax, places to get a massage, places for naughty assignations, places to play games and get a bite to eat. All  of these activities have left their residue in the drains, heating flues and rubbish dumps of the bathhouses.

At Caerleon, the bathhouse drains have turned up a remarkable number of intaglios. These are the little gems made from materials like jasper, garnet, carnelian, agate, glass and rock crystal, engraved with images such as gods or animals, that were set into jewellery, often finger rings. The heat and damp of the baths evidently caused the gems to come loose as 88 of them have been found in the drains.

20150815_141331

20150815_141215--

There is a bit of reflected light on this, but you can see from the blown up image that this gem depicts a horse.

20150815_141142

Nice, but I bet that a few Romans would have been annoyed at losing them.

But bath-time is over now. I’ll have a look at the rest of the visible remains another time.

Pip pip.

Go West

Last weekend I spent a little time in Wales. I had to go over to Cardiff for work and so that seemed like a perfect excuse to stay an extra day or two and have a look at a couple of sites in South Wales while I was there. I’ve never been to these sites before so I was keen to get a look at them.

First stop was Caerwent, Roman Venta Silurum.

P1110172

Venta Silurum was the largest civilian centre in Roman Wales and the  administrative centre of the tribe of the Silures. This tribe was bested by the Romans in the third-quarter of the first century, but were finally allowed elements of self-government by the early second century. The Roman street grid, public buildings, shops, houses and other buildings were laid out around the late second century.

I got off the bus on the edge of town, by the Roman East Gate, and set off along the town walls. These survive up to a height of about 5m, complete with towers and were built towards the end of the third century. Who could resist such lovely #wallporn? And so much of it!

P1110072

In some area, the external facing stones are still in place. I expect that a lot of these have been taken away over the years for use as building material.

P1110118

Where the facing stones have been robbed out, you can see the rather beautiful internal structure of the walls, forming this rough herringbone pattern.

P1110083

A few specific features still survive along the wall.

The most obvious are these towers. They are five-sided in plan and were not built as part of the initial wall structure but were built onto the pre-existing wall at a later date, around 350CE. You can see that the stone blocks aren’t bonded into the wall, but butted up against it.

P1110120

P1110119

The South Gate, a single lane gateway, was blocked up late in the town’s Roman history. The square (-ish) hole is a culvert built through the blocked up wall.

P1110108

Likewise, the West Gate was also a single-lane gateway and was also blocked up during the late Roman period. In this case, a postern (a little doorway) was built through to allow for pedestrian access.

P1110154

The floor and lower courses of the associated guardroom still survive.

P1110152

Round the corner, the blocked-up north gate is now in someone’s garden (the picture below was taken from the road) as, along the north side, there are houses and a pub built right up against the wall.

P1110241

As well as the walls, surviving in-situ remains include this fantastic area of shops and workshops.

P1110178

The lower courses of the stone buildings survive marking the layout of these small business units.

P1110174

P1110184

Nearby there is this courtyard villa, built in the first half of the fourth century. At least some of the rooms had hypocausts and mosaic floors.

P1110192

P1110195

Just down the road is the forum-basilica.

P1110200

And just round the corner is this temple.

P1110225

The  most striking feature, and what really marks it out as a temple, is the apse-ended cela.

P1110234

Caerwent is a very small village and the kind of place where missing the scheduled bus can mean a very long, possibly fruitless, wait so I made my way to the bus stop heading for Newport for my next visit. But that’s another story.

Sound and Vision

This weekend I’ve been at the Hackney-based multi-venue festival, Visions.

P1100908

You know the sort of thing; see a band, run down the road, see another band, spend 10 minutes studying the schedule, run back to the  first venue, see a band, grab a sandwich, see a band…

Now, I’m pretty lazy, so all that running sounds less like fun than I’d like, but I did get to see the usual mix of hits and misses.

The day didn’t start too well. I aimed to get to the wristband pick up point in time to get my wristband and then see at least some of the set by Oscar @ The Laundry before my ‘must see’ for the festival, Girl Band. Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astry, especially when they come up against the monster that was The Great Wristband Queue of 2015. Honestly, I’ve been in some monster queues before but this was ridiculous. Stretching away into the distance, round the corner, stretching away into the distance again, round the corner, oh! I can see the end of it. Starting off a festival like this is a little disheartening, to say the least, as I really thought that despite being there over an hour before Girl Band were due on, the queue situation would probably mean that I was going to miss them (one of the security people was actually telling people to go away and come back in a hour!).

I’m pleased to report that the process didn’t take as long as I had feared it would and I was able to get the necessary wristband and get to the venue just in time to bag a spot for the Girl Band set. Phew! Disaster averted.

So, to Girl Band @ The Laundry. I’ve written a little about this Dublin 4-piece before. They haven’t played in London for a little while and have new material, so I was keen to see them.

Girl Band 1

They started their set with their fun cover of Blawan’s Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage. This is always pretty  popular at gigs and the gruesome video has gone down a storm :D

Girl Band 4  Girl Band 3

The set wasn’t that long, but it did include the new single and album track, Paul. The vocalist, Dara sounded like he’d been gargling with gravel, but, as always it was good fun. I’m looking forward to the new album.

Girl Band 2

After a fortifying cup of coffee, I went back into The Laundry to see Merchandise. I don’t know this band and so didn’t really know what to expect, but I have since seen them described as “meat ‘n’ potatoes indie rock” and I’d say that sounds about right. To be honest, there was a bit too much of the U2s about this band for my liking, so I only stayed for about three songs and then skipped over the road to The Brewhouse to catch a bit of Torn Hawk. This is a one-man project using laptop and guitar, with visuals, samples, spoken work clips and beats. It was ok but I found myself movie-spotting his samples and film clips and the whole thing didn’t hold my interest enough to compensate for the extreme sweatiness of the venue.

For the next bit of the early evening, I had to make a big decision; Son Lux or Gazelle Twin. They were playing at venues that were about a mile apart, Oval Space and the new, not even open yet, Moth Club, so there was no possibility of skipping between the two. In the end I opted for Gazelle Twin @ Moth Club but as I had a little bit of a wait before they were due on, I went for a cuppa. In retrospect this probably wasn’t the best idea because when I got back to The Moth Club, there was a queue and it was ‘one-in, one-out’. So I  waited. By this time I couldn’t go to Son Lux as it was too far away to be able to get there in time to see anything (and, of courses, with no guarantee of being able to get in there), so I just waited.

I did get in eventually and the venue was rammed. It was really good though.

Gazelle Twin

Two faceless hooded figures pumping out quite sparce but relentless beats, and chanted vocals. It’s actually a bit creepy despite the cool danceability. There’s a lot of dark energy in this.

Gazelle Twin 2

For the rest of the evening, there was a variety of choices, but most of the ones I might have been interested in were either in the Moth Club where I already was, or in venues all the way back down past London Fields, so I decide to just stay put. Due to the threat of more queuing, I didn’t even go back outside, I just took up residence at The Moth Club and this proved to be a good move (or non-move).

The next act was Blanck Mass, another solo project, this time by one half of the Fuck Buttons.

Blanck Mass 1

The first part of the set was essentially soundscapes, arrhythmic and meandering, but this also kept morphing imperceptibly into rocking beats that had the crowd whooping like a dance crowd. This felt to me like a cross between music production and DJing where the DJ works the crowd and builds different moods throughout the set without anything as obvious as a break between tracks. Put together with some great abstract visuals, this was a real treat of a set.

For the end of the evening, I’d had a choice between Holy Fuck @ Oval Space and H09909 @ Moth Club as I’d decided to end the night on something fairly fierce. H09909 it was.

HO99O9 3   HO99O9 4

I also rather liked the Moth Club, despite the fact that, by now, it was pretty sweaty, so it seemed like a good place to end the night. Good choice.

HO99O9

I’ve seen H09909 described as hip hop and I can more or less understand why, but this was really hardcore. The whole this reminded me strongly of some of the old school hardcore gigs that I used to go to at the end of the ’80s. They don’t play the same kinds of instruments, these days it’s a laptop and samples, but they also had a live drummer and, overall, the set had a air of unpredictability and, at times, more than a touch of chaos.

HO99O9 2

This was enormous fun. There was a proper mosh-pit and I’m afraid that The Moth Club may have to do some repairs, as revellers were hanging off the lighting  track and may have trashed the projector. I hope that the people at the club think that it was worth it to be christened in such a joyful and memorable fashion.

So this proved  a fine ending to a mixed day.

I’ll start with the not so good. The queues. I didn’t get it too badly, overall I probably spent about an hour or so queuing, but I’ve seen a lot of frustration being expressed on Twitter about being completely unable to get into gigs. Last year’s festival really didn’t have this problem, so it must be because of the increased capacity brought by adding St. John Church to the list of venues.

The other problem that this caused was that the venues are now quite a long way apart. There’s a little cluster near-ish to London Fields and then two more and the food/beer market up at Hackney Central. This is about a 20 minute walk, making it far more difficult to flit between venues, perhaps checking out unfamiliar bands. It became more necessary to plan every move and try to get to the appropriate venue well before the bands were due on.

Talking of the food market, the Visions-affiliated food outlets involved a bit too much ‘pulled-porkery’ for my tastes. There is definitely an American influence running through hipster food. It’s very meat’n’cheese-heavy and everything has to be ‘pulled’. I gave it a miss.

The good? The music, of course. For me it was Girl Band, Gazelle Twin, Blanck Mass and Ho99o9, who were all cracking. A lot of Tweeps clearly had a good time despite the odd hiccup. For me, the quality and range of music on offer outweighed the negative points outlined above.

And then there’s the brand new Moth Club.

Moth 1

How could I not love a new club that has a golden ceiling? Golden ceiling!! :D

IMG_20150808_195647_1

I look forward to spending more evenings there.

The cupboard of indie nonsense – slight return

The recent chance meeting with someone I haven’t seen in a year of donkeys has sent me scurrying back to the Cupboard of Indie Nonsense to seek out some historical artifacts.

P1030425

The time: Christmas 1993.  The place: Bristol, Thekla. The occasion: One of Sarah Records’ infamous Christmas parties.

Sarah records was known as the home of twee bands. The Field Mice, Heavenly, The Orchids, and a whole host of other jangly guitar bands playing nice songs for nice people. In the early ’90s they used to host legendary Christmas Parties.

In 1993, that Christmas Party was on the moored boat The Thekla, in Bristol. WAAAH! Magazine organised a coach trip from London, known to one and all as The Cutie Coach and all of us coach trippers were given a pack to keep us quiet on the journey (not that it worked but, hey ho, you can’t blame them for trying).

One of these packs still survives in The Cupboard

P1100553

complete with ‘interesting’ reading matter,

P1100551

sticky sweets and an unpopped party popper.

P1100552

Obviously the events of that night weren’t quite as cute as the coach trip name would suggest, and I have recalled that there were one or two ‘incidents’ :/ , but there was fun to be had and lots of bowl haircuts. Here are a few of the usual suspects.

Grub stop + stripey top

Cutie Coach 002

Floppy hat + floppy fringe

Cutie Coach 001

Anorak stripey top

Cutie Coach 003

So indie. 1993 was a long time ago.

The land of fire and ice – The beginning. And the end.

Saturday was my last day and I was having a day in Reykjavik. I know that a lot of people touch down in Iceland wanting to head off to glaciers and lava fields, but limited time meant that I had to be selective and, in any case, I like cities so spending a little time in this one was just the ticket. After breakfasting on some yummy skyr (seriously, best yoghurt ever), I set off.

So I went to see where it all began. The earliest known dated structural remains found in Iceland. A fragment of low turf wall thought to be part of a land enclosure. This has been dated to 871+/-2*, so in terms of settlement, this is pretty late on in the game compared to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. At The Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik, the said structure has been preserved in its original location (Aðalstræti). 

107

There are also the remains of a 10th century long house discovered in the same location, and a museum space has been built around them.

106

A recent find of an even bigger Viking longhouse has just been reported here.

There were several small display cases with some of the finds from this and other excavations in the Reykjavic area.

This wooden human figure is thought to be a child’s toy.

112

There is also this beautiful 9th/10th century silver bracelet.

115

And this fragment of wood, scratched with an undeciphered runic inscription.

113

In addition to the archaeological remains and artifacts, the exhibition also contains one small room holding only six items; documents including The Settlement Sagas and the Book of Icelanders.

119

The Settlement Sagas were written in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and look back to life in Iceland from the ninth century through to the period of Iceland’s Christianisation (in 1000 AD). They detail people and places, events and the emergence of a new law code.

116

This is a small but perfectly formed exhibition that aims to tell one very important story, the story of the first Icelanders.

118

Well worth a visit.

Wandering round Reykjavik, you’d be forgiven for feeling like you were being watched. Everwhere you go, towering over you is the spire of the central church, Hallgrímskirkja. This is the huge, unmissable church in the middle of town. It’s pretty striking in its architecture, referencing the hexagonal basalt columns that are found at various sites around the country (think Giant’s Causeway. They’re like that).

20150704_125435

In the courtyard in front of the church is this statue of Leif Eiricsson (c. 970 – c. 1020), explorer and possibly the discoverer of America when,  according to the Book of Icelanders, he established a Norse settlement at Vinland.

105

This photo of the church (below) was actually taken at about 3.30am (on my way back from ATP) when the stone glowed salmon pink in the midnight sunlight.

1

For 600isk (about £3), you can take the tiny lift (6 persons only) to the top of the spire for these amazing views across Reykjavik and the sea. Worth every penny.

102

103

When I came back down to earth, I was treated to an impromptu concert, as  the church organist and a tenor (I think) were having a practice. The church sits at the top of a street full of pretty funky little shops so I stopped off to buy my Mum a souvenir. I wanted to get her some Icelandic wool, but she can’t wear wool, so…

P1100540

How twee!

Lastly, before setting off for ATP, I visited the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which was right opposite my guesthouse.

20150704_150412

I suppose that I was expecting a cultural exploration of the phallus in Icelandic culture. There was some of that but it was primarily bottled willies.

I actually found this a little gruesome, but also interesting. And especially interesting that someone was fascinated enough to go to the trouble of finding and preserving so many animal (and human) penises!

And so, off to ATP Iceland.

I was intending get to Ásbrú in time to see the Rhode Island 2-piece  Lightning Bolt. I’m really liking this band although, for me, I think that they are primarily a live band rather than to listen to at home.

20150704_180146

Their set (I have no idea what any of the songs are called) consists of choppy, challenging rhythms, a certain amount of bass-noodling, incomprehensible vocals, speed drumming and non-stop fidgeting from the drummer. This may not sound like a laugh a minute and, yes, this may only appeal to particular eardrums, but it seems to work for me and I find them enormously entertaining.

11

At the end of their set, I was fortunate enough to meet up with fellow Soundheads, Simon and Ellen, and we chewed the fat until Loop came on (of course there was Loop. What do you think I’m even doing here. :D ). For all the goss on Loop, see this post here.

4

After Loop we went off to the Andrews Theatre to have a look at Icelandic garage band Pink Street Boys. This is a fairly bonkers band, I can only describe it as ‘redneck garage fronted by Jack Black’.

104

They also seemed to have a Bez. It wasn’t bad, and pretty good fun, but it’s not going to change my life. We only stayed for a few songs as Swans were due to start.

Swans are known for their volume and intensity. ‘Swans will always be harder than you’ goes the saying. Their songs are long and rhythmic, often with chanted vocals.

4

5

I only saw a bit of the set as I was unexpectedly whisked away. That pretty well put the kibosh on my seeing any other bands, but that was ok, I’d already seen the most important band of the weekend :D (you know who you are :D ).

You might think that the number of bands I’ve mentioned looks a bit rubbish for a three-day festival and it’s true, I don’t really like spending interminable hours at these festivals so I don’t go too early. I’d rather see 4-5-6 decent, or at least interesting, bands than 30 bands, most of which I have no interest in.

20150705_020351

Sunday. Home Day 

The flight was fine. No volcanoes erupted.

Notwithstanding the complete absence of Romans, Iceland proved to be a very interesting country to visit, and I only saw a tiny fraction of it, so I’d hazard a guess that the rest contains many more natural wonders.

At home I crashed. Properly crashed. Spark out. The midnight sun plays merry havoc with your sleep.

.

*The archaeologists have been able to date this so closely because of a layer of volcanic material from an eruption around 400km away.

The land of fire and ice – “The second son of Odin is Baldr, and […] light shines from him”*

“The second son of Odin is Baldr, and good things are to be said of him. He is best, and all praise him; he is so fair of feature, and so bright, that light shines from him”*

Well the light was certainly shining from him on Friday. A beautiful day for The Golden Circle, the must-do tourist tour of Iceland in a nutshell. Around 300km of Geysers, waterfalls, volcanic landscapes, tectonic plates, geothermal pools. Hits! Hits! Hits!

The trip was taken in a small mini-bus with about 15 like-minded and very amenable souls and our, frankly hilarious, driver/guide Hugi (he was once banged up in Reykjavik’s tiny prison for 12 days for producing hookey hooch. He was supposed to be inside for 2 months, but the warder decided that it was a bit silly and sent him home!).

Hugi’s temporary accommodation.

P1100143

Our first stop was at a viewpoint for Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland. With a surface area of 84 km²  and a depth, at its greatest, of 114 m, it’s pretty impressive.

P1090208 P1090184

Obviously we only got a view of it. Doing anything else could easily take up a whole day, and the rest, but it was nice to see it. All around the viewpoint there are these mini-cairns.

P1090170

This seems to have become a tourist craze. The more of them there are, the more that people want to build. I suspect that the council will begin carting them away at some point when it all gets too ridiculous.

We then drove on into the Þingvellir National Park, famous for being the place where the meeting of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates is the most visible. You can see ridges of rock running up through the centre of the image above, evidence of where the plates are tearing gradually apart.

P1090249

We took a walk down the canyon between the plates. This is actually quite thrilling as, even though we can’t actually see this happening, these plates are moving inexorably apart, by about 2cm per year. Every now and then there’s a noticeable shift and the local authority has to close off the area until it’s safe again.

North American on the left, Eurasian on the right (this is the highly simplified version of plate tectonics).

P1090265

This is also the site of the world’s oldest extant Parliament, Alþingi, established in 930CE.

P1090312

As the gully meets Þingvallavatn, divers come here from all over the world to actually dive between the tectonic plates. I’m told that it’s very beautiful down there but very very cold.

P1090334

Horses! Driving around Iceland, you see these study looking beasts all over the place. They’re a particular Icelandic breed and very very healthy. There are strict laws about bringing horses from outside into the country because of the risk of infection with conditions/illnesses, such as horse flu, to which these horses have no resistance.

P1090394

They all have long indie-boy fringes or shaggy manes a la Whitesnake.

P1090399

We had brought the horses some titbits, bread and apples. Hugi said that the young ‘uns didn’t come to the fence as they were too shy, but this little guy came over with his mother for  look and a little piece of apple. Aww :D

P1090411

And so onward to the geothermal fields of Haukadalur. Danger!

P1090430

This is the home of the Geysir after which all geysers are named. Alas, that geyser no longer erupts due, I was informed, to stupid tourists throwing things into it and clogging it up, but just nearby there is another geyser called Strokkur which erupts about every 4-5 minutes.

P1090522

P1090501

P1090483

When it goes, it goes very suddenly, sometimes twice in quick succession, so you’re on tenterhooks all the time waiting for it to blow. Watching this thing go, and trying to get good photos of the waters jets becomes a little obsessive.

P1090476

In the end I had to drag myself away.

Across this whole area, the ground is practically boiling and there are several smaller geothermal pools and geysers nearby too.

P1090518

Onward, ever onward to the, frankly gorgeous, waterfall of Gullfoss. It’s magnificent and beautiful; terrifying in its power but hypnotic to watch.

P1090589

P1090614

It’s actually a series of falls on the Hvítá river, with several steps down culminating in a drop into a 32m deep crevice.

P1090629

P1090624

It’s possible to take the path right down to the edge of one of these drops where the water thundering by creates a spray which douses everyone.

Our second waterfall was the smaller Faxi (or Vatnsleysufoss) waterfall, on the Tungufljót river. It’s still a pretty good sized waterfall, but only a few metres high.

P1090644

I managed to get quite close to this one.

P1090662

This is a salmon river and by the side of the waterfall is a helping hand for salmon making their way upstream to spawn.

P1090656

It’s a fish ladder!

The last main stop on our tour was to take a relaxing dip in one of Iceland’s many geothermal pools. No, not the Blue Lagoon, but a less frequented, smaller and more natural pool near Flúðir called The Secret Lagoon.

DSC01000

This is situated in an area where the geothermal activity is very close to the surface and it was originally opened as a bathing pool in the late 19th century. It had long ago fallen into disuse but it was reopened only about a year ago.

DSC01018

It was just lovely. It’s not particularly developed, with just a hut with changing rooms and tiny cafe, and a deck to sit out on.

DSC01016

The water is pretty warm with particularly hot areas and plenty of steam, so it feels like a sauna as well as a hot tub. It’s small and not at all crowded, so it feels very chilled out.

DSC00996

You can have a swim or a paddle (it’s only about 3ft deep). We all just lolled around for a while, then I took a walk around the duckboards to see what I could see.

The actual pool is only a small part of the wider geothermally active area and there are hot spots and even mini-geysers around the pool.

So cool :D

3aa

And so, warm and a little drowsy we made our way back towards Reykjavic, with just a couple of little stop-offs to have a look at a geothermal power plant and the famous moss that covers large areas of the lava beds.

ATP ICELAND

Due to the long day on the Golden Circle, I only arrived at Ásbrú in time to see about half of Mudhoney‘s set. I used to go and see Mudhoney many moons ago, but I haven’t seen them in years.

P1090706

As soon as I walked into the Atlantic Studios I remembered how much fun Mudhoney were. Going to a Mudhoney concert is a bit like seeing the Muppets live. In a good way.

P1090703 P1090702

They were playing In And Out Of Grace, which is no bad thing.

P1090712

I just have to share this Mudhoney-at-ATP-related tweet with you

https://twitter.com/brianconey/status/617082905878208512

After Mudhoney, I had a little mooch about and got a cuppa and then I wanted to see Drive Like Jehu as a FB friend is pretty into them. Alas, I was just not feeling them. I mean, they seemed to be playing pretty well but I was just not into it. Looking at the guitarist had the unfortunate effect of reminding me of Bruce Springsteen. Now, I don’t actually hate Bruce Springsteen but, still, I found it very distracting. Anyway, I decided  to cut my losses and go off to the Andrews Theatre to see what I could see. That almost turned out to be nothing at all because place was completely packed. I was also pitch dark so I couldn’t even see if there were any seats vacant (it’s an all seated venue). Anyway, I stood by the back doors and saw a bit of Valgeir Sigurdsson with Liam Byrne. 

They presented an electronica-meets-cello soundscape which was pretty entrancing. I wasn’t exactly sure where it was going, or if, indeed, it was going anywhere, but it provided an absorbing, and contrasting, interlude after Mudhoney/Drive Like Jehu and before my next stop and my last band of the night, Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

I stayed for about an hour and a half of their set (they were scheduled for two and a half hours) before catching the bus back to Reykjavic. Precious little sleep again, obviously. That midnight sun really messes you up!

.

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldr

The land of fire and ice – By Thor’s Hammer!

As I said in my last post, there are no Romans in Iceland, so we’re not going to even bother our heads about Romans for the time being. We’re just going to bother our heads about Iceland :D

20150703_202351

Thursday, Thor’s Day, my flight was a bit delayed so I landed later than expected. I had a toss up whether to go to the first day of ATP Iceland (having missed the last bus there) or whether to head into Reykjavik and walk up to the harbour to see what I could see. Sorry Iggy Pop, Reykjavik wins.

23

One of the first things I noticed about Reykjavic is how small it is. I mean, it’s a capital city but it feels more like a town. This is probably a slightly exaggerated feeling for me because I come from a really big city. Nevertheless, it certainly isn’t lacking in personality and its character is literally written all over the city.

26

The graffiti and more formal street art is everywhere. Every hoarding is covered in this fantastic art, to such an extent that I wondered if there were formal or informal agreements between the developers/contractors and local artists.

33

I have so many pictures of this that I may have to do a separate post on it.

27

19

The main shopping street, Laugavegur, is pretty fun. I suspect that this has become more touristy over the past few years, as tourist numbers have shot up in Iceland. It kind of reminds me of an updated Carnaby Street, with its striped road, funky little shops and cafes, and the aforementioned street art everywhere. Obviously these are the 2010s not the 1960s or ’70s so it’s all much tidier and less makeshift, but still pretty fun.

25

21

32

And so, up to the harbour. Around the harbour there is a jumble of warehouses, fishing and tour-boat offices, ships, cafes, and hotels. The views across the bay were really nice, even if it was a bit of a grey evening.

34

This smokers’ bolt-hole outside one of the hotels would never be allowed int he UK. It’s just too poetic.

1b

1a

I walked and walked. This is what I do. Some stretches around there look a bit bleak, like industrial estates but I’m sure that there is more bustle and life during the day. These photos might be a bit deceptive because it’s so light that it looks like the early afternoon, when they were actually taken between 10pm and midnight.

2b

So I walked and walked until I found myself at this unrealistic grassy knoll!

29

It’s a piece of public art called Þúfa by Ólöf Nordal.You can walk up to the top via a slightly alarming path (health and safety be damned)

30

and at the top is a little hut containing…

31

dried fish :P

I daresay this makes sense to Icelanders.

When I was at the top, a couple arrived eating ice-creams. The man’s ice-cream was grey! Really grey. Like gunmetal grey. Grey ice-cream :/ The flavour was called Turkish Pepper, but  he let me have a little taste and it tasted of aniseed.

Walking back I also passed this magnificent motor.

35

It looked so incongruous. Spotless perfection sat amongst warehouses in the dock. It must be owned by the Don of Reykjavik.

It was only then that I realized that it was nearly midnight. The lack of darkness, or even a really noticeable dusk is very disorientating. This had the effect of making sleep virtually impossible. I was cream-crackered by the end of the weekend!

Tomorrow is another day.