If you play your cards right, on a Friday night during Iceland Airwaves, there are a myriad of fun situations you could find yourself in. I happened to find myself in a positive predicament, chilling in a hotel room with two of my favorite acts at the fest- Sean Nicholas Savage and Moon King, and watching YouTube videos with them of artists having meltdowns on stage. The night was looking good, but that came to a halt when I had to depart to watch five artists I never heard of in a venue I can’t pronounce on a street that doesn’t exist.
I emotionally ate a waffle from a street vendor en route to Þjóðleikhúskjallarinn to help cope with the impending events. It was actually pretty delicious. I walked to the venue using the otherwise useful Airwaves app, according to which the venue should be located along an apocalyptic stretch of rubble, wooden planks, metal fences, yellow tape and fun wires to fall over. Where the eff is this place? I encountered a group of four people who were also searching and they eventually gave up and went back in their car. I did not have such great luxuries. Obviously I made it there because there is more to this review, but the venue was a good three blocks away from what the app map said.
The venue was in the dark basement of the National Theatre with a nice warm feeling to it, with a decent sized crowd at the start of the show. The first act- SOMETIME– is an electronic duo, with a guy twiddling knobs and playing a synth and doing things that electronic musicians do, and the woman mostly singing and going through the motions of motions called “dancing” in a short-suit made of jumbo-sized sequins, essentially looking like a disco ball to inform the audience that its time to party. “Looking for a party band for your party? We are SOMETIME!,” I imagine on a flyer somewhere in Reykjavik. They lead a call & responses of their band name – We say SOME, you say TIME. SOME-TIME, SOME-TIME. A new song starts and it’s the same beat to “Losing My Edge” by LCD Soundsystem, except instead of turning into a great song its turns into something pretty forgettable. “It’s a party, you know?” says the lead singer. Not sure if I know, however, the band had its fans, particularly with an enthusiastic group of Asian-Americans who were dancing and screaming up front, after having discovered one of Sometime’s videos on YouTube. The Asians bought me a shot. Asian George was really nice and told me he was a 24 year-old virgin.
AARON & THE SEA
These two guys from Minneapolis are another electronic duo, but better than the previous band, and seemed very sweet and humble. Similar in sound to Autre Ne Veut and what you might consider “on-trend,” Aaron’s silky r&b vocals were impressive, laid over large beats using a drumpad and macbook and other bleep-bloop machines. He finished off his set with a clubby version of “Little Bit” by Lykke Li, which is a difficult song to improve upon, but his execution was commendable nonetheless.
Five Frenchmen dressed in all black, Lescop opened their set sounding very cold-wave, with the lead singer giving a well-executed dead stare to the back walls of the venue, resembling Jehnny Beth of Savages in many ways. Too many ways, perhaps. INDIE FUN FACT: lead singer John used to date as well perform with Jehnny, in the pre-Savages project John & Jehn. The set soon devolved into pretty standard rock music, lacking surprises of any sort, and it was actually pretty boring. The crowd seems to love it though, but the crowd seems to love anything—it’s Friday night at 1am and everyone just wants to party. A cute guy kisses me on the cheek. And then another one.
This is Icelandic Hip-Hop, which isn’t necessarily LOL except that it is. Due to the friendliness of drunk Icelandic boys, I had amassed plenty of new friends by this point in the night, one of whom recommend this act, but an informant tipped me off that he was just saying that because he was friends with them, which is a situation that we refer to in NYC as GGBB—Good Guys, Bad Band. “This is not music, its noise with rhythm” said the informant, “In the old days, when you connect to the internet, and it goes bee-boo” he said, imitating the sound of a modem, that’s what this group sounds like. “You’re into the forties music,” said the friend, implying that the informant was too old-fashioned for this newfangled hip-hop. “It’s just not music with the bass this loud,” he replied, “In the 1940s, this would be called an earthquake.”
It was just past 2am and the club was packed and drunk and ready 2 partee and the Icelandic group Sykur where there to fulfill their needs. With lots of energy , a ’90s house beat, and an occasionally rapping female singer, the crowd was dancing and waving their arms in the air like they just don’t care. Layers were being stripped off, crowd surfing commenced, and by all accounts it was a party. But was it good? Was this “good music”? Perhaps judging a party band on its artistic merit is like judging a fish on its ability to ride a bike. Sykur made people have fun and dance and probably hook up after, and like, I guess that’s its function. Then I made out with a cute Icelandic guy whose mother’s sister’s husband orchestrated the Time Warner-AOL merger, and he told me about how the drummer from Sigur Rós used to walk him home from school every day when he was a kid and made him French Toast sometimes.