Newport Folk Festival: Of Monsters and Men

Icelandic indie folk band Of Monsters and Men packed the house of the Quad stage late Sunday afternoon in Newport. WERS music director, Kendall Stewart, welcomed the band and the group shuffled about in excitement and coyness to their respective positions on the stage.

With not a moment to waste the Icelanders dove head first into the first track off of My Head Is An Animal, “Dirty Paws”. As a personal favorite band of mine, I felt as though the crowd was not prepared for what they were about to experience. Perhaps they heard the hit single “Little Talks” on rotation at WERS, but I knew this would be a set to remember. As vocalists Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir and Ragnar Porhallsson sang in “Dirty Paws,” the audience would indeed, “come back with a story to say.”

With the help of guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, drummer Arnar Rosenkranz, pianist and accordion player Arni Guijonsson, and bassist Krijan Pall Kristjansson – the band transformed the calm summer night into an ever winding set of soundscapes and pure synergy that emanated from the stage. The vocals from Hilmarsdottir and Porhallsson were pure and sent chills through the crowd from beginning to end.

The set list included almost the entirety of My Head Is An Animal, but the most memorable were “Mountain Sound,” “Lakehouse,” and a highly emotional performance of “Your Bones.” Halfway through the set, the entire tent was on their feet and remained that way until the end. The audience was dancing and bellowing out their own pipes to every word. As a slight rainfall began to descend upon the Icelandic stars, Porhallsson profusely thanked the several rings of audience members that lined the tent.

Second to last in the set came “Little Talks” that got those who were sitting up off of their feet and the ones who were standing off of the group – even if only for a few minutes – to get up. The entire set was flawless; my only complaint is that it ever had to end.

Lastly came “Six Weeks” off of My Head Is An Animal that brought that set the afternoon so well. Saving this track for last and with the ending repetitive lines, “coming back, coming back home.” With a thumping bass drum, this last song brought the roof down with stomping and all-out dancing in every which way you looked all around the tent.

The band even let the audience in on a sneak peak of a new track they’ve been working on. Stay tuned to WERS for updates on a new album in the works. It was such a pleasure to watch them have a great time on stage after traveling across an ocean. Walking away from Of Monsters and Men felt like taking a small piece of Iceland with you – this is a piece I’ll never let go.

By Jeeyoon Kim

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