Alas, Airwaves is over. I will not say do not weep, for not all tears are an evil. The Grapevine super-review team is now in hibernation until next November, when we will re-emerge to take over the town. Nonetheless, here is what we did last night.
Of course, make sure to check out our Airwaves: Tuned In podcast, hosted by the Grapevine’s best friend Tim Pogo. We’ve been putting one out everyday of Airwaves! Listen to it on iTunes or Soundcloud or Spotify.
Me & The Klemens Superfan
The last day of Airwaves I decided to focus on what I’d like to call “legacy acts”—artists that I’ve followed since they began many years ago. In fact, most of them I had interviewed in some form or another when they were starting out. Nowadays, all are massive, so I wanted to check in and see what they were up to.
These were: Auður, JóiPé & Króli, GKR, and Hatari. I added to that debutante una schram and my current favourite up-and-comer gugusar.
Beginning: Afternoon. Landsbankinn. Let’s start with the obvious, it’s both strange and brilliant to have a concert in a bank. I walked in just as una schram, the elusive chanteuse herself, was starting off. For a new performer on the scene, she certainly knows what she’s doing. Her vocals are strong live. She’s personable. She’s comfortable and likable on stage. Many of her songs blended together for me, but I was particularly blown away by “bum boy.” The title, yes, might seem superficial, but the track is actually empowering af and super catchy. It’s been on repeat for me all day.
Afterwards was Auður. Look, I don’t know if Auður had like WAY too much coffee in the morning, WAY too much of some other substance, or is just like the HAPPIEST DUDE IN THE WORLD, but he was LOADED with energy. I mean like, Jesus Christ. Who is that excited? He jumped onstage like he was part of the Wiggles and danced his way through every song with a massive smile on his face. I instantly felt incredibly lazy.
Let’s get this straight: I’m not dissing him—I loved it. Only Auður could turn an afternoon bank gig to kids into a fucking rave. At one point, he started jumping on the bank tellers desks and singing into their phones before lying on a staircase and humping the air. He’s a fucking icon. Thank God for Auður. There is truly “Enginn eins og þú.”
I think took a dinner break before heading over to Hlemmur Square’s rebel #AirWhales festival to see gugusar. Look, if there’s one artist I’d like anyone reading this to listen to, it’s her. The girl is 15, and I promise whole-heartedly if she doesn’t quit music to become a fisherwoman or something, she’ll be big. Her layered, eclectic lo-fi music is so incredibly nuanced, visceral, heartfelt, and also great to dance too. Check out “I’m not supposed to say this”—that’s my favourite.
Anyway, for having only performed perhaps five times ever, this was a fantastic show. Her music was on-point, she played some new stuff, and even pulled out some incredibly precise choreography to accompany her tracks, which made her even more endearing. I stan.
After gugusar, I hauled it to the Hard Rock Café to see JóiPé & Króli. I haven’t seen them live since the ‘Gerviglingur’ era, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Surprisingly, they play with a brass band, which made the whole thing feel like a funk show rather than a hip-hop gig. It was surprising, and showed really how versatile they are musically.
I don’t have much else to say because, to be blunt, I saw a bunch of friends there and spent more time in trúno than paying attention to the music. Sorry JóiPe & Króli. Still love y’all.
But let’s get into the meat and potatoes of this review:
I had purposefully chosen to skip Hatari’s massive Reykjavík Art Museum performance in favour of their more intimate Gaukurinn show. I anticipated it would be super crowded—and it was—so I decided to arrive early and kick it with some buddies until the 2:00 AM start time. Therefore, I ran over just after JóiPé & Króli finished.
Luckily, before Hatari was rapper GKR, who I’ve been a fan of for years. I also haven’t seen him play live in years—his performances nowadays are pretty sporadic—so it seemed like fate that he’d be taking the stage.
Overall, it was a solid show. It was nice to see him up there, having fun, and his skills are just as sharp as they were in 2016. That said, I did kind of feel bad for him, as I was surrounded by foreigners who had come to this show specifically to see Hatari and were going to stand in front of the stage while Gaukur was rapping just to save their spots for Hatari’s slot. They didn’t necessarily “get” GKR, which pissed me off. I was especially annoyed when a girl next to me was scrolling through a Klemens fan Instagram account while GKR was performing “Skrolla,” which is probably the most honest and personal rap release of the year. Don’t disrespect the breakfast-master like that!
But who knows. Maybe Klemens saw that she liked the stalker account’s post and married her.
So GKR finished and Hatari took the stage. Look: I remember the early Hatari shows when I watched them and thought, “Holy shit, these guys are going to be famous. They also probably like KMFDM a lot, which is cool.” From the get-go, the band was, like Aristotle’s ‘Poetics,’ all about spectacle—they even reference it in their opening monologue. In a lot of ways, Hatari is more of a collective than a music group. With dancers, designers, collaborations, political stunts, they have become a brand. They’re not just musicians—they’re bigger than life.
Therefore, I was excited to see how they brought that to the Gaukurinn stage. What were they going to do? What was going to happen? What had this absolutely genius creative collective planned for this tiny, completely packed Airwaves gig? So they got on, the crowd cheered, and I stood at the front, with Klemens’ superfan, and waited for the Hatari stunts, the antics, the spectacle, for like, whatever they were going to do to make this special, intimate, late-night show special.
But then, they didn’t do anything like that. There were no dancers. No stunts. Nothing crazy. Just a concert. At first, I was kind of upset—I had been hoping for something OTT—but then I felt a massive sense of nostalgia. This was what Hatari was in the beginning. This was a throwback show—except in vinyl BDSM garb instead of those old Nazi-esque suits they used to wear.
It wasn’t my favourite Hatari gig, but let’s be real: Hatari can’t do a bad show. They are always fantastic, but, that said, I think my Hatari-expectations were way too high, and if I had wanted a high-production value “WOW!” factor performance, I obviously should have gone to the Art Museum, where such antics occurred. This show was for the super-fans, like that girl with the Klemens fan account. Shout out to her. HJC
Tonight, the effects of three days of partying and attending concerts caught up with me, and I woke up with a massive hangover. Of course, a little thing like a hangover wouldn’t keep me from seeing good music, but I decided to take it easy and see acts that were more chill than the headbanging and jumping up and down that I had gotten used to.
I started by catching JóiPé & Króli at Slippbarinn. I associate this band with change and liminal thresholds. They performed the final song on Áramotaskaup, or the New Year’s Eve program in Iceland, in 2018. They sang a song about being us collectively being better people in the next year. On Saturday, I saw them at a time when I was craving something besides heavy metal and hip-hop. I wanted to chill. Fortunately, as Króli explained, they have three different sets, and they were doing their chill set on Saturday night. “Eating pizza and having a mosh pit doesn’t mix well together,” he said.
Anyway, I appreciate the fact that physical instruments are onstage with them. Not only do they have a guitarist, a bassist, and two vocalists, but they also have a trumpeter. They might be the only band I know that isn’t jazz or ska to use a trumpet. They urged the audience to participate, and despite my massive headache, I was happy to butcher the Icelandic language to appease these musical gods.
I moved on from Slippbarinn to Dillon to see what they had there. I knew they were playing some folk music here and some electronic music there, counter to the sort of acts they normally feature there. I caught Helge’s set first. He is a Dutch folk artist with a penchant for storytelling. He was playing an acoustic guitar when I came in and grabbed a pint. In between each song, he told a piece of a story. Each song seemed to add to the story in some way. It was a brilliant piece of performance art.
Next up was ROKKY, an artist from Oxford based in Berlin. She gave the venue a fun bit of synth pop and more chill tracks with a heavy bass line and light, almost ethereal vocals. This was nice music to chill to, good for sitting back and sipping whiskey, soaking in the beat and letting her music wash over you with its repetitive lyrics and smooth vocals. “I could go on for miles,” she sang. So could I. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, so her set came to a close and I decided to head home at the ripe hour of 20:30. SPO
I Don’t Have A Lot Of Money But Airwaves Made Me Rich <3
My last day at Iceland Airwaves started out slowly and ended with a bang. Ateria at Hard Rock Café, the winners at Icelandic Music Experiments 2018 and a band of young multi-instrumentalists and singers who performed their set with them. Just-so-often they changed the lineup during their concert which gave them a heartfelt and sincere presence. The subject matter of each song seemed well-thought out and relatable. One of the singers from the band used the opportunity to mention the climate emergency and the half-full venue clapped in agreement.
Then I saw CeaseTone play at Dillon to an excited crowd. The front-man—now performing alone—played various original rock’n’roll and folk tracks on solo acoustic guitar. He explained that while he does like performing with a band, he decided to try out something a bit more reserved. The song selection was new and old, the most interesting one being his closing track which he wrote ten years ago that’s about zombies. “There you go, this was my state-of-mind at the time,” he explained to the crowd. After his performanceI took a break: a beer and some popcorn with a friend at Bíó Paradís.
Krabba Mane made an attempt to tear the roof off the newly reopened Hressó at 1:00 AM. The dance floor was packed with the smiling faces of Krabba Mane’s fans and enthusiasm for his set. The crowd was dancing and couldn’t help but sing to all of his songs. There was a memorable moment during the second to last song where Mane made a point by slipping out of his t-shirt and pants before he sang “Ég á ekki mikla peninga”—which translates to “I Don’t Have A Lot Of Money.” It left him bare-chested, exposed, and seemingly a tiny bit fragile, which he kept on until showing lots of love to his supporters at the end of the show.
I was just able to make it inside Gaukurinn before 2:00 AM to secure myself a spot on the-very-sweaty-dance floor for Hatari’s concert. They performed on Friday evening at the Reykjavík Art Museum, but I, for one, was more interested in seeing them perform in a smaller venue such as Gaukurinn. I liked how serious and plastic-like they can appear even when confronted with their fans close-up at a small venue like this one. Less space meant no fireworks and less people on the stage. All I know is that it was sweaty-as-Hell and I did feel the performance was missing something. The presence of dancers Andrean, Ástrós and Sólbjört—an important element in the world of Hatari by-now—was much missed.
Wanting to sum things in my head, I then headed out to breathe in the cold early winter air and couldn’t help but feel that, for me, it was a great edition of Iceland Airwaves. I met up with friends, old and new, and got to see a lot of artists I had been planning to for quite some time. I do hope, Iceland Airwaves, you will be coming back. See you next year! AJDF
Three artists and a gimmick
I decided to start with Iceland’s most hyped artist of the year: the pop star Auður. Now, this guy has had some huge hit—he was the most popular musician of the summer with his hit, “Enginn eins og þú” (“Nobody Like You”).
Auður played at the Reykjavík Art Museum, He was in a skin-tight shirt and flexing these silver pants that looked like they had done a ton of cocaine before going onstage. But Auður was energetic, running around singing his lungs out. In the next song, he grabbed an electric guitar and played it seamlessly, aiming it into the crowd like he was literally going to burst all over.
My first thought was that this guy was clearly the Prince of Iceland, but then things went downhill. In all the hyperactive action, he kind of forgot to stay in tune. The singing became sloppy and messy and all over the place, and the songs are not strong enough to survive such a hack job. It felt like he was going through his high school performance program. C’mon, he kept addressing the audience as “kids.”
Then, the next gimmick came up. He divided the crowd and made a passage so that he could sing in on the floor with the audience. As you’d expect, he ripped off his shirt and stole a cowboy hat from one of the guests. Yes, all of a sudden the concert turned into “Magic Mike” singing pop ballads.
When Auður was done, he left the stage but didn’t get an encore. By that I mean that no one was chanting, “More!” Nonetheless, he came back to the stage acting like we had been clapping for minutes. It was an odd comeback, which no one really asked for, but we went with the lie as he performed his hit, “Enginn eins og þú.”
Then it hit me: This is a gimmick. This whole robotic stage performance was probably lifted from some executive’s playbook of how one holds a concert.
I was conflicted. It’s interesting to see this so blatantly, and yes, the songs are arguably nice pop songs, but you have to be able to perform the music well enough if you want to become a pop star. It’s not the other way around.
A little shaken after Auður, I ran to Hressingarskálinn to see one of my favourite Icelandic artists, EinarIndra, and it was refreshing. He was shy and made no attempt to be a rock star. His songs were beautiful, his singing soulful, and it filled my heart. The performance was a little raw, but the music shone through like the peace pole at Viðey. Always when I watch EinarIndra I’m surprised that no one is shouting his name from the rooftops. With the right help, this guy could be huge.
I went back to the Reykjavík Art Museum, now to check out Seabear’s comeback. They were wonderful. The former Reykjavík Grapevine cover star Sindri Már delivered the songs with his quiet and soothing singing as a violist and a brass band elevated the music to the next stage. Wonderful music. Wonderful band. A wonderful performance.
I ended the night at the Hard Rock Café with Bashar Murad, best known in Iceland for his collaboration with Hatari around the Eurovision singing contest in Israel last spring. Basar came onstage with a wedding shawl as the violinist played a wedding march. One could feel immediately that this was a seasoned artist—one that was different from the rest of them. And he proved himself to be absolutely unique.
Bashar played pop fueled electro-pop with an Arabic feeling. At one moment, he gave a small speech about how sometimes it was hard to see the beauty in Palestine, where he is from, before singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” The audience grabbed their phones and shone their lights on him. Truly a magical moment.
In the end, he sang “Klefi,” the song with Hatari. And of course, Matthías from Hatari gracefully walked through the crowd and on stage. Everyone went nuts. This was no doubt the best concert I saw at Iceland Airwaves, and my only criticism is towards the planners of Iceland Airwaves for not giving this artist a bigger stage. It’s a downright scandal that he didn’t play in The Reykjavík Art Museum. What a sight that would have been. Basar is a superstar. VG
Read more about Iceland Airwaves here.
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Posted November 10, 2019