Reykjavík is so swollen with Airwavesgoers that just walking down Laugavegur can be difficult—there are so many conversations to listen in on, so many people obviously walking in the wrong direction, so many snapping that tourist shot of those damnable two-metre-tall trolls…
Seeking refuge, I stepped (for the very first time) into art-house venue Mengi to see russian.girls, a one-man guitar-noise outfit. Over the thumping bass, heavy beats, and chaotic subdued guitar plucking, a dozen or so people gathered and collectively spaced out as the artist played around with his massive pedal setup, and delivered a performance that was chill, with hints of subdued aggression and sexuality to it.
Over at NASA, Börn tried rousing the sober crowd at 20:00. I wish the band would’ve gotten a later slot, because this deeply political and gloomy punk band has a lot to offer, but it didn’t stop them from making a point to those assembled. Half way through “Friður í helvíti”, when the singer was shouting how she was so sick of people use their privilege to escape taking responsibility, the lights suddenly shifted from the stage to the audience, as if telling everyone that they really need to take that message to heart! She may as well have shouted: “Come on people, it’s the 21st century!”
While Börn’s shtick is the real and gritty world, My Bubba was concerned with something else entirely. The Icelandic-Swedish duo sang softly, and while their folk harmonies and guitar/lap harp melodies sounded warm, the lyrics dealt both with positive and negative emotions, ranging from a new fancy to heartbreak, creation to destruction, yearning for something and then missing someone.
I had seen My Bubba two years prior at Airwaves where the crowd was anything but receptive to their music. This time around, however, they held the whole of Tjarnarbíó spellbound, with a throng of people standing as close to the stage as possible, all but holding their breath so as to not miss the next sound the two emitted.
Their songs had a very seductive element to them, and I found myself absolutely pulled into their fantasy world, where the only reality was the simple story they were telling us. Joyful stories, sorrowful stories, macabre stories (I’m looking at you, “Knitting”), they were the only thing that existed for the duration of their set. Eventually though, I was ejected back to a reality with complicated narratives and opaque causality, but not without some measure of peace.
Next up on the docket was Sykur, and they were energetic, sweet, and solid. Their groovy and technically sound electronica vibes were supplemented by singer Agnes’s powerful voice and wide range. They were lauded by the predominantly female crowd, which absolutely lost its shit when Agnes told them the next song was about gender equality.
Fufanu, too, had genuinely good stage presence. They’ve grown from a small and clumsy techno duo to a full-fledged rock outfit replete with thick guitar sounds that sometimes bordered on the Nirvana-esque. Extensive international tours have had a tangible effect on the band, and singer Kaktus has become even more charismatic; in addition to delivering his lyrics, he confidently tells stories with his hands, twists his hips and dances with his whole body to the music, and riles the crowd up at key moments. Fufanu are very quickly becoming too cool to play in Iceland. Catch them while you can.
Another show that I thought would rock was Meat Wave. I honestly went there because I loved their name; unfortunately, that was the only bit I loved. Don’t get me wrong, they had plenty of energy and power, but there was something very important missing from their show. I don’t want to say it was honesty—that’s a death sentence to any self-described punk band—but no part of the show felt original or sincere. It saddens me to say it made me think of a faster and heavier version of Blink 182. I didn’t love it, and that’s okay, but it’s not an ideal closing act for the evening.
Posted November 6, 2015