While one half of our review team checked out gothic gloom, cheesy rap, and party explosions, the other half scoured the festival, whether seeking out new thrills or running into the arms of old ones. Here’s what went down.
Grayson Del Faro
Yes, I did start my day by trying to see Mammút at Bryggjan, which is honestly a really shitty venue. Maybe ten people can fit into the space where anyone can actually see anything at all. Good thing Mammút is jam-fucking-packed with incredible musicians so the hundreds of people who couldn’t fit into the little tube of Bryggjan’s venue could still enjoy some seriously deadly guitar action. And yes, I did end the concert-going part of my night with FM Belfast , because I am weak. I’ve seen them many times and I know I should see something new, but I am weak, and I always give in, and I never regret it. Not least because I have never gone home from an FM Belfast show alone, if you know what I’m sayin’. I know you know. But let’s get real. It’s Saturday and we’re all hungover as fuck so I’m gonna skip the rest of the bullshit and get straight to the real shit.
Do you know who the real shit is? It’s Lido fucking Pimienta, okay? Remember that because you’re gonna need it later. She is pure gold. She is a golden goddess descended from the mountains of South America and she has brought us peace and noise. I don’t even know what really happened. There were some drums, some synths, some lights, some kooky-patterned quilty-thingy, and she had these giant braids and a crazy, shiny, baggy dress and she told this story about some guy who threatened to post some nude pics of her online and she didn’t know what to do so she called her mother and her mother called the guy and told him to do it because it would make her rich and famous and she’s really hot deserves that and I’m paraphrasing here so you have to take my word for it that it was really adorable and empowering and really fucking fun and I learned a lot about motherhood and other important topics. She also let all the women and short people go to the front of the show so they could see. And she casually joked about moving to Iceland and I think we need her but we don’t deserve her and we’re certainly not ready for her saintliness and general magnanimousness. Are you getting the picture? You’re not. Because I can’t really do it justice. Just go to her. Accept Lido Pimienta as your lord and savior while you still can. (No, really: she’s playing today at KEX!)
I started with EinarIndra off-venue at 12 Tónar. I have been following this guy for a few months, and was very impressed with his first album, ‘Stories.’ His music is pop-electronica, and Einar has a beautiful voice that I thought would be hard to recreate live. Because, you know, technology. He did it though. He slowly won the crowd over and gave a stellar performance. If this guy keeps his focus, he could go big.
The next stop was Bárujárn at Bíó Paradís. It means “corrugated iron” in English—and how cool is that? They play surf-punk, but with a twist—Hekla Magnúsdóttir plays the theremin, and imitated a human voice with this crazy Russian instrument. I also loved the bass player, sporting leather pants and a white tank top. Rock on!
Young Karin played at Loft Hostel. This girl is very young and petite, but her voice is big. In my opinion, she’s a gem in the past-it’s-best hip-hop scene in Iceland. Next was Skrattar. The word Skrattar is like a brutal term for “demons”—and these guys were fucked up. I didn’t know if I should call Vogur (the Icelandic rehabilitation centre), or just get drunk with them. These guys were like if heroin had a child with fentanyl and they started a band decade later—crazy rock n’ roll that’s smarter than it looks. One of the moments of the night.
So: Jae Tyler. Who the hell is this guy? The band describe themselves as psych-pop, and they were highly entertaining with smart songs and a lot of talent. And they also had this fantastic bass player (could someone e-mail her name to me? She is also in the cover band Babies. firstname.lastname@example.org). It was the best concert of the night, by far.
I am so lucky to work at a place like Stofan. Not only did they let me play my silly music unquestioningly, but I got to kick off my Friday with a full-on love-in dance party with some of the most beautiful and talented friends a gal could ask for. After getting my energy fully pumped doing the hustle with IDK I IDA to ABBA, I bounced over to Húrra to see Jae Tyler’s rad queerpsych rock’n’glam brilliance. Backed by his wife Mr. Silla, bassist extraordinaire Ingibjörg Elsa Turchi and the sharpest, hottest drummer I’ve ever seen at Airwaves, the stellar set was both gay as in happy AND queer as in fuck you. “We don’t end on a high note; we end on a higher note,” Jae proclaimed as he wrapped up the show. “Whatever tragedy befalls us, we are manmade, we are natural and we must party all the time.”
I continued partying down in the Hard Rock basement, which I do not care much for space-wise but the sound is honestly great, the bartenders are absolute sweethearts and the lineups are great. My friend told me to come see Gents from Denmark. I knew nothing about them but they are my kind of guys. Perfect 80s synthpop amalgam of “The Hurting” era Tears For Fears and “Music For The Masses” Depeche Mode, songs so catchy and soaring and the right balance of pop and emo to make me want to be 6th grade slow-dancing right now (have you finished the new Stranger Things yet? Yeah, like that.) Their anthemic unquestionable hit “Young Again” is reminiscent and just as its name-inspiring “Forever Young”, and made me reflect on all the changes in my life recently – they are so good, and they genuinely have made me feel so young again.
After their set I ran into my friend who told me to stay put to see Nilüfer Yanya. “She’s a star,” he said. I got a vodka soda and sat down. Listening to her guttural guitar riffs and deep, emotive vocals I came back to a quote by my friend Alison McNeil that came to mind also while watching Jae Tyler—the only penis a girl ever needs is a guitar.
On Friday, Ásgeir’s Harpa performance provided me with my first sense of familiarity at Airwaves 2017, and by familiarity, I mean an act I’ve seen black and white pictures of and never, ever listened to. As we all know, the Grapevine/Airwaves relationship is steeped in history and tradition and in celebration of this, Harpa gave us the very last seat, next to the door at the back. Before the night even begun, I was feeling the love.
Now that Ásgeir has hit the big time, it seems only natural his set arrangements would follow suit, but I couldn’t work out the point of the random assortment of slim-line lava lamps accompanying him on stage. Regretfully, they became another item on the never-ending list of things millennials have ruined. The live performance itself was pleasant enough, but the choice of venue was indicative of the direction his career is taking. In other words, the density of 50-odd-year-olds who can’t work out how to take flash of their camera was high in the crowd.
Next up was Mura Masa at the Reykjavik Art Museum and his performance can only be properly illustrated by London slang. Go to Urban Dictionary and look up ‘piffting’ and ‘dutty’ to learn everything you need to know about his set. Honestly, the rest of the night is a bit of a blur, but I do remember doing a drunken backstage ‘interview’ with Hórmónar. Just like their set, they seem fucking sick and are up there with Hatari as one of the best up-and-coming Icelandic artists at Airwaves.
The day started at Loft where Fever Dream was playing. Her biggest hit has her shouting “just try” and hopefully next time, either me or her should try harder to make the concert enjoyable.
After downing the first beer of the day, I headed to Kaffibarinn where punk ensemble Tófa were playing. They were as tight as ever, but I viewed the concert as just a warm-up to their 2:30 gig tonight at Gaukurinn–badass. I was then wonderfully surprised when the epic ‘Eye Witness’ theme started blasting through Kaffibarinn. DUDUDURURURU DUDUDURURU! The band Quest had just announced themselves and much chair dancing started. I’m a sucker for 80s-stalgia and they made me wanna put on eyeliner, grow out my hair and watch ‘Revenge of the Nerds.’
After that I went from 80s nostalgia straight to the pinnacle of 90s Iceland. At Gamla Bíó Maus were playing. It’s 20 years since ‘Lof Mér Að Falla Að Þínu Eyra’ came out, and if you’re into indie you have to check it out. Plus, every single Icelandic girl and most men had a crush on Biggi in Maus. As my friend said, “Seventeen year old me is crying”.
It all ended at Gaukurinn where Hórmónar put on a great show. They are really cool, good shit. Now stop reading this and go out and experience something.
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Posted November 4, 2017