Live Music Review: FUGLABÚRIÐ: Lára Rúnars + Rúnar Þorisson

11 Jan

So anyway, next week sees the return of the latest in the concert series, FUGLABÚRIÐ (or “The Birdcage”), a series of conerts held at Café rosenborg in collaboration with the Icelandic Society of Authors and Composers, The Reykjavík Grapevine and national radio station Rás 2.

Yours truly was invited to attend the last concert , held in the end of last  year, which had the delights of pop pixie Lára and her dad Rúnar Þorisson on the bill. Alas my review didn’t make it on due to space constraints or something horrific and serious (dog ate it), but thanks to the wonders of the digital worldz, you can read the wonderful times Mrs. Sex Farm and myself had on a wintry November night….

Keeping it in the Family…

Lára and her father Rúnar get own down at Rosenborg

Who: Lára Rúnars, Rúnar Þorisson

Where: Cafe Rosenborg

When: 30th November 2010

People sometimes say that change can be as good as a rest. For example, Cafe Rósenborg is not what I would call one of my regular haunts. For starters, the place is warm, woody and seasonal like a winter chalet, while on our table they’ve given us Christmas ginger cookies and peanuts. Also it doesn’t smell of urine and there’s no simmering malevolence and resentment around me. Yes, this is certainly a more refined place than I’m used to.

And tonight’s entertainment, provided by Lára and her father, Rúnar Þórisson, is not really what I’d normally look for in an evening’s live music. But we all need to broaden our horizons so tonight I’m altering my expectations and will be cutting my cloth accordingly.

After watching Lára this evening, I can definitely say that I need never take Prozac again. She started off her set with an old song, ‘Þusund Fjöll’, which was soft, affecting and sung rather well, but after that most of the set was from her current album, ‘Surprise’. The songs themselves were pleasant enough to listen to. Quirky, not too demanding pop that you’d get from the likes of Feint and Lykke Li, with lots of ‘1-2-3, Dum Dikka Dikka’ rhythms, sweetly sung vocal harmonies, and plinky keyboard lines. The band themselves were getting in on the positivity as well, whether it was the drummer who was grinning and bashing his box and drums like a gibbon, or Lára herself swaying along and pumping her arms in power walking mode.

I would say though that by the time they got to ‘In Between’, the cheeriness of it all was starting to get to me just a teeny bit. If we lived in the universe of the song it’d be mobile phone TV advert bohemia heaven, where people would skip along with beaming smiles while wearing the latest nu-rave ethno-chic, sipping lattés with BFF Zooey Deschanel, while anyone caught frowning or screaming ‘Jesus Christ I can’t take any more of this happiness!!’ would be taken away to special ‘emotion re-education camps’ to be taught the error of their ways.

Ok, I’ll admit that’s a little far-fetched. And what the hell do I know? My wife and most of the audience were getting into the music, all clapping and tapping away. Perhaps this is proof I’m turning into a grumpy old bastard.

Towards the end of her set, Lára was joined by Rúnar Þórisson, who also happens to be her dad (oh yeah, did I also forget to say that her sister was also the backing singer for this evening?). Now while Lára specialised in sunshine pop, Rúnar’s music was altogether a slightly bleaker, darker affair. Taking songs from his current album ‘Fell’, as well as songs from his Grafík days, they were more rock and blues based with some occasional country style harmonies built in for good measure.

I was pretty impressed with his guitar playing, which alternated between single note blues riffs, and the use of looping pedals top create a fuller guitar sound. It did get a little out of sync when he used it on the song ‘Fell’, but this was a small gripe on what was one of the better songs that evening. That and ‘Ég Sé, which had a very powerful, dynamic chorus.

I would say though that his lyrics (which were sung impressively by a nice man named Hjörvar), while complementing the downbeat nature of the music, did tend towards the simplistic. For example “stand up for liberty/stand for liberty/stand up!” on ‘Stand Up’ was something I would have expected from a US tea party activist. But I found that, all things considered, I definitely warmed a lot more to Rúnar’s music and even on occasion found myself doing the occasional head nod and foot tap.

As the evening drew to a close and leaving Rósenborg, I felt I’d seen a gig that while not utterly spellbinding, was worth seeing and something different for yours truly. Can’t wait to get back to the powerviolence though….

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Posted by on January 11, 2011 in Iceland, literature, live music


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