Something you hear a lot about Airwaves, talking to people after concerts and what-have-you, is that there’s an open atmosphere. Everybody’s friendly, and you can basically walk into anywhere and make friends lickity-split. Just say hi. I spoke to a Canadian (whose name I’ve since forgotten, oops) yesterday about this, and he said that he had hung out with Misþyrming and Sinmara after a show. “Back in Canada, bands at festivals are always kinda stand-offish and aloof, but here you can just hang out with them after a show and nobody bats an eye.”
Even the bands themselves seem to exude openness and acceptance. Everyone is welcome, everyone is equal, just don’t be an asshole, etc.
Example time. Æla, who are forerunners in the race to becoming my favourite band, played a show dressed up crazy. One guy in a fluffy onesie, one guy wearing hotpants and covered in pink glitter, and the singer wearing a skimpy Snow White dress and also covered in glitter. It’s not typical for an all-male band, and that’s what I like. Æla is unafraid to challenge standards of masculinity, do their own thing, and do it well.
They don’t limit themselves to what is considered okay, and they’re empowered by this. It adds to their strength as a band, and emphasises the message in songs like ‘Hommar’, which is about homophobia. I spent some time listening to the lyrics and google translating that noise, and he sings: “There’s gays in here! / There’s gays! / Gays! Oh no! Gays! Gays! / Get me out of here,” sings the guy in the short dress. Æla parodies homophobia, I felt, and it’s a powerful message about not being an asshole, it questions what masculinity is and promotes acceptance and positivity.
Then there are acts like Sykur, addressing the full house at the museum, who announced “This song is about gender equality” to huge applause. “Have fun, be good to each other, lots of hearts,” Sykur said. Sykur singer Agnes promotes openness, she gets on stage and immediately fills the room with her powerful presence, and contributes to this amazing feeling of acceptance.
There’s more explicit messages that not all is well, though. Reykjavíkurdættur sing about feminism, gender equality, and (strikingly to me), homophobia. Their song ‘Næs í rassinn‘ (“Nice in the ass”) is all about anal sex, and it’s the one song I’ve seen them perform in English this Airwaves. They rap about the stigma surrounding bum fun and the concept of masculinity/femininity as it relates to sex. Their song (which is shockingly catchy, in English and Icelandic), discusses the lack of a positive discourse surrounding anal sex, the stigma that it’s “gay”, and that people should lighten up about it.
While this is admirable, I felt a certain uneasiness about one of their English lines: “homophobia is feminine-phobia”. Even after a few days of thinking, I still find it difficult to explain just why, but that’s good: Reykjavíkurdættur are challenging me, and everyone, to be in dialogue with ourselves and others about who we are, how we define our gender and sexuality, without prejudice.
It’s a great message, the Airwaves openness. Everyone’s friends. Love thy neighbour. Don’t hate.
It’s just a shame that a lot of these messages are incredibly inaccessible. RVKDætur translated a song, Æla announced that their song was about homophobia (and I speak Icelandic just enough to get the gist of the song) but to someone who doesn’t speak Icelandic, the rest is just noise. Beautiful noise, but noise.
A colleague of mine recommended seeing Börn after I mentioned that I was so impressed by the positive messages being sung at Airwaves, as they are supposedly all about social justice, equality, etc. I went to their show, and my colleague was duly impressed by both the music and the message. I, however, liked the music okay, but caught absolutely zero message. The Icelandic is too complicated—even now, after repeated listens to their music, and their lyrics.
This is obviously inherent to an international music festival-not everyone can understand all the music. I just think it’s kind of a shame that so many really good messages, that are so in tune with the atmosphere of the festival, go… maybe not unheard, but un-understood.
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Posted November 6, 2015