jónsi news

tour diary #1

April 22nd, 2010

jónsi’s manager john best is currently on the road with the band as they tour north america, here is the first installment of his tour diary:

thurs april 15 – berkeley zellerbach

i think i must have been on one of the last planes to cross the atlantic before the icelandic volcano (say “a-ya-fyad-la-yokudl” really quick) blew its top. thank god for that. i think i might have exploded with frustration myself if i’d been unable to be here to see how the show is developing now we are a few gigs in. goggi from sigur ros sent me a salient iceland skit about iceland apologising to england because they thought we had asked them to send some “ash” instead of “cash”, the mistake occurring because there is no letter “c” in the icelandic alphabet. to understand this you need to know (a) iceland owes england a few billion pounds because of the banking collapse, and (b) icelandic jokes aren’t funny. not remotely. hey-ho.

anyway, san francisco, how fragrant thou art. everyone is relaxed and excited after a reputedly great ‘rock’ show in portland in the smallest venue on the tour so far. following the short and intense period of rehearsals ahead of this tour (1 week in iceland, 1 week with the set in london), it is good to spend some time with the three new band members (alex we already know from such bands as jonsi & alex and sometime sigur ros support band, parachutes, as well as from being jonsi’s other half). distinctive characteristics are already beginning to surface. bass player ulfur is endearing himself to the all-american all-macho bus driver by sitting up front knitting an icelandic jumper-style case for his new laptop. “where i come from men don’t knit,” is the driver’s taciturn analysis. i think we should start a production line going and get these puppies for sale on the website. whaddya say?

ulfur knit

knit

pianist obo is undercutting his bookish exterior with a penchant for avid cycling and habit of doing push-ups while upside down doing a handstand. i’ve tried it, it ain’t as easy as he makes it look. meanwhile doddi is seemingly beamed in from another kind of band entirely and seems to think he has signed up for either a hard rock or possibly boy band tour – i haven’t entirely made up my mind yet. either way, he takes every opportunity to walk around naked from the waist up (so far not from the waits down), and seems unhealthily interested in the possibilities of a rock’n’roll lifestyle for someone who’s only been in the job a week. we’ll have to watch doddi….and lo and behold, after the show, he is surrounded by an entire women’s “soccer” team, which i understand may be one of his favourite daydreams. watch this space.

the show itself is pretty damn great, although i still think it’ll get better. normally when i come in on a sigur ros tour, i’d make a ton of notes on the setlist about all the things that aren’t working and need to be addressed and worked out in the coming days. it says something about how quickly this show has found its feet, that there are only a small handful of those kind of things. so hats off to everyone involved in bringing together the most ambitious show we have ever attempted.

i think some people are still turning up thinking they might be going to see jonsi on stage with an acoustic guitar or something. i hope some people do come thinking that, because, boy, are they in for a surprise. that said the show is hard to carry round and demanding on the crew to put up and operate effectively in the time available. such hearty thanks for all their travails. i think it’s worth it, right?

i’m not sure how much i enjoy these all-seated venues. it’s so hard for the band to draw energy from the room when everyone’s sitting down being so polite and clapping tentatively like they’re at a classical recital or something. at least when people are standing they have a kind of potential energy that comes off the crowd for the players to soak up and throw back at you. but it’s been a bitch to find the right places to play, cos to be honest, we haven’t really known how many people would know who jonsi was and therefore know to come and check him out. this is what’s called a learning curve, i guess. by the time we hit the east coast, everyone will know that this is the best fucking show you are going to see this year and be willing to offer their firstborn in return for a ticket. meantime, tell a friend.

pixar

woody

earlier in the day, we’d been taken round pixar, by our friend kris klein, who’s in charge of one of their new in-development projects, the name of which i am not allowed to divulge, on pain of death. despite the obvious industrial espionage threat – particularly since jonsi’s just done a song for what i presume are rivals dreamworks – kris is super sweet, taking ages out of his crazy day to introduce us to all the folks doing the complicated computer shit that takes years of these people’s lives before any animated epic can hit the screens. we get to see a clip of the new movie, which is the first to be made with pixar’s own newly patented animation software, and honestly it is step beyond anything i’ve ever seen before.

when you enter the pixar campus you get given a sticky pass identying you as “a stranger from outside”, which is kind of funny, huh? and this goofball attitude permeates the entire lot, with animators housed in highly individualised units, some of which are like glorified garden sheds, some treasure troves of strange memorabilia, and one of which houses a secret whisky bar-cum-gambling-den housed behind a revolving bookcase (i’m not making this up). all you have to do is locate the bust of shakespeare, tilt his head back and press the button. now you don’t get that at where you work, do you?

bust

we also got taught the wonders of opening champagne bottles with a sword, which brings a new twist to the old tour tradition of popping champagne corks at the arses of innocent backstage liggers and hangers on. this new technique is correctly done with a “sabrage”, but can be accomplished with any large sabre you may have to hand.

sword

fri 16th april – san francisco palace of fine arts

have a few hours to kill before heading down to venue for soundcheck, so walk out in sf sunshine with jonsi with no particular aim in mind. we walk down o’farrell and consider our options, before deciding to do what all humans want to do on sunny days, head for the water to seek some species memory of when we were all cetaceans (or something). perhaps pier 39 is not the most spiritual of destinations we could have chosen, but that’s where the cabbie drops us, and we wander round the tacky tourist shit before deciding to dive in and just enjoy it. we go the arcade and swap out dollars for tokens and have a whale (more cetaceans) of a time on the rifle range, basketball hoops, virtual ‘skipping’ (do americans call it jump rope?), air hockey and what-have-you. once you forget you hate this shit, it really is a lot of fun, and we win sufficient tokens to collect 5 temporary tattoos for all of the band, and a sheriff badge each for me and jonsi.

after that, and having completely given way to wasting time and money, we went to an oxygen bar and breathe some cheaply flavoured gas in the hope of feeling a new kind of purity course through our veins. in truth i don’t think either of us felt anything except maybe that at 15 bucks for 15 mins, someone is onto a good thing. still i can’t say it wasn’t diverting, although sitting in the back of late night mini-cab over-powered by air freshener is probably just as good for you, and at least then you get to go somewhere. nothing ventured nothing gained though, right?

oxygen

after that, it’s back to the tour bus and down to the venue. we are only six shows in and still trying to work out the most effective set order for the limit number of songs at our disposal. for anyone who doesn’t know, jonsi is playing 15 or 16 songs at these shows, so a whole bunch more than are found on ‘go’, and some mighty diamonds among their number. with only one record to draw upon, however, it’s harder than programming a sigur ros setlist, although i think we are already 90% of the way towards getting it as good as it can be. so, we sit around backstage tweaking and re-tweaking running orders to try and get the perfect flow. in the event, i would say that tonight’s set is no better or worse than last night’s. it’s one song shorter, which is an attempt to try and make sure the pacing isn’t overwhelmed by the predominance of slowies. but while we dispense with that problem we only succeed in creating other different issues. so the tinkering will continue at least for a few more days, or until the band can learn how play ‘sticks & stones’, the song jonsi wrote at the last minute for ‘how to train your dragon’, the film made by our old friend dean deblois, who some of you may know as the guy who directed ‘heima’ and just did the fabulous ‘go quiet’ acoustic dvd for the new deluxe version of ‘go’. you can buy ‘sticks & stones’ on itunes if you want to, by the way, and sometime soon we will incorporate it into the set.

sat 17th april – amoeba instore

if you hang around with jonsi and alex for more than a couple of hours, talk will turn to food, or more particularly raw food and where and how to get it wherever you might be. it’s a major undertaking this raw food-ism, demanding that the pair carry round a suitcase full of god-knows-what dried, powdered, concentrated, blessed and vacuum-packed ambrosia for those occasions when you find yourself, well pretty much anywhere in america except the enlightened pacific coast or new york city. inevitably in the interests of spending time together to talk about all the shit that needs to be talked about, i end up eating quite a lot of this, although alex and jonsi are only subtly proselytising about it and, you know what, most of it tastes great. that said, it’s something of a relief that a&j don’t really ‘do’ mornings, and i can sneak off to the diner and eat something heated to above 47 degrees centigrade, something that maybe once breathed.

snickers

here’s some yummy yeast in bag of good shit, insensitively polluted with ulfur’s snickers bar.

last night’s show was pretty good. the palace of fine arts is certainly a beautiful venue, especially on the outside. it looks like bona fide european antiquity and was built 100 years ago for the worlds fair, or so we were told, as we walked the short distance to the shoreline last night to sit the last rays of the sun in the shadow of the golden gate. the bridge is to the left, though by my estimation too far to see anyone if they were to jump, which i can’t help but think about having seen that compelling documentary the bridge, about folks doing just that. to the right is that other symbol of human misery, alcatraz. and yet here we are, me jonsi, alex, his cousin from maryland and her friend, with a bottle of champagne, bing crosby on the ipod and, yes, a take out order of raw food, feeling about as peaceful as can be in our little bubble of warm contentment.

the afternoon today is taken up by an amoeba records instore timed to coincide with record store day.

amoeba

all this kind of stuff is new to jonsi, since sigur ros don’t touch anything as fluid and unpredictable as live radio session (of which jonsi has been doing a bunch) and certainly not instores. i think it’s great he’s doing them, but i do feel bad that it kind of stresses him out. today there is no soundcheck and coupled with the unfamiliarity of the situation he finds the whole experience somewhat unsettling. although he acquits himself well and the queue of people lining up to tell him the sun shines out of his butt does somewhat alleviate the situation. amoeba truly is an amazing thing to behold, and jonsi emerges with joe meek and phil spector boxsets. i think today goes down as a good day.

signing

– john best

read next tour diary entry

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