Though I have never formally written a bucket list, there are several bands that have lingered on my must-see list for years. One of the standouts on that list is Iceland’s Sigur Rós, a band that creates some of the most beautiful music in all of existence. After about two years of waiting, my friend Monica and I finally got the golden opportunity to see Sigur Rós in June at Forest Hills Stadium in Forest Hills, New York (Queens), my favorite venue I have ever been to.

Last summer my family and I had traveled to Forest Hills Stadium to see Mumford & Sons, and I fell in love with the surrounding neighborhood and the fact that the venue is outdoors. Seeing Sigur Rós live was already a dream, but having the chance to witness their magic under the open sky was too perfect to imagine. 

Arriving right when the doors opened, we went through security and found our way to the merchandise stand where I happily bought a Sigur Rós tour t-shirt. The venue’s peaceful atmosphere put my mind at ease and helped to create what would be one of my favorite concert experiences of all-time. There was even an ice-cream stand, which was proof enough for me that I was going to have the time of life – I purchased a delicious chipwich, while my friend bought lemonade. Once our hunger and thirst were satisfied, we climbed up the stairs towards our seats in the medium-sized yet still intimate stadium.

Despite our tickets declaring that Sigur Rós would take the stage at 7, the real time was actually 8, giving us more time to relax and chat, but the wait was nonetheless tortuous. Luckily, Sigur Rós did not have any opening acts, making the evening solely about them and their remarkable music. Raindrops gently began to descend from the clouds as their start time drew closer. Because I had my raincoat, I did not mind the rain at all, and I even welcomed it as the rain came down harder. In fact, the rainy weather improved the energy in the stadium and made it feel like we were no longer in Queens but rather in Iceland or some other mystical world.

Exactly at 8 o’clock, Sigur Rós walked on stage and changed all of our lives for the better. Opening with the song “Á,” the band immediately took my breath away and their otherworldly sound brought tears to my eyes and chills down my spine. The entire night was a spiritual enlightenment, a 2-hour blissful evening with its only purpose to take us all away from reality and instead to a realm of love, peace and music. As Sigur Rós continued a powerhouse set, the rain steadily fell, and it seemed that the rain and music were inexplicably linked, working together to create as unique and cathartic an experience as possible. Without a doubt, the rain cleansed our bodies as the music purified our souls – after the concert, I felt like a new, happier person.

It was an emotional experience all-around, but when Sigur Rós played one of my favorite songs, “Vaka,” I cried more than I had at any other point in the show. The beauty of the song and perfection of the performance and moment was too much for me – it was so overwhelming. Only one other band, Pearl Jam, has brought me to tears at a concert before, which is an incredible feat for Sigur Rós because Pearl Jam is my favorite band. I simply could not hold back my tears, and I was not alone; my friend teared up, as well.

Sigur Rós | photo by Emily Kelly

Few bands have the ability to blow me away with not just musical quality but also with their use of lights and visuals, but Sigur Rós was able to do so effortlessly – even their ticket warned fans that strobe lights would be in use. For 2 hours, my friend and I were magically transported to Iceland, providing us with both a visual and audial experience. One of the best parts of the show was trying to interpret what the visuals meant in relations to the songs, especially since all of their songs are in the incredible Icelandic language, leaving it to the listener’s imagination. Despite not understanding the words, the coinciding visuals seamlessly matched the energy of each song. Jónsi, the lead singer, spoke only Icelandic the whole night, and I could not have been more pleased with it. There would have been no need for him to speak English at all; most American bands/singers do not sing or speak in the native language of wherever they are performing, so why should Sigur Rós be expected to speak English to us? All we needed was the music to feel connected to the band, and I certainly felt a strong connection to the people around me who were there to witness greatness.

The crowd was incredibly diverse and friendly, and about 99% of the audience was the nicest, most relaxed group of people I have ever shared a concert with, making the experience that much better. Of course, however, there are always those outliers that do not give the artist the respect they deserve. Next to me, there was a fairly young couple who would not stop whispering/chatting during a good chunk of the performance. Although it did not detract from my experience, it was still unbelievably rude because I paid money to hear/see Sigur Rós when it seemed that this couple was only there to have a cool place to get a drink and talk. Thankfully, they moved away from me about halfway through the show to bother another group of fans. Just a PSA to any future concert-goer, don’t talk during the set – it’s just unfair to the fans and wrong.

Not a day goes by where I don’t look back fondly and remember my time with Sigur Rós – it stands as one of my favorite memories so far, and I can’t imagine much being able to top it. Even thinking about that perfect night brings tears to my eyes and a smile to my face. I would see them again in less than a heartbeat, and I encourage everyone to adopt the same mentality. Sigur Rós is one of the most special bands out there, and I find myself incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to see them live and to have lived during a time where they create music. The ultimate goal would be to travel to Iceland one day and see them in concert, and I will do everything in my power to make it happen. It would be an absolute dream come true.  

setlist:

Set One
Á
Ekki Múkk
Glósóli
E-Bow
Flijótavik
Niður
Varða
Set Two
Óveður
Sæglópur
Ný Batterí
Vaka
Festival
Kveikur
Popplagið

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