I want to talk about the viscera of the experience. First off – seeing Sigur Rós in the outdoors at a theater that does not permit sound levels to exceed 95db on a cool night in California is about as close an approximation to heaven on earth as I can summon from my wretched imagination.
We were in the pit and I could hear. in the pindrop silences that peppered the set, the sound of the lone rotary speaker cabinet whirling behind the keyboardist whose real piano had a hole cut into the wood over the keyboard and an Echoplex fitted into it.
Lead singer Jón Þór (Jónsi) Birgisson used a tattered violin bow to evoke from his gold-top Les Paul the swirling miasma of delay-soaked ambience that gives Sigur Ros its trademark sound.
The couple next to us kept convulsing into spastic make-out sessions, overwhelmed by the beauty of the band’s cacophany. The coked out raver behind them urging them to go further as he gyrated like he was at, well some early 90’s coked out rave.
Bassist Georg Hólm used a drumstick to bang his strings in a hypnotic rhythm that, if you closed your eyes, sound like an old Korg analog sequencer.
The drums, beat to death by the drummer earing a rhinestone-encrusted crown, had this amazing slappiness to them that countered the 909-ish boom of the kick that somehow felt like the Barbarian war drums had been outfitted with some kind of future-tech, rendering the backbeat at once both earth and totally modern. Not to mention they could barely speak English, attempting to do so very occasionally with thick Icelandic accents.
At one point Jónsi and the keyboardist played a duet on the piano, side by side singing a hypnotic harmony that made me forget where I was and then jolt back to reality as though I had been dropped from some transporter beam into the middle of the fray back on planet Earth.
It made me want to move back into a cavernous warehouse, where there is a lot of room to just break things and tinker and experiment and play. It made me want to try things from a different angle. Isn’t that why we go?