Buying a fish head in a record shop while Danish children play stoner rock

One of the best thing about the Iceland Airwaves festival, held during the onset of winter in Reykjavik, is that it makes headlines like this one possible.

The annual orgy of indie music, weather-defying crowds, and gigs in unusual places is the highlight of the Icelandic youth’s year. And, since we tried it in 2011, it’s been the highlight of our year too. This year the likes of Kraftwerk, Alunageorge, Savages, Stealing Sheep, and Icelandic veterans Múm took to the stage, along with hundreds of bands from Iceland’s exuberant music scene.

Two days into Airwaves ’13, we trundled to 12 Tónar, a proper record shop in central Reykjavik. We’d sampled some of Danish drone rock band Baby In Vain on the internet, and decided they were worth a look. How three Danish teenage girls can simultaneously get into obscure stoner rock and then find each other is a mystery, but they’re putting their unusual hobby to good use by creating some very decent noise. Earplugs advisable, particularly when sampled in a record shop that’s roughly the size of a Tokyo bedsit.

And so to our fish head. As the band finished and the crowd filed out into the cold and onto the next gig, we couldn’t help but notice a distinctly non-record-shop item on the shelves. Branded with 12 Tónar logos and for the sum of 900 Icelandic Kronur (just under £5), a dried cod head was available for purchase.

The packaging simply says it’s “essential for the Icelandic fish soup or a souvenir for an eccentric friend”. Rest assured we intend to put it to edible use, and will let you know how it goes, but we are yet to find a friend eccentric enough to share it with.

Actually, the instructions say it’s just a question of boiling it for a few hours, adding seasoning, chilli, garlic and vegetables and/or fish, and serving up. So it’s really just a big stockcube with eyes, right?

The packaging also says the head belonged to a cod caught by Icelandic fishermen from the town of Grindavík in the Icelandic south seas, which is a tradition that stretches back thousands of years to the Icelandic settlement. So, the hunt is on for an authentic recipe that ensures this cod’s noggin is put to good use.

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