August 21, 2012

Life Achievement Unlocked: Sigur Rós

Photo courtesy © SF Outside Lands 2012

Amidst the forests of Hellman's Hollow at the Golden Gate Park, underneath the covering fog floating above us - it was the kind of fog that you can feel in your bones as you shiver - I experienced what my friend would say, "a transcendental experience." I sat on a hill, a great spot to view the whole stage, it was at the SF Outside Lands Festival, a festival this year headlining many amazing musicians including my most favorite band in the world. Sigur Rós.

Growing up in Indonesia, I knew that to see this magical Icelandic band was like a forever-dream. It will never happen. I first heard them around 2004 or 2005. At first, I wasn't that into this spacey-ambient kind of music. I thought they sounded depressing, but of course, I was just 15 years old with barely a good music taste. Until my family had a huge breakdown a year later and I started listening to Takk... I realized their music wasn't depressing at all, but in fact, it was uplifting. Who doesn't start smiling and feel like skipping around when listening to Hoppípolla? Years went by and around a couple years ago, my ex-boyfriend and I started learning Icelandic language and really got into understanding their lyrics and these sounds, these sounds that just seem so relatable, but we couldn't explain it. I still can't explain it but I know I could feel it.

This is Dante and I during Explosions in the Sky, a few hours before Sigur Rós. Look at all that fog!

For every album of Sigur Rós, I have a personal attachment to each and every one of them. If you have read my book, it was written while I was heavily rotating the Ágætis byrjun album. "We'll do better next time" if I translate it loosely. Such a beautifully melancholic and emotional album. I was also very heavily influenced by Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, I would say it was after the album came out I took time to get to know myself better and I would say "Inni mér syngur vitleysingur!" to describe myself in newsletters and magazines: "within me a lunatic sings!". 

So it was around 8PM, the fog was killing everyone, it was so chilly that even three sweaters, a blanket, two vodka cocktails and a big fat cup of hot chocolate still didn't help me get warm. The weather was just not on our sides that night, but I could care less. Right after the dancing crowd of Passion Pit left the Twin Peaks stage, crew members started assembling the instruments set for Sigur Rós' performance. It took one hour for sound check. And then the stage went pitch dark. 

They started off with that familiar xylophone tune of Í Gær, all dark towards the intro, and as Jónsi worked his bow on his guitar and the drumbeats went wild for a second, the lights started to beam. And then we heard the most compelling inhumane voice, hauntingly wrapping us and pulling us into a different world. Nothing else mattered. People started leaning on each other, holding hands, hugging, making out, it was romantic. During Sæglópur, we could hear a little from the neighboring stage, red and yellow lights shone through trees, Metallica was playing loud and clear. But it still didn't matter. The violinists were amazing during Varúð, and halfway through Svefn-g-englar, I was crying. Literally. I didn't stop crying until Jónsi sustained a loooong beautiful note halfway through Festival. Everyone sat and stood silently in this magical moment, some clapped and felt awkward because he kept on going. They performed a different rendition of Olsen Olsen (a bit more pop-ish and more upbeat) and somewhere towards the end they got faster and faster until at one point Jónsi literally snapped his bow into two. Jónsi greeted the audience, sounding very shy he thanked us and said "it's hard to compete with Metallica" and the crowd went crazy. Dante whispered to me "someone should tell Metallica to shut the fuck up and listen to Sigur Rós." I couldn't agree more. Then, Hoppípolla, everyone knew the lyrics and sang along. I started crying again, fearing it would be over soon.

The enchanting 75-minute set went by so fast, but it changed me forever. It most likely changed everyone forever. I'm not even saying this as a Sigur Rós fan, but as a human being. It was more than a concert, it was a spiritual journey in the language of music where everyone could just lean back and absorb all the beauty through their pores. It was the most beautiful night in my life. I can't believe I get to say this, but yes, I have finally witnessed them live. They ended the set with the famous Hopelandic track from ( ), Poppalagið

No one should ever take Sigur Rós for granted, after their latest 4-year hiatus and considering how rarely they would travel, one should get the chance to see them at least once in a lifetime. They will, undoubtedly, change you forever. That night, the lunatic within me sung its heart out and I died a little. I will never be the same again.

With love,
Cass x

P.S: You can check out more photos from the festival at my Facebook page :)