The best show of the night was hands-down Ho99o9—the punked-out dark hip-hop performance turned the heat up and kept it at a feverish high throughout the wild ride. It had the whole nine yards, and then some: costume changes, leaping performers, massive mosh pits, crowd surfs, and even motherfucking backflips! It’s going to take me a long time to get over this show.
The worst moment happened just before Kælan Mikla‘s last song of the night, when a heckler asked the band first to take off their shirts, and then show their tits. The audience and band were stunned, before shouting that he should fuck himself. Some people openly contemplated whether they should beat him up or not. Way to be a rotten douchebag, interrupt the band, and bring the whole audience out of the moment.
Airwaves shows are a mixed bag. President Bongo’s Serengeti was an awkward experience—it was interesting as a dance/electronic band, but I didn’t feel the “Serengeti” experience at all, which made the “African dance” theme of the video just seem… out of place. There was a mis-match between how the band describes themselves and what they deliver, to say nothing about the semi-appropriative note of the set. Milkywhale‘s crazy dance energy more than made up for that, and their open, happy, get-over-here-and-start-dancing vibe is WOW. After that, I kinda fell in love with Perfume Genius. His sound, his energy, his dance moves… he was amazing. I’m inspired. I want to write poetry (but I won’t).
I missed out on FM Belfast (I made the fatal mistake of sitting down ten minutes before their show began, and I didn’t manage to get up for another 40 minutes). Then I stopped by Chastity Belt at Gaukurinn, whose stage presence was barely felt, and I watched The Drink while waiting for Ho99o9 to go on. I made a silly mistake of trying to get close to the stage and got caught in the moshpit. It was uncomfortable. Despite loving their music, I decided to step out to catch Weval, a Dutch DJ duo (landgenoten!) who create amazing beats and work in perfect harmony.
Alexander de Ridder
We just witnessed the viral campaign of the year yesterday. For the last couple of days people have been going to the police, telling them that they had taken pills with swastikas on them that supposedly contain extremely potent LSD. So, our beloved and cute police force decided to issue a warning: The pills with the swastikas on them contain extremely potent LSD. They are so potent that it’s enough to touch them to get high. It was the main news story on the ten o’ clock news on the national radio station. All of this happening on the Friday of Airwaves? The people that had access to those seedy Icelandic drug market Facebook groups started reporting: Everyone was selling swastikas tonight. One guy even offered to deliver it. Oh, the beauty of the market. Some might argue that we should let the private sector advertise drugs and let the government sell them, rather then the other way around but at least the market finds some way. I truly hope no one who took the swastikas went to Ho99o9 at Nasa last night. Men in bloody dresses with masks must be a sure-fire way to dark trip.
Okay let’s talk about Milkywhale. I know I’m not the first and I certainly won’t be the last to sing her praises, but DAMN. It’s rare to see a single performer fill a large stage so completely. Is it her infectious enthusiasm? Her frequent, exuberant engagement with the audience? Her crisp choreography? I was absorbed by the lines she draws with her body, and the relationship of her dance moves to the images projected behind her. Immediately after Milkywhale, Bianca Casady (of the chimerical freak folk/trip-hop duo CocoRosie), presented her new solo project, which, although theatrical, proved far more cerebral than the simplistic ecstasy of Milkywhale’s performance. Dressed in mourning attire and a bowler hat, Bianca sang lines rich with internal rhyme and striking imagery. A dancer with a sculpted, athletic body performed alongside her; his various costumes throughout—high-heels, overalls, a dress, a wig—was a rather sexy exploration and refutation of gender norms.
Speaking of gender, lets talk about Vaginaboys. You’d expect that an all male group with a name like that might be a little sensitive to the statements they’re putting out there. The video on loop behind them showed women stuffing peppers in their mouths and throwing around pieces of raw meat. I dunno. Just gonna put it out there that it seems a bit fucked.
I started out at Listasafn last night. Sturla Atlas were there, doing their Sturla Atlas thing. This thing is always good fun, but I don’t know if I was drunk / it was late enough for me to get properly into it. I left pretty quickly and milled about downtown for a while, with a couple of short beer stops at Kaffibarinn and Prikið.
To be honest, as soon as I found out JME and Skepta were playing, I knew what my Airwaves Friday was going to be all about. After a decent amount of predrinking, I arrived for the last 40 minutes of their set back at Listasafn. Frankly, it was fucking incredible. Growing up just north of London, I’ve been a fan of JME since I was about 11-years-old when he released ‘Serious’ (to which I learnt all the words), but it was my first time seeing him live. I was also familiar with Skepta for about the same time. The two are brothers, and although they don’t play together all that often as a pair (their label / collective, BBK, tends to tour either as a whole group or as individuals), they were tight as hell and the crowd loved it. It was possibly the most energetic set I’ve seen by any artist since Gogol Bordello—if not the best concert I’ve been to in years.
Of all the BIG SHOWS that happened last night (Ariel Pink screaming in a skirt in a parallel universe where nothing matters in front of giant projected 80s 3D dinosaurs; Grísalappalísa blowing the roof of Silfurberg and setting a new record for Iggy Pop-ness, dethroning Iggy Pop in the process) my show of the day was actually also the quietest. Jófriður Ákadóttir is best known for her work with Samaris, Pascal Pinon and, more recently, Gangly, but she’s been slowly hatching solo material in 2015, in various low-key incarnations. And, unsurprisingly, it’s phenomenally good.
The opening track is pin-drop quiet, with breathed vocals so tender that the hairs on my neck stand on end. The lyrics are the “most Jófríður” of any of her output to date—personal, philosophical and poetic. Finally in the aesthetic driving seat, Jófríður’s subtle and refined sensibility comes to fore more clearly than in more collaborative band projects. Having seen these songs performed only three times, I already feel a “yay this one!” internal cheer as each one begins. Something very, very good is on the horizon.
I wanted to be in a party mood yesterday and make Friday my go-all-out-get-nuts night of the festival, but I was just so tired. Like, fundamentally, ethically, politically tired, and unfortunately no band I saw ended up ice-bucket-challenging me out of my lethargic stupor. However I did draw an intense amount of satisfaction from slices of cheap, life-affirming Pizza. My boyfriend and I grabbed a slice at Pizza Royal on our trek between Gaukurinn and Harpa—which was sorely lacking pepperoni on it and their usually brilliant topping counter had been ravaged – and it really gave me the energy I needed to sit around nursing a beer before Ariel Pink. On the way home, we stopped into Deli for a little bedtime snack and they had one of those vegetarian pizzas with spinach, feta and peanuts popping right out of the oven. That is seriously superior pizza. Even if you’re a big ol’ carnivore like myself, god damn it that pizza is goooooooood. So yeah, I know it’s pretty edgy, but I was all about the pizza party last night. So sue me. Eat my pizza-shit, Peter Kreyci #feminism
I saw Emmsjé Gauti, Milkywhale, Reykjavík!, Úlfur Úlfur, Skepta, and Ho99o9 tonight. No lowlights in there, though putting British rap (Skepta) next to Icelandic rap (Úlfur Úlfur, Emmsjé Gauti) made for some rather chewy food for thought. Icelandic rap seems to come from a different planet sometimes. Highlight of the night and highlight of Airwaves 2015 (so far—but I think it’ll keep this status) was without question punk-rap group Ho99o9. I had interviewed them earlier that day, which was cool. But even if I hadn’t, it still would have been a mind-blowing musical, artistic, and physical showcase. By the time the show was over, I was absolutely soaked in sweat, absolutely confused about how to come down after a performance like that. But then again, so was everyone else in the audience.
There was Tanya Tagaq. As is my wont, there was Milkywhale before that, but immediately after there was Tanya Tagaq. Let me just say it one more time: Tanya Tagaq. Tanya. Tagaq. There was a jazz-like complexity and Tanya Tagaq. There was a punk-like intensity and Tanya Tagaq. There was a whole lot of Inuit throat-singing and there was Tanya Tagaq. Despite realizing that Fríkirkjan is the worst venue at Airwaves, due to the smothering lack of ventilation and every single person was sweating their literal or figurative balls off, there was Tanya Tagaq so no one even cared. There was growling, howling, screaming, screeching, shrieking, hooting, crying, wailing, and who can even name what other sounds were coming from Tanya Tagaq. There were sounds I didn’t know could come from a human body. And for each sound, there was a corresponding bodily motion, like clutching or writhing or contorting. There was never even a break between songs. Just a violin, a drummer, a back-up throat-singer, and Tanya Tagaq. For an hour. Even after three consecutive airwaves, I’ve never seen nor will I ever see anything like Tanya Tagaq. I know a lot of words to describe a lot of things but I find myself without any tonight, except Tanya Tagaq.
Grayson del Faro
Day Three: it just keeps getting better. I watched my favourite show so far this festival. Glacier Mafia, Úlfur Úlfur, Emmsjé Gauti and Skepta. Icelandic Hip-Hop has all the grit and confidence of any scene, but with this Icelandic irony that makes it feel authentic. Úlfur Úlfur performed for hundreds of people and then got off stage–only to stand in the same bathroom line as everyone else (makes you wonder about the backstage line…). Skepta went to Prikið afterwards and no one bothered him. It’s a mixture of small town courtesy coupled with the anxiety to be taken seriously, to be cool and not fawn over every famous artist who stops by. Tiny was particularly great last night, his on-stage performances keep getting better and better. Emmsjé Gauti might be the best on-stage performer I’ve seen in Iceland.
The only draw backs of the first official, all-in weekend night was waiting for cab. I waited with my friend for 20 minutes, only to see a taxi coming down the street, which inspired us to embrace, compliment each other, and say our good-byes. The taxi drove right on by–leaving us there awkwardly staring in opposite directions.
“Well, we got the hug out of the way.”
“We don’t need to do that again.”
“It was an early hug.”
“It was nice.”
“Yeah, it was nice.”
I can’t wait for tonight. I’m going to watch a choir.
Book your day tours in Iceland right here!
Posted November 7, 2015