A Roderick & Mugison Eruption Ends “Reykjavik Calling” (Photo Gallery)
I didn’t get to the Crocodile on Friday night until about ten, but since the show didn’t wrap up until almost one a.m., there was still plenty to hear, culminating in the hybrid vigor of the John Roderick/Mugison pairing. The two husky, bearded men (see above) took to each like long-lost brothers, and their set felt more like two Norsemen rattling the rafters than guests sitting in on each others’ songs. “I have had so many of you in my ear,” said Mugison before the show, “I don’t feel like I’m coming to do a gig, more like I’m coming for a reunion.”
It was a sort of miracle of chance that the artists sparked so entertainingly, because the show (previewed here with YouTube clips), “Sister City Showcase: Reykjavik Calling,” gave everyone involved just hours to meet, learn song parts, and perform.
It was presented by KEXP-FM (Kevin Cole, right, KEXP’s senior director of programming, emcee’d) and supported by the City of Reykjavik, the Seattle City of Music Festival, Icelandair (now nonstop from Seattle to Iceland) and Iceland Naturally.
A plenipotentiary from Iceland’s embassy in Seattle (also right, but I was too busy getting the picture to get the name) even appeared, to explain that from his first visit to Seattle on a wet, gusty, wintry day, he felt right at home. Having experienced Reykjavik in October, I can tell you the reverse is true.
In fact, if you didn’t know the people involved, you might have been hard-pressed to tell the Icelanders from the Seattleites, as the following pictures will perhaps illustrate. I missed the first set of Nathan Wade and Pétur Ben, but there was still a line down the block of people braving the lashing rain to get into the show. Inside, the crowd was elbow-to-elbow, and I had to gradually salmon my way forward far enough to get a few shots.
The Maldives‘ Jason Dodson singing “Muscle For The Wing” (Lay Low, Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir, was accompanying). Each artist had time for just a few songs; Lay Low’s set had a meditative, alt-country feel.
Then Rusty Willoughby and Visqueen’s Rachel Flotard teamed up to sing from his Cobirds Unite album. Its moody roots music appeal was in keeping with the theme of the night, if not necessarily the mood of everyone crammed into the Crocodile.
The always photogenic and companionable Flotard chatted up the crowd between songs, and teased their “adopted” bandmate-for-the-night Sin Fang Bous.
“I don’t know how to play the piano,” deadpanned Sin Fang Bous’ Sindri Már Sigfússon, before sitting down to do just that. He warned us he might just do his comedy act instead of play. One thing is for sure, judging from the randomly shouted acclaim: he can have his pick of drunk girls at the Crocodile.
Sindri then retreated to behind a Cerberus-headed mic set, which like the mythical creature only occasionally sprang to life all at once. The reverb mic woke up for his second song, allowing him to add a ghostly echo to the middle mic’s vocals.
The Long Winters’ John Roderick and Eric Corson got paired with Mugison, as I mentioned. Roderick was sporting some fancy red suede shoes I don’t think I got a good shot of, and was gifted a new Icelandic-style sweater that he donned for a song before admitting it was way too hot.
Corson was on drums and a keyboardy device even though he’s supposed to be a bassist. Here he’s doing back-up vocals, too. Talk about a one-man band.
That’s Mugison in the extra-fly suit, Roderick on keyboard. The crowd voted for organ sound #2. I remember Roderick sang “Nora,” but I can’t recall now if he was on keyboard or guitar for that one.
A jovial Mugison. Sample exchange. Mugison: “People say we look alike. I feel like I’ve met my brother from another mother.” Roderick responds to the effect that you never know who’s related to who. Mugison: “My father was a sailor.” Roderick: “Well, my father’s a lawyer, so that’d better be the last fucking thing you say about that.”
Mugison can sing blues like the bastard son of Joe Cocker and Van Morrison; he’s not as twitchy as Cocker, but is in constant motion, and coaxes a surprising range from a gravelly voice. From Van Morrison he gets belly-felt rhythm. From both, emotional investment.
Then, just when you’re ready dance into the mystic, he channels a death-metal demonic foghorn that seems to be summoning rocks to smash ships. His speaking voice is completely different.
Mugison and Roderick demanded everyone get back on stage for a closing, unrehearsed song. Pétur Ben was ready to roll with it, but Sindri looked like he was being punked: “Stand By Me”? Seriously?
Lay Low and Pétur Ben were a) delighted and b) cool with it.
Mugison = cat that ate the canary.
Big “Stand By Me” finish. No need for an encore. This shit is done.