After a great first show and 2 fun days exploring Reykjavík and the Golden Circle, it was off to the North. My second show was in Akureyri, the largest town outside of the höfuðborgarsvæði, or capital region. So we all packed up and took off for the 4 hour drive up to the capital of the Northlands.
My show was at Akureyri Backpackers, a hostel on the main street downtown with a pub on the first floor. This was the same venue at which I had performed during my last trip to Iceland, so it was exciting and a little surreal to be back after 3 years. The hostel has a cool funky vibe and lives up to its name. Most of the guests walk through the door with backpacks and hiking clothes. At night, it's a central gathering place for locals and tourists alike, so it's a great place to hang out and meet travellers from around the world.
Our room was a cozy little attic space on the top floor which meant it was private and quiet, but also meant that I'd be making several trips up the 3 flights of stairs to haul all of our luggage and equipment to the room. It was worth it though. The room was super cute and clean which was nice since I wasn't sure how Mary would feel about staying at a hostel with shared spaces. Once we got settled in, we explored the downtown area and harbor with Bill and Maria. Akureyri is a great little town with cute colorful buildings. It sits on a fjord called Eyjafjörður and has the mountain Súlur as a backdrop.
Once again, the start time was a bit up in the air. I had been told that I would start playing "whenever the kitchen closes". We showed up early enough to get a bite to eat before the show. I was pretty nervous about this gig. Mary and Maria had heard all of the stories from Bill and I about how magic the evening had been back in 2019, how great the place was, how welcoming and nice all the people were. Had I oversold it? Could I capture lightning in a bottle again? Akureyri did not fail to deliver.
For staters, my friend and pen-pal Bjarni showed up! Back when I began my journey to learn Icelandic, I was lucky enough to get Bjarni as a pen-pal. We've been corresponding in Icelandic ever since. Well, he's been corresponding in Icelandic. I've been corresponding in something that probably makes Leif Erikson roll over in his grave. Bjarni is a musician also and a just a great guy. Everyone really enjoyed spending time with him. Mary said she wanted to take him back home with us. I had to remind her that his wife and three kids might begin to wonder.
Eventually I got the word from the bartender Hannah that the sound guy had arrived. I was introduced to the house DJ Arni. He's a super energetic and friendly guy and was so welcoming that he immediately put me at ease. Being greeted with so much warmth and excitement really put me in a positive place, and I started to sense it was going to be a great evening once again.
And it was. The sound system was awesome. The crowd was engaging and kind. The staff was incredibly supportive. And when I looked out and saw that my gang were all smiling and having a good time, I felt that same magic as in 2019. Two Icelandic guys moved right up front and were chatting with me, requesting songs, and offering encouragement. As my confidence built, I became more comfortable and could tell by the crowd's reactions that the show was going great. Once again, I attempted some songs in Icelandic, which went over really well.
I had been living with one regret from the 2019 show. At the end of that night I had planned to play "True Love Will Find You in the End" by Daniel Johnston as the final song. However, right before I was going to play that, I had performed the Icelandic song "Hoppipolla" by Sigur Rós which had gone over so incredibly well, that I decided to just end there.
I found out the next day that Daniel Johnston had passed away that evening. He was a troubled soul and a songwriter that I greatly admire, and I was sad that I hadn't played his song. After playing "Hoppipolla" this time, I had that same urge to just say "good night", but I felt I had unfinished business. So I played Daniel's song. Probably no one else knew this tune, but it was important to me and a perfect way to end the evening... or so I thought. I ended up getting a couple of encores, which is the ultimate vote of confidence for a musician.
Seems lightning can be captured in a bottle more than once.