Boston isn’t known for its Icelandic population, but from March 4-7, Iceland Naturally is bringing the country’s culture to the city, through food, music, film, and literature.
On Saturday, March 5, Iceland Naturally with 88.9 WERS put on a concert called “Reykjavik Calling” at the Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge. The show featured both Iceland native musicians and local Boston bands.
The first band, Nemes, of Boston, set the tone for the rest of the night. Composed of guitarist/vocalist Dave Anthony, violinist/vocalist Josh Knowles, bassist Alex Glover, and drummer Chris Anthony, Nemes showed great energy and charisma onstage. Their indie rock music, supplemented by three-part harmonies between Anthony, Knowles, and Glover, was overall very fun to watch, and a hit with the audience.
Following Nemes was the first foreign band of the night, Ceasetone. Although half of the indie electro-rock band’s four members had been left behind in Iceland, the two remaining musicians, supplemented by backing tracks to fill out the lineup, were able to put on a well-received show.
Hafsteinn Práinsson’s haunting vocals and atmospheric but intense guitar playing paired with Sólrún Mjöll Kjartansdóttir’s drums made for a passionate performance, completely different stylistically from the preceding band. When Práinsson wasn’t singing, he was full of presence on the otherwise empty stage, headbanging to the more powerful portions of the set and occasionally kneeling onstage to get more into his playing.
Very different again from the previous acts, Axel Flóvent is an acoustic soloist from the Icelandic village of Húsavík. Despite this being his first time playing in the United States, his announcement of tracks like “Forest Fires” and “Beach,” from his latest “Forest Fires” EP, drew cheers from the crowd.
Joined by Práinsson from Ceasetone on electric guitar and Alex Martin from the Adam Ezra Group on keyboard and drums at different times during the set, Flóvent enchanted the audience with his chilling melodies.
Finishing up the night, the Adam Ezra Group of Boston brought a burst of energy to the stage. The six-piece, fronted by guitarist banjo-player, and singer Adam Ezra features not one, but two drummers (Martin and a man referred to only as “Turtle”), keyboardist Josh Gold, bassist Francis Hickey, and a fiddle deftly played by Corinna Smith. All members let their passion and excitement show in their playing.
The setlist, which featured original music, a parody of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” rewritten about Boston, a solo cover by Ezra of David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust,” and an impressive percussion solo by Turtle and Martin, was a perfect showcase of the culture of the city, and was hugely successful with those watching.
At the end of their set, the Adam Ezra Group invited all of the members of the other three bands out onto the stage for a passionate rendition of “Free Falling.” It was a perfect finale, showcasing the idea behind the entire show, the harmony of the cultures of Boston and Iceland.
“When I first found out we were gonna play with Axel and Ceasetone, it was intimidating—they’re such beautiful artists,” Ezra said onstage during his band’s set. “It’s amazing to me that as different as all music is, as different as we are, as different as our cultures are … no matter who we are and no matter where we come from, no matter what the style of the music that we make is, the bottom line is every time we write a song we are expressing what it means to be human.”