So Iceland Airwaves 2012 comes to a close. The festival where everything that could go wrong went wrong. A festival that was lacking in breathtaking new discoveries and crazy live performances. But it was also a festival where the Icelandic bands stepped up their professionalism – whether it be in rigorously following the schedule or simply putting on a polished show.
Instrumetal And Experimetal
“Music hath the charm to soothe a savage beast, but I’d try a revolver first.“ – Josh Billings
That’s all she wrote.
So Iceland Airwaves 2012 comes to a close. The festival where everything that could go wrong went wrong. But it was also a festival where the Icelandic bands stepped up their professionalism – whether it be in rigorously following the schedule or simply putting on a polished show. I would also like to compliment the door men and other attendants to the festival – they showed a lot of patience and kept things going smoothly with some pretty challenging weather conditions.
With the stress of the last few days behind us, the Sunday night felt more like a footnote. Attendance was better than I had dared to hope but spirits were brought low by the high (and strong) spirits of the night before. This was at a rock night at Amsterdam, so the crowd was a little older. Soon an older drunk would start to swing his weight against the stage and proclaim his love for the bands. Others stood on the sidelines with stroked chins and neglected beers.
“Americans want grungy people, stabbing themselves in the head on stage. They get a bright bunch like us, with deodorant on, they don’t get it.” -Gallagher, Liam
The first band was called Two Tickets to Japan. I had never heard of them and I can’t say that I loved the name. The music felt a little tense and overly serious and I don’t think Japan would help with that – might I suggest two tickets to Rio instead?
So, first off, the singer isn’t half-bad but his voice is poorly suited to their sound. Secondly, the saxophone doesn’t really add much (always think long and hard before adding a sax). The sound was, roughly speaking, a heavy jam. Complex structures and mathy riffs. Reminded me a little of Agent Fresco at times (minus the singing of course). I had watched the cinematic masterpiece ‘Airheads‘ the night before quickly realized that it would be impossible for anyone under 20 to understand the plot of that movie (“dad, what’s a record executive?”). And there was something a little ’90s about Two Tickets to Japan. It felt like a band I would have thought was cool back when the movie ‘Airheads’ still made sense to people (“why is Nucky Thompson grabbing his crotch?”).
Their first song was decent, the second one was monotonous and meandering (but I liked the crack about pins being business cards for bands), the third was the best with some really nice noise bits and very dramatic and had excellent drumming, the fourth was the mellow one and almost stumbled into Morphine territory, I can’t remember if they did a fifth song (it didn’t leave much of an impression if they did).
A decent band overall and very energetic on stage, with no head going unbanged.
“All my concerts had no sounds in them; they were completely silent. People had to make up their own music in their minds!” – Yoko Ono
The second band had a completely sedate stage presence and barely spared a nod to the audience. It was time for Saytan (all hail…etc.). I’ve seen Saytan before and really liked them. They play intricate and instrumental metal with a lot of loops and drone. A similar terrain as Two Tickets to Japan. My taste in music was shaped by Aphex Twin, Trans Am and Lightning Bolt – so this is a terrain I know how to navigate. Saytan could be described as Lighting Bolt without the aggression (I know…not really a useful analogy). They are loud but not abrasive and there is always a melody hidden in the growling guitar loops.
Their first song was powerful and caught the crowd’s attention, the second song was noticeably weaker and you started to see them lose control of those intricate loops, the third song was a big and fantastical and reminded me of some Ra’i music I’ve heard, fourth song started to remind me of Mogwai with all crescendo and their styles started to wear a little thin, the closing song came together in the final minute after some missteps and the drummer finally started to venture outside his comfort zone.
An interesting band that I feel I can recommend but this was their sketchiest performance and they did not put on an engaging live show. Oh, and a “thank you” at the end of the set would have been a nice touch. Hell, a “fuck you” would have been fine.
“There is two kinds of music the good and bad. I play the good kind.” – Louis Armstrong
My replacement was a little late because apparently the prima donnas in Sigur Rós took late to the stage (you’d think 7,000 ISK extra would buy you punctuality?). I heard that the show was alright though. I hope people had fun. That goes for the whole festival.
Thank you all, God bless, and Romney for president!
-By Ragnar Egilsson
And With A Growl, It Was Over…
Sunday night at Airwaves. Sigh. One can’t help but notice a huge NASA sized hole in this night. It’s a crying shame, but as the cliche dictates, the show must go on. And it does, with Sunday night of Airwaves nailing the lid on the amazing five days we have just experienced.
Fresh from the ethereal arms of Sigur Rós, I arrived at Amsterdam. It was dim, dingy and surprisingly contained more than two people, given that it would seem that every man and their dog was across town being swept away on a river of sound by Sigur Rós. I walked just after the beginning of Hellvar‘s performance. They were in full swing, making a good go of one of the final sets of the festival. I instantly admired their enthusiasm; despite being faced with a small crowd of likely jaded individuals who did not rock out at all, the band put their hearts into their performance. They really gave the gloomy room all their energy, bodies rocking, crammed in together on the tiny stage, releasing a constant barrage of sound on the crowd.
I have long had a bit of thing for heavy music with female singers, finding that the contrasting heavy/light quality which emerges interesting, and makes a welcome change from the usual gender stereotypes.. Having two female vocalists works well for them, providing a balance to what is essentially quite an unrefined sound. And I actually don’t mean ‘unrefined’ pejoratively, before anyone gets up in arms. Likewise in the moments where guitar riffs glistened, diffused, and they broke up the weight of their sound and almost gave me the chills at times.
By the time they were done, the room was filling up, everyone having returned from Sigur Rós, hungry for the last morsels of music to be found before it all ended.
Momentum were the guys charged with ending the night at Amsterdam. During the brea the room had emptied out, but it slowly began to fill and a little crowd stood before the stage as they started their set.
Their voices, growling in unison, evoked metal being dragged over gravel and the power of their music forced me, a complete fledgling when it comes to this weighty stuff, to rock, almost against the will of my exhausted body. The envy inspiring red locks of lead singer /bassist Hörður flay his shoulders as he plays; I can’t help but become aware of how these ridiculous viking stereotypes emerge about Icelandic men. They are all bollocks of course, but somehow become believable when this fiery haired guy gnarls into the microphone. Needless to say they play a good set, in the end inspiring rocking bodies, probably at this point in the programme anything more would have been unachievable. When they were not growling in unison, they were meandering and musical, voices moaning, angsty into the microphone before a cacophony was unleashed upon us.
The final song was a chiller. It was just one line sung in unison ‘holding back’ to the backdrop of their powerful, organised riffage. Though I am not usually a fan of ‘singing along’, in the context of the last moments of the festival it is almost moving (sorry guys, you may have wanted to be tough but you moved me) and with this, Airwaves is done for another year.
-By Bergrún Anna Hallsteinsdóttir