One thing that was quite surprising about the evening was how packed the place was from the very start of the night. 7:30 pm on a Wednesday night isn’t a usually very popular time for people to go out in Iceland. Obviously Iceland Airwaves had provided occasion enough to go out early though. Which was cool.
Sódóma was quick to fill up and the band who kicked off the evening, Ten Steps Away, seemed to please people well enough, although no one was totally losing it to these guys given the time of day. The band, which hails from Hafnafjörður, played a pretty solid set, as far as I could tell, although I have to say that their brand of hard-ish ‘alt-rock’ isn’t my specialty. They put good energy into their performance and weren’t there to piss around, which is always swell, and got the night started on an honest, rocky vibe.
Because it was still fairly early, it was hard to get any really strong reaction going from the crowd. The mood amongst punters appeared a positive one, although the atmosphere seemed to be more social than music focused from my position, though that could have just been due to the fact that I was closer to the bar and people were drunker. Either way, everyone was having a good time and it was all peachy.
Next on the schedule at Sódóma was Pétur Ben, who took things down a slightly more experimental route, nonetheless rocking the boat along the way. He seemed to be pretty popular and the bar packed out for his set, all at once a flood of people filling the room. He is an accomplished musician, having been up to all manner of things and it showed in his set, which somehow managed to be both polished and relaxed, with him at one point forgetting the lyrics to his own song but still delivering the goods in terms of musical quality and stage presence. He set a totally different mood to Ten Steps Away, but somehow this didn’t jar at all, maybe because there is a pretty rocky element to Pétur Ben, which carried over nicely from Ten Steps Away, despite their other differences.
So far so good. Ólafur Arnaldswas up next, contrary to what the booklet claimed (Ourlives were supposed to be on). However, it proved to be a good switch as he picked up the slightly electronic strands that Pétur Ben laid down in his set, giving things a good flow despite yet another change in mood.
Ólafur Arnalds is a pretty amicable guy, somehow charming enough to make people laugh while he shushed them (which is pretty clever as shushing usually isn’t a particularly popular move in bars). He pulled it off, and the quiet time was worth it as he played a good set despite some technical problems (one teeth grinding moment of feedback was particularly memorable) and lateness. His music stood for itself, inducing an atmosphere of calm, which enhanced the moments of deep juicy bass that crop up in his compositions now and then.
Naturally the crowd was pretty still, as he doesn’t exactly make dancing music, but the fact that they stopped talking (for the most part) probably means that he was doing something right for them.
Arnalds was followed by Autodrone, who rocked a goth/alternative flavour and yes, once again shook things up a bit, whilst somehow not clashing too hard with the mood Ólafur had laid down. I’m exactly sure how it worked, but it did. One of those mysteries of science I guess. Anyhow, while pleather and excessive eye-makeup is not top of my list of must-have fashion items, this is about music and not clothes. And these guys played a tight set.
The singer, Katherine Kennedy, has a strong voice that she uses well, though I felt towards the end that they were lacking in variation in their sound, and I discovered (through eavesdropping on the people next to me), this view was shared by others. At least two. Oh well. The crowd stayed put – although they didn’t exactly rock out – so they must have been doing something right and Sódóma remained pretty much full throughout.
Following Autodrone were Ourlives, a local group of guys who have had a measure of success with their radio friendly alt-rock. Their sound summons images (in my possibly singular imagination) of driving through the countryside in the summer time with all the windows down. Perhaps there is a dog with its head out the window. While I am not a connoisseur of such sounds, these guys seem to do what they do well, and played a good, heartfelt set of this driving-dog music. The crowd wasn’t going anywhere either, engaging in a bit of that slow head-nodding thing that you do in these situations.
Moving along, next up were Cliff Clavin, who have, according to the infinite wisdom of the Airwaves festival booklet, achieved considerable success here and are now making headway into an international career. They played a high-energy set of their own brand of rock, which may or may not have been the first set of the evening to get hands raised into the air and didn’t mess around with fancy onstage antics. The sweat was flying as they put their whole selves into their music, and the energy they expended on the crowd didn’t go unappreciated.
Their heavier sound stood in contrast to that of Ourlives, which has a much more soft rock/Coldplay thing going on. However, as the evening was wearing on, the intensity of the music was not lost on the audience, and even though it remained pretty static throughout the set, there was enthusiastic cheering and whatnot that indicated general gratification.
This paved the way nicely for Dikta, probably one of the headliners of the night if we have to name one. Winners of awards and all round big men on the local music campus at the moment, Dikta were warmly received, and belted out their hits, much to the satisfaction of the crowd, who were still demanding more at the end. They gave it their all.
More hands were raised and bodies moved gracelessly but enthusiastically, and it was easy to see why they are so popular, coming across as somehow both affable and intense. An admirable achievement (even inspiring alliteration). Musically they aren’t doing anything too shockingly different, but there is no crime in that I suppose, and it’s probably the root of their popularity. All in all they played a solid set and rounded off a sweet first night to this years Airwaves at Sódóma.
Sódóma proved to be a good location for this particular line up of bands, as was said, given the bar’s versatility and size. It accommodated the crowd well and everyone was well behaved and happy. Oh yeah, except for those guys who wanted to hear some particular song by Pétur Ben and wouldn’t stop screaming (heckling) about it. Please. Don’t. Do. That. In. My. Ear. The variety of bands was cool because somehow they all worked together, the sets being ordered well enough so that the line up didn’t clash but provided variety from alternative to electronic to classical to grunge. Quite the mish mash. The night was thus a success, and though I wouldn’t have chosen to listen to some of the bands, it was cool to hear all kinds of music mixed up like that and possibly broaden my horizons. And isn’t that what Airwaves is all about?
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