From Iceland — NASA - Sunday

NASA – Sunday

Published October 21, 2009

NASA provided a venue for the grand finale of Airwaves this Sunday night, the festival in turn duly offered up the goods in the form of a line up of DJs and live electronic acts apparently designed to bring the roof down. Or something. The evening began with a diffuse crowd. Chatters and minglers, the lot of them. All the while, Captain Fufanu were kicking off the night with their experimental live techno, and people were gathered around the edges of the venue in little knots. The young (surprisingly young, actually) duo who make up Captain Fufanu were laying down deep, progressive tracks which weren’t really conducive to dancing this early in the evening, but people seemed to be enjoying what they offered.
Later in their set there were even a couple of keen concertgoers who decided to give the dance floor a go. One woman in particular was very enthusiastic. Good for you, lady. Captain Fufanu didn’t so much kick the night off with a bang, rather allowing it to slowly develop. This was probably due in some part to the proggy nature of their music.

Nasa slowly started to fill up with weary looking people, many of whom were discussing their hangovers over a hair of the dog, and getting into the right state of mind for another night of drinking and music appreciation. Sexy Lazer entertained between sets with a bit of Tom Waits and some jazzy stuff, which stood in contrast to the deeper sound of Captain Fufanu, but served to fill the gap between sets well. Although with everyone standing around chatting there was almost the feeling of being at a social function rather than a music festival; that was more to do with the crowd than the music on offer.
Next in the line-up was DJ Margeir and his Symphony Orchestra, who played a really good set. It was well built, starting out chilled and the orchestra was used to soothing effect to begin with. Actually, it was almost sleep inducing, but in a good way, although after a weekend of partying it wasn’t easy to stay awake to anything even vaguely downbeat. The beats gradually built up to a funky, stomp-able conclusion, with the orchestra then providing more drama and emphasis on certain points in the music. The ‘pit’ was by now rapidly filling up dancers. All very nice, but then Margeir is a veteran of the local electronic scene, so when he plays, there is generally a high standard in effect. So far, so good.

The crowd thinned a little for Oculus, although the dance floor was still pretty full. Dressed in a really rather smart jacket with some nice shiny buttons on it, he dropped a set of deep minimal house on the place. Everyone seemed to be appreciative, but in a fairly still manner, as even though the dance floor was full, most people were just standing, chilling, tapping their toes.
The music was actually quite hard, and after the boogie-licious set from DJ Margeir, it was difficult to make the transition to Oculus’ more challenging beats. After a while the driving monotony became a bit much and it wasn’t really possible on a Sunday night to motivate oneself to do anything more than tap and toe or shake a heel. However, he received enthusiastic applause at the end of his set, so obviously people were enjoying it. Or something like that anyway.

Following Oculus was Wareika, a house outfit from Germany. The group consists of three dudes who like to get an ‘organic flow’ on the dance floor, combining house music with dub and afro to achieve some kind of a crazy mash up. It sounded cool, in a cheesy sorta way, although the ‘organic flow’ on the dance floor was more of an organic drip or something, because people still didn’t find it in themselves to really cut loose for some reason. Wareika still brought it, delivering cheesy vocals and funky beats left right and centre. They even had a saxophone. Smooth.
NASA was by now totally full, and outside the line stretched down the edge of Austurvöllur towards Alþingi. Didn’t really seem to be much point in waiting if you were at the wrong end of the line, but whatever, some people like to freeze themselves in the name of music. Good for them. There was a band looking to enjoy the final night as members of the audience waited to get in at the press entrance. No such luck. They were moved aside while some smug looking press people traipsed in. Ah, such is life.
Inside it was getting hotter and Wareika was still busting out their funky mish-mash. People stood and tried to look interesting. They ended their set with a flourish and as usual, rapturous applause ensued. Why people don’t just appreciate the music by dancing is a mystery to me, but maybe this was due to it being Sunday night, after a weekend of heavy partying.

The final act of the night was GusGus. They were clearly greatly anticipated, judging by the packed state of NASA and the ridiculous length of the queue outside. They started their set very slowly, but it quickly built up and they were throwing out the favourites giving an energetic show. Even after fourteen years in the business, they show no signs of slowing down. The crowd absorbed their energy, although most of the audience still didn’t dance. Even after that long wait in the queue and everything. Why?
To be fair, there was a core of people in the middle of the dance floor who were induced to waving their arms and having one of those raver stomps so popular in the late 90s, but the venue was packed to the rafters, so what the other 90% of the people there wanted to do was kind of mysterious. Mill? Stare? Are these things people go out to do? I can do that perfectly at home. Anyhow, as was to be expected the music was high quality, the performance well honed and in all GusGus wrapped the night up in a neat little package, leaving us all to wait in anticipation to see what musical delights and fancies next year’s festival will bring.

All the performers did well that night, although it could be argued that groups such as Captain Fufanu, DJ Margeir and Oculus had pretty limited amount of performing going on. At the beginning of the night, it was understandable how unmotivated people were to dance, but towards the end it was a little bit strange. There was alcohol, which is usually a good motivator for the shyest partygoer, there was music pretty much designed to be danced to (‘I feel like dancing’ being the refrain from GusGus’s song ‘Thin Ice’ you would think would move people to move themselves), there was semi-darkness and flashing lights. All the elements. But no.
Even the skanky girls who got up on the bar and started stripper dancing during GusGus’ packed set looked pretty half-hearted in their attempts at sexiness. There is no doubt people were enjoying themselves, but it was a subdued kind of enjoyment. After a weekend of excess, this is pretty normal, but still when the performer is giving so much to his performance, as GusGus and Wareika did that night, it seems almost ungrateful to just stand there, not even managing a nod of the head or a tap of the toe.
However, dancing or no dancing, all acts were warmly met, at least in terms of applause and celebratory whooping. The evening brought another great Airwaves to a close, and GusGus did a stand up job of signing the festival off. Until next year. Yay.

Photos by Ingvar Högni Ragnarsson

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