Ljósvaki were first up, and from the off puzzled, then confused and then confused some more. There is just way too much going with this three piece. They push a part funk/part cabin-cruise jazz hands/part ‘90s pop sound, in Kraftwerk meets lab technician costumes bursting out “I Will Survive”-esque lyrics with ‘70s camp. Eh? They did try bless them, but the stretched vocals, mismatched timing of drums to Macbeats and cabaret feeling did little to light my fire, and their cover of Snoop Dogg’s ‘Sexual Eruption’ in above format pretty much put out any spark that was there. But they’re young, and NASA is a daunting venue so… uhm… yeah.
So I was beginning to feel like a bit of a tough crowd when Berndsen came on to dazzle. Fizzling with energy from the first note, the band’s straining trumpets and paced drums drew fans and curious listeners alike in from the lobby. Initially alarm bells signalled inside as the flame haired singer (who I will refer to as Loveheart dude in dedication to his rather fetching sweater) belted out Robert Smith-esque vocals and the guitar and keyboard arrangements found a distinctly ‘new romantic’ groove. It’s been peddled so many times before, and then some.
But I must have been missing something because the audience were really, really getting into it. And, before long, without even realising it, so was I! Loveheart man flapped and boogied and air punched through neon NASA lights. He darted about the stage like a bee, pushing the gig forward, looking for more and more. The band lit up track by track, growing and swelling until suddenly he got just got tired of singing on the stage and brought the gig into the adoring crowd. Trawling though a hyped audience, banging out belting vocals to the frenetic jam on stage, he soon had everyone chanting “Put me on the line and I feel fine!” Cool! And all before 21:00! Excellent stuff.[At this point, Eimear Fitzgerald left to review the last acts of Risið, while the lovely Ms. Anna Andersen took over NASA. But wait! There’s more! Eimear actually returns later in this review, to tell y’all bout Slagsmålsklubben’s gig! Fun times]
NASA is a special kind of beast. It’s really meant for groups, like Bloodgroup, that win the hearts and minds of an audience with rhythms you can dance to and beats you can trance to. And, this was the case tonight. Bloodgroup are described as darkstar electro. In the United States, we don’t really have the whole “electro” thing. We would maybe call it “Top-40.” They also had an epic strings section, which was a cool combination of sounds.
Although you can hear their music played on the radio and around town, they’re the kind of group you really want to see live. They have wicked fun on stage, intensely twisting and writhing to their synthesized beats. That energy carries through the crowd, which literally pulses.
The last song Bloodgroup played was Men At Work’s ‘Safety Dance’. Someone told me that song is really about wearing condoms and if that’s true, it was a fantastic song to finish on, what with so many people slobbering all over each other tonight, probably on their way to shack up with someone random after the show.
Next, cue Icelandic favourite, Hjaltalín. Their second album, ‘Terminal’, won best album at the Icelandic music awards this year. They came on and played energetically with sure hands. Still, they had trouble following Bloodgroup, or at least they didn’t manage to capture the same energy. Then again, it is a different kind of music – chamber rock, with strings, a sax and bassoon. Sigríður Thorlacius was a true force. Her voice is rich and powerful and I imagine it filling in every corner of the room.
They played a few new songs for us, which seemed more cacophonous and less poppy than some of their old stuff. The audience seemed to receive it well, but without a doubt, their last song, ‘Feels Like Sugar’, was the audience favourite. Many have probably seen Hjaltalín a good five hundred times, and they sang along merrily.
It was one Icelandic favourite after another. Next up was Iceland’s beloved reggae band, Hjálmar. You wouldn’t know it by looking at them as they set up, that is: they were wearing suits, flannels and jeans and t-shirts on stage, rather than Rastafarian dreads, red yellow and green beanies. There was no smell of weed wafting over the crowd. But they got the “riddem,” as they say. Hjálmar brought life back into the crowd. They had the whole room swaying in each other’s arms and singing along to songs like, ‘Það sýnir sig.’ There’s not much to say other than that they play reggae, they do it really well, and people love it. All around feel good vibes.
That was it for the Icelandic stuff.
I didn’t know what to expect from indie rockers Think About Life, who came to Airwaves from Montreal, Canada. And, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were fun, interactive entertainers. They were on FIRE. I was especially fond of the singer Martin Cesar, who dawned a pair of suave shades. He was all over the place, tantalizing the audience left and right. Caila Thompson-Hannant also rocked. There was an exciting improvised feel to their act. At one point Martin picked up his water bottle and threw it at the cymbals and at another point Graham Van Pelt came over and hit them with his bass.
One thing really puzzles me though. Martin danced with a large Chinese flag that he twirled around. WTF? At the end of the song, he threw it on the ground and said, “Oh, wrong flag.” Some lucky soul in the audience now has it. And, after that, they went “pfffffff” (they left). Anyways, they owned it on stage and the crowd was largely impressed.
Adrenalin was already flowing after the last act, but Alex Metric (Live) feat Charli XCX managed to speed things up even more. They played fast, repetitive electro beats you can really groove to, and groove the audience did. Standing at the back of the room, a sea of sweaty, bobbing heads and waving arms lit up in the wild light show. They were pumped and the so was everyone else. This is what NASA looks like at its finest.
Squeezing my way through the hot and sweaty throng, I headed to the exit. At the door, the bouncer didn’t have it easy. The people at the front of the long line pushed and shoved, eager to take my place as I walked out. Alas, I was greeted by a healthy dose of fresh air and a chilling, misty rain that sprinkled lightly on this Saturday morning.[Bye, Anna! Welcome back, Eimear!]
NASA had already reached chaos point before Slagsmålsklubben burst on stage. From the outset it was apparent that these guys from Malmo were a few cans short of a six-pack. Wearing massive fur coats they leaped and ducked and dived about the stage, to a fanfare of acid techno beats; all badass with their cocky swagger and snarling, vicious energy. “You have no fucking idea how much we fucking love Iceland!” bawled the head honcho into the mike from the top of this decks. Good to know.
Slagmålsklubben’s brand of dance is a frantic, frenetic bawling mash up of techno, acid house, freakbeats and electro synth all mixed in with some circus music for good measure. Running around like lunatics between battered looking mixing desks, it seemed like they couldn’t even keep up with themselves. They were the crazed Airwaves Friday night fodder that the masses, and the photographers, were desperate for. The band worked it like pros, wrapping the room round its little finger, before hammering the final nail in the collective coffin of euphoria right at the end. Wild, aural, and completely exhausting.
Book your day tours in Iceland right here!