KEXP Live at Iceland Airwaves 2017, Day 4: Megas

Iceland Airwaves
Katy McCourt-Basham
Photos by Jim Bennett

Wow, what a way to open our last day of music live at Kex Hostel! We were fortunate to host legendary Icelandic musician Megas. Considered the father of Icelandic rock, Megas is one of Iceland’s most influential rock musicians. He's been working as a professional musician since 1968, when he published his first set of sheet music at the age of 23. His music is satirical and openly critical of Icelandic society and culture, which made it not particularly accessible to the wider Icelandic audience at the time. There was so much controversy surrounding his releases in the early and mid-70’s that his songs were banned on Icelandic radio, helping him quickly rise to cult status among young Icelandic rock enthusiasts. Performing with Icelandic electronic rock band Judas helped his music reach a wider audience, and by the late 70’s Megas was firmly planted in the annals of Icelandic rock history, and his 1977 release Á bleikum náttkjólum was even voted the best Icelandic album of all time. Not bound to a single genre, his discography has something for everyone: rock, folk, electronica, he’s even released children’s music. He then withdrew from music for several years while he attended university and moonlighted as a dock worker, but in the mid-80’s he came back with a bang, making music with the now-legendary Icelandic post-punk band KUKL, and one project Hættuleg hljómsveit (A Dangerous Band) even featured Björk as a background singer.

Megas' band crowded onto the small Kex stage, packed almost as tightly as the audience who came to see the legendary Icelandic maestro. His band included a choir of 20, a string quartet, and a full rock band, with Megas perched right in the middle of the massive group of musicians. His show was a journey through the many genres spanning his long career, his gravelly voice serving as the only constant: "Dufl" with a funky Motown feel, and "As Time Goes By" was dramatic and string-laden, reminiscent of classic 1950's Icelandic crooner Sigfús Halldórsson. "Ertuekkiaðgrinast" was a little heavier, with punchy punk drums and blistering guitar riffs, while the closing song "Beri Beri" was a nod to early rock & roll, sounding a bit like "Blue Suede Shows." He left the stage to thundering applause from the audience that went on for several minutes. The iconic Icelandic rocker gave a performance none of us will soon forget.

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