One of the most notable shows of Airwaves 2013 was about to begin, featuring Nolo, Ghostigital, Mykki Blanco, Gold Panda, and Savages at the Reykjavik Art Museum on Saturday night, and Michael Quattlebaum Jr. aka Mykki Blanco is in his pajamas in the lobby of the CenterHotel Plaza. “Can someone help me with my TV? ” he begs, “It’s not working and I tried everything.”
Nolo are the “local openers,” three youngish-looking guys that seemed influenced by The Great American Indie of the ‘00s- Passion Pit, Modest Mouse, MGMT. Their sound in the Museum was robust and best when their quirky, high-pitched vocals harmonize and interplay with each other, such as in the song “Romeo,” which also reminded me of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Overall it was enjoyable by opening band standards, but they dipped into bland territory and I hope these guys continue experimenting to avoid sounding like “just another indie band” (which is probably a terrible thing to be).
Ghostigital is partially the electronic project of Sugarcubes’ founder Einar Örn. I’m no Icelandic historian, but I imagine that any former Sugarcubes member is a holy deity here. Joined on stage by several others, Einar’s loud electro was dissonant and industrial and whether the reverb was from the mixer or the museum acoustics I’m not sure, but it created a mish-mash of pounding noise that to me was basically unlistenable, though there were enough people there who seemed to enjoy it. I moved upstairs to the peanut gallery but it proved to be difficult to escape the aural assault. All I could think about was wanting to get a hot dog, like the time my dad took me to a football game when I was thirteen and I didn’t care about the game and just wondered when I would be able to get some ice cream.
The large venue filled up as Mykki took the stage. “I’ve been looking forward to this show for so long,” she says, “being a little black boy from America I never thought I’d be in Iceland ever—EVER! This is special for me,” and you could tell. Mykki was on fire, seemingly performing from a truly authentic place in her large transgendered heart. Using the mic stand as a giant phallus and stroking it while sashaying across the stage while wearing nipple tassels, amongst many other fabulous moves, Mykki brings the art of mic cord & mic stand dancing to new levels never explored before. She’s also y’know, a rap pioneer. “I just tour around the world on soundcloud, bitch!” As Mykki performed her last song, the master audio dropped as the venue tried to force her off stage for performing too long, but Mykki finished a capella. However, I commend Iceland Airwaves for their wonderful commitment to punctual set times.
One time I watched a YouTube livestream of Ultra Music Festival, gawking at all the people who are willing to just stand in a giant crowd and watch a DJ twiddling some buttons that you’re not even sure are connected to anything, and that’s kind of what its like watching UK producer Gold Panda except Gold Panda is totally awesome. I bopped and swayed along with the crowd to Gold Panda’s blissed-out electronic glitchy tracks, which often incorporated Asian-sounding samples in dreamy ways. Unfortunately the house volume was too low, as was proven by everyone’s ability to have casual conversations about the status of their alcohol consumption without having to strain their voices.
We can accuse Savages of trying to be cool, but ultimately they succeed at it, so they win here. These four women looked and sounded like total badasses. Singer Jehnny Beth’s Siouxsie Sioux-esque vocal delivery was compelling and watching the drummer, pounding away in her high-ponytail and red scrunchie, I wasn’t sure if anyone could look cooler ever. Halfway through the set though, a lot of the songs began to sound the same to me and I got bored and wanted to get another hotdog aka awesome pylsur, but I guess not every song can be a single like “Shut Up.” It’s too bad.
ICELANDIC INDIE FUN FACT: According to Wikipedia, Savages manager also manages Sigur Rós