OMM's gone to Iceland


It's approaching midnight in one of the coldest capitals in the world, and while the majority of locals in Reykjavik are heading home, a small group has gathered outside a venue in the centre of the city for the final gig of the Iceland Airwaves festival. It's the end of a busy few days for those who have been at the world's northernmost festival, and a far cry from the kebab vans, trampled tents and crowds of many of the UK's more commercial festivals. Rather than being stuck in some field on the edge of town, it's a joy to be able to wander round the city, in and out of bars, and catch various bands at a host of venues dotted about.

The four-day event is notorious for hosting bands on the brink of stardom. Previous acts include the Rapture, TV on the Radio and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, which explains why the place is swarming with A&R folk and bigwigs from the record industry. Apparently there are more than 700 members of the press here. But it's not just about new acts this year, with !!!, Bloc Party and the Magic Numbers among some of the more well-known bands on the bill.

Despite a restrained reputation, the Magic Numbers have been hitting it hard since they arrived. When I meet them in the bar the night before their gig there's much deliberation about what drinks to order. 'I love these Dirty Bananas,' muses drummer Sean Gannon, as he sucks on a bright yellow cocktail. He's the quietest member of the group, the least likely to get involved in inane banter. But that's perhaps because the other three - frontman Romeo Stodart, his sister Michele, and Sean's sister Angela - are constantly laughing, shouting, and baiting each other. Michele, who announced this week she is launching a solo career, goes for the 'Coke Champagne'. The barman assures us it's the real thing. I play it safe with Romeo and stick to a Mojito.

They've been called the most cheerful band in Britain, but the Magic Numbers have got more gumption than you might think. Famously, they stormed off Top of the Pops after presenter Richard Bacon called them a 'fat melting pot of talent' because, as they put it, they 'don't take any shit'. Their second album, Those the Brokes, has sold far fewer copies than their self-titled debut, but they don't seem bothered. 'NME gave us 5 out of 10 stars and then everyone just followed suit,' shrugs Romeo.

As I join the crowd outside the Nasa music venue in the centre of the city, there is a buzz in the air. I'm curious to find out how the dreamy sounds of the Magic Numbers will keep the Icelanders on their feet. It's a small venue, and despite doubts that after last night reveries they may not be on top form, they are energetic and relentless throughout a set featuring old favourites such as 'Forever Lost', 'Love Is A Game', 'I See You, You See Me.'

After the band finish, hundreds of people head out to the Blue Lagoon, just outside Reyjavik, to soak up Icelandic sounds and cake themselves in mud from the bottom of the lake. Mud which is slightly more revitalising than that found at Glastonbury.

To find out what Romeo, Angela, Michele and Sean think of Gordon Brown, Nick Griffin, drugs and their hot tips for 2008 listen to Abba to Zappa's interview with the Magic Numbers on the Coke Music Discovery Sessions by clicking here.


Rowan Walker

The GuardianTramp

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