How Being Patient got me Backstage to Meet Jónsi: Part 2, The Band & Arkanoid

When we last left off, myself and 5 others had just been invited backstage at The Pabst Theater in Milwaukee.

In this 2nd part of the story, we meet the legendary Icelandic musician Jónsi face to face. (If you haven’t read the 1st part yet, be sure to read that first.)

Meeting Jónsi

In the center of the room were a few small couches and a record player blasting a Prince album. There were only about 10 people scattered around the room. Just as I was noticing a couple arcade machines in the corner, Doddi (the nickname of Thorvaldur Thór Thorvaldsson, the drummer of the band), came up to me and shoved a beer into my hand and welcomed me to the party.

Now this is more like it!

Over the next hour, I got to talk briefly with almost everyone in the band and thank them for such an amazing show. One or two were still a bit nervous speaking English (after all, they’re from Iceland), but I remember my conversation with Alex the most since he was the most confident in speaking English. I told him how much I enjoyed Jónsi’s solo album and how I’d found it especially good for getting me motivated in the morning, and we had a great conversation. Apparently, he’d studied music theory in the US, but ended up coming back to Iceland. And then he asked me if I’d met Jónsi yet.

“Not yet, but I’d love to!” I said.

He brought Jónsi over, and I congratulated him on such a great show, telling him how inspirational I found his music. He spoke quietly and sometimes it was hard to understand what he was saying, but he thanked me in return. During the conversation, I noticed that one of his eyes wasn’t focusing on me, pursuing instead its own independent explorations. Only later did I learn that Jónsi is blind in one eye. And I thought I had challenges. How would you like to have zero depth perception? Or no visual perception, at all?

Toward the end of our conversation, one of the people I’d waited with asked me if I wanted a picture with him. Thankfully, I’d kept my small camera in my pocket the entire time and managed to get a decent, albeit somewhat noisy, photo with Jónsi.

If you would have told me at the start of the night that I would end up being able to personally thank the musicians that have provided so many hours of listening inspiration and enjoyment, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. But my patience paid off in spades.

A Final Memory

Jonsi playing Arkanoid arcade

One of my favorite memories of the night was watching the band take turns playing Arkanoid, one of the arcade machines that I’d noticed earlier. Basically, Arkanoid is a simple breakout-based arcade game from 1986, but it was pretty hilarious seeing Jónsi and the other members of the band get so invested in the game, often shouting when one of them lost a life and cheering each other on when one conquered a level. The band pulled together in the game world just as eagerly as it did in real life.

Perhaps that’s why they’re able to tour internationally for months and months and avoid killing each other in the process. Being on the road can be a drain to say the least, but I’m sure that inspiring millions along the way makes it more fulfilling than we could imagine.

So that’s what patience, and a good amount of luck, got me on that chilly April night. The luck was there, but without patience, it never would have manifested. What about you? When was the last time you pushed the boundaries of your own patience? What positive results could result? Any stories of flexing your “patience muscles”? Share them below. 🙂

How Being Patient got me a Free Backstage Pass to Meet Jónsi: Part 1, Concert Review

Pure. Electric. Excitement.

For those of you unfamiliar with Jónsi, the legendary singer of the even more legendary Icelandic band Sigur Rós, let’s just say that when I found out he was coming to Wisconsin, it was kind of a big deal.

And if you’re not familiar with Sigur Rós or Jónsi, you’ve probably heard their music at some point. Most famously, a Sigur Rós song was used at the end of the film “Vanilla Sky” starring Tom Cruise.

Think dreamy, world-changing, post-rock.

At the time, Jónsi (pronounced Yon-si) was in the midst of a solo tour for his “Go” album, and I jumped at the opportunity to see him perform nearby in Milwaukee. But what I didn’t realize was that I was about learn a lesson in the Power of Patience, resulting in an incredible backstage surprise.

A Mind-Blowing Show

Swirling Lights above Jonsi on stage

The performance itself was, to put it mildly, brilliant. Jónsi and his band produced a special kind of energy onstage that exploded into the concert hall, and everyone there reinforced that energy, making it even more tangible.

As an added effect, behind the performers were projected images and animations that changed with the song. I remember that for the song Kolnidur, there was a lovely animation of a fox chasing a bird, in which the bird transformed into a fox during the chase. The animation was visceral and perfectly timed to the music.

Combined with such powerful music, it was quite a surreal experience.

Jonsi singing Animal Arithmetic on stage

Go sing, too loud
Make your voice break – Sing it out
Go scream, do shout
Make an earthquake…

The Wait

As I was leaving the theater after the show, my head buzzed with positive energy and gratitude. And when I got outside, I noticed a group of about 30 people standing along the sidewalk beside an unmarked door. What’s going on here?

I soon learned that these were the super fans. They knew that this door was the exit the band would have to take, and they were hoping to get an autograph from Jónsi himself. Most people had his CD, but some even had posters.

Since I wasn’t in a hurry to leave, I decided to hang around and see what might manifest. In one of those rare times when I actually drove a car to reach my destination, I was grateful that I’d parked on the street in a free parking area.

And so, we waited.

Despite the spring season, April in Wisconsin is notoriously unpredictable and the temperature gradually dropped down almost to freezing as the night darkened. And one by one, the group of fans dwindled. Even though I didn’t have an especially thick jacket, I decided to be patient and wait it out. And in the process of talking to a few other fans about his work, I ended up rather near to the door.

One guy seemed to be getting nervous and kept looking at his phone. I asked him how much longer he could wait, and he said he’d have to leave in about 20 minutes. After all, it was getting late, and he had to get up in the morning. (Yet another disadvantage of having a traditional job, I might add.)

It was about a half hour before midnight now, but my intuition told me to hang on. After all, I’d waited this long. Wouldn’t I feel silly if I found out later that Jónsi came out and said hello just a few minutes after I’d left? Still, the crowd continued to grow thin, and now less than 20 were left. I pushed through the feeling of being cold and continued to wait amidst the freezing air.

You wish fire would die and turn colder
You wish, your young, could see you grow older
We should always know that we can do anything

The Surprise

To our surprise, Alex Somers (who is also in the band) came out to get something from the trailer that was parked just across from the door. At last, someone who was actually in the band!

Someone asked him how long they might stay inside, and he said that someone in the crew was celebrating their birthday. Perhaps in a bit, they would be done. This strengthened my resolve and made me feel at least 5° warmer.

As the air grew colder, I had the feeling that great things were in our immediate future (though I had no idea just how lucky I would end up being). Then, the man who had been concerned about the time told us that he had to leave. I recognized his conflict and felt sad that he had decided to go. By now, there were only six of us left, myself included. But my intuition told me something was about to happen. Something good.

And then, the door opened again. It was Alex again, and we asked if the party was over. He said yes. And we asked how long we might need to wait. He told us to wait for one moment and disappeared behind the door again. When he returned, he waved us in. He said something like, “It should be okay. Just follow me.” And he led us backstage, down a narrow spiral staircase to a large room under the stage.

I was just given a free backstage pass to one of my favorite bands in the world. The cost? Only a measure of patience. The entire band was now in view, and the music of the night was still ringing in my mind.

You will survive, will never stop wonders
You and sunrise will never fall under
We should always know that we can do everything
Go do!

I thought to myself, “Is this real?”

Continue to part 2 →