Airwaves: it’s everywhere. There are rappers on the tables of your favourite morning coffee shop and punk bands in the yoga studio. As inescapable as the takeover is in this town, it is still hard to dodge that pervasive feeling that there is something else to see, someone else to hear, somewhere else to be. That’s why we’ve rounded up a top-notch team to recap and recommend (or not) each night’s activities. Grapevine: we’re everywhere.
Hannah Jane Cohen
In the days before Airwaves, I was given some sage advice by an older-Airwaves-vet-friend of mine. He said, while I should of course check out old favourite groups of mine, I should also make it a point to see one band I had never seen everyday. Today, this was Krakk & Spaghettí at the Grapevine #Grapewaves party.
Oh my god, I am in love. These two girls and the DJ were so cool, so lively, amazing performers, and they had light up shoes. Light up shoes! All of their songs were in Icelandic but they made one special song for Airwaves in English. Favourite lyrics? “I am from Iceland and I like volcanos, not for tourists, but for ME!” L-o-l, right?
Kælan Mikla at Loft was another favourite of mine from yesterday. I’ve seen Kælan perform so many times, but this time they seemed so professional. They have really nailed down their sound, look, and message, and now I am so excited for their future. I wish I could be a cool-Berlin-goth—Solveig, could you teach me? I also really liked Auður’s show at Prikið. Last time I saw him was at Sonar and he’s really cool. Like cool in a too-cool-for-you-but-you-wish-you-could-relate way. Overall Wednesday kind of felt like a warm up day. Everyone was getting into the spirit. I don’t know about you but I’m currently lying in my bed trying to get pumped up again by drinking some amino and listening to a mix of t.A.t.U. and Lemonade. That’s very cool.
Today, I’m excited to see Tiny, Sin Fang, and Paloma’s Shades of Reykjavík/Since When/Alvia Islendia extravaganza. <3 <3 Yayo.
Day one of Airwaves was suitably apocalyptic. We opened proceedings with an off-venue of our own featuring softboy rapper Alexander Jarl, the textural electronic beach nymphs of aYia, and my personal highlight, Krakk & Spaghetti, whose fashion sense and $W46 is off the charts (You can catch the full recording of the event on Facebook).
Following that, I headed down to Iðno to catch SIGRÚN, who blend gorgeous abstract throat-sung harmonies with glitchy, schizophrenic electronic beats. After that, it was down to Harpa for the main event: Dizzee Rascal. I have been listening to Dizzee Rascal since I was a wee slip of a lad way back in 2006, but this was the first time I’d been given the opportunity to see him live and he did not disappoint. He’s the UK’s biggest MC, and mans went in hard TBH, you get me? Big up the lively crew, big up Dizzee Rascal, big up Airwaves, or something.
Today is all about Sin Fang, Björk Digital, JFDR, Crispin Best, Aron Can, saying “yes!” to things, fresh air, cold drinks, and never, ever, doing yoga. (Though I hear rumours of a pop-up punk yoga at Hitt Húsið at 1730.
Grayson Del Faro
The highlight of my first day of Airwaves was definitely the grand unveiling (to me, at least) of mysterious new electronic trio aYia. I’ve known nothing about them except their single “Water Plant,” which I’ve definitely listened to quite a bit in the last month. The thing about new Icelandic electronic bands is that they always sound good in production, but occasionally they’re not really experienced enough to pull off their own sound in live performance. Luckily for us all, I was pleased to learn that aYia is the newest of Iceland’s growing scene of Frankenstein’s monster-ish “super groups,” where members of other amazing bands piece together to form new, equally or even more powerful super-bands.
aYia is led by veteran poet, perennial performer, and occasional singer Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir. She’s teamed up with one of the guys from the amazing Oyama, and another guy I didn’t recognize but is probably secretly the genius behind another of Iceland’s best acts. Quite simply, they all know what the fuck they’re doing on stage. Ásta Fanney’s stage presence is otherworldly without being off-putting, their sounds are fresh without being confusing, and unlike many one-single-new-electronic bands, they actually had a full, diverse set of songs to perform. They range from slow, pulsing soundscapes to properly dance-able synthpop, but always with a fresh twist. Basically, what I’m saying is that aYia is not just another new Icelandic electronic band, they’re THE new Icelandic electronic band. I’ll definitely be checking out Ásta Fanney at Airwords tonight and one of aYia’s official shows either Friday or Saturday. (I’m sorry I don’t know your names off-hand, other guys, but I love you too! I promise to name you in my review of your official show.)
Hrefna Björg Gylfadóttir
Airwaves starts off as always, cold and rainy. I decided to hide out in Harpa where it was warm and cosy. I started by night off by listening to Ceasetone in Norðurljós. I’ve known about the rock’n’roll band from the start but never had the chance to see them live so that was a treat.
I witnessed GKR performing live, for probably the tenth time in my life, and he was better than ever. I had a feeling foreigners were quite confused about the whole thing: his colourful getup, the visuals and Icelandic lyrics about breakfast, but his loyal fan squad in the front set a good example of how to turn up. Sturla Atlas was amazing as always. However, when I found myself singing to every single word of his songs I decided to see something I’d never seen before.
Hugar were performing in Kaldalón, which I’ve never seen so crowded before. Their performance was amazing. Dizzee Rascal then finished my evening off with a few songs, kindling a feeling of nostalgia from anyone who listened to MTV in 2007. All in all, a good first night of Airwaves and looking forward to the next. Today, Dream Wife, RuGl and more!
I hit the ground running this year and squeezed in a couple of off-venues on Tuesday. First up was Kreld, the solo project of Kristjan Eldjarn of Sykur. He’s only released one song under this moniker—the simmering earworm “Way Low”—so it was a nice opportunity to hear the crisp, icy, well-formed collection of low key electronic pop music he’s sitting on. The first surprise of the festival was dropping into the Nicky Digital party at Paloma just to say hi, and being completely hypnotised by Conner Youngblood, who mixed together lo-fi beats, guitar and a beautiful Jeff Buckley-esque singing voice into a calm and charismatic set.
On Wednesday, I went to the opening of Björk Digital. Casting the songs of ‘Vulnicura’ into the virtual realm allows a whole new emotional tint to creep into the work. After seeing this show and, particularly, the amazing new environment created for ‘Family’, the idea of immersive, interactive VR albums feels like it could be as big a leap as the advent of recorded music itself. Next I got to see the slick, slow, heartfelt rap of Alexander Jarl, the endearing indie-rap-no-hop of Krakk & Spaghettí, and the witchy electronica of aYia, and finished by jumping up and down to the ever-joyous Milkywhale, who light up the stage without fail.
It always feels like a slight anti-climax when all the bars and venues close at 1am during Airwaves weeknights. But it’s also good to rest instead of fully venturing into the drunken party-chaos energy of the festival… yet.
I’ve heard the name Sturla Atlas, but I wasn’t there to see Sturla Atlas. I was there to see GKR. I did, and he was great. I walked out confident that I would never get the melody “hvað-er-tu-að-tala-um” out of my head for eternity and ever on. But Sturla Atlas was playing next on the same stage, and since Harpa is cozy and clean and has a ton of bathrooms and a ton of bars I decided to stay in that giant hall. With rain that comes in sideways Iceland is actually an extremely effective place to hold a showcase like Airwaves; if it were held at a beach city in South Florida everyone would star their friends, favorites, and a headliner or two. But here we are hostage, to the stage and the music.
So, I went to Sturla Atlas. At first I hung out really close to the main speakers so the vibrations from the bass made it feel like there were ants crawling down my esophagus. The music was good, but the lyrics were throwing me off. So I stayed close to that speaker. Then the group did something really clever. They took hold of the crowd. They told everybody to get down on their knees—and everybody did. The whole of Silfurberg was down on the ground with eyes gleaming up at four 101 boys. And just before the music drops and the crowd stands, I got up. Because I wanted a picture. I took a lame iPhone photo and right when I did everyone got up and went hard and I was just already up, standing there, with no momentum.
I learned two things from that Sturla Atlas show. One, there is a difference between liking a band for their music and liking them for their show. Sturla Atlas put on an explosive show. Two, I won’t be bringing my phone to any more concerts this Airwaves. When they tell me to get down, I will get down. And when they tell me to jump, I will fucking jump.
Book your day tours in Iceland right here!
Posted November 3, 2016