From Iceland — The Accidental Airwaves

The Accidental Airwaves

Published December 3, 2014

Photo by
Alexander Matukhno

A press pass fell in my lap unexpectedly and I felt compelled to go to the Airwaves festival. Although the pass fell too late for me to catch the only worthwhile show at the festival this year, the one that had Kontinuum following Momentum, who performed after Svartidauði, who, in turn came on after Ophidian I, I still got to see some truly memorable stuff this year. Some by design, and some through pure happenstance. What follows is my recollection:

Wednesday to get my groove on

On Wednesday afternoon I happened by Bar 11, where Future Figment were playing some oddly syncopated groove metal with top shelf songwriting and a tightness best compared to that of a pair of hipster jeans. The crowd was mesmerized and the applause plentiful.

Thursday brings the reggae beats

On Thursday night I just missed Reykjavíkurdætur at Húrra, but burst through the door in time to have my spirits lifted by AmabAdamA, who led my reggaeophobe senses into the light of a rousing performance worth its weight in ganja. Ojba Rasta followed with a set that didn’t rock me to the same degree as AmabAdamA’s, but was fun nonetheless. For a nightcap I climbed the stairs of Gaukurinn to witness Odonis Odonis from Canada. I would probably not prove much of a useful witness because I can’t for the life of me recall anything about this band and I probably only stayed for a single song.

Friday for some straight up onslaught.

The next evening I started the night by seeing Future Figment again, in a goddamn joke of a venue, The English Pub, where the middle of the stage was obscured by a fucking pillar, and finding a comfortable spot to watch was like trying to find Waldo when he’s out of uniform. Future Figment, however, rose to the occasion, and performed another flawless set full of hooks large enough to catch Moby Dick.

After the lads had struck me with enough awe to make up for whatever musical horrors the night might yet provide, I strolled over to Gaukurinn to catch Kontinuum in action. They proved to be the highlight of the festival as far as I’m concerned. With ranks filled with Icelandic metal alumni (such as Ingi Þór Pálsson of the late, great, Andlát, and Momentum’s own Kristján Einar Guðmundsson, widely considered the best drummer this county’s ever seen), they set a hauntingly beautiful post metal-ish mood filled with songs that simultaneously moved the soul and tugged at fragile heartstrings.

After this I joined some friends who were sadly pass underprivileged, and we thus headed to the off venue at Dillon to catch something or other, the name of which escapes me at the moment, only to be greeted by the biggest affront to the concept of beauty, craft or even making a slightest bit of effort, this side of, well, this side of the imaginable end point of whatever spectrum used to measure these kinds of things. I am talking, of course, about Saktmóðigur. The only possible use for this band, and I use the term very loosely, is as a measuring stick for how much other bands suck, which in comparison, is not very much at all.

Fleeing the scene I headed for a less sad event in Döpur—Krummi from Mínus’ side-side (side?) project—only to be waylaid by an inebriated Ingó Ólafsson, growler extraordinaire, and front man for more Icelandic metal acts than the number of metal acts the average person can name off the top of their head. With him I set sights on Vintage Caravan and their inveterate ‘70s hard rock renderings at Iðnó, The kids set the stage alight with flames of youthful exuberance and enough energy to power an industrial sized aluminium smelter. The crowd responded like as if the flames had caught hold of the very fabric of their clothes and writhed, jerked, and howled accordingly.

After this spectacle, I made a beeline over to Harpa to test my eclectic nerve with a dose of raw noise á la AMFJ. Aðalsteinn Motherfucking Jörundsson did not disappoint, tearing through his torturous set like a beast possessed by another, more beast-like, beast. The audience looked like a bunch of extras from Transmetropolitan, and behaved like they’d run out of faeces to fling, and instead flung spare change at the stage.

I then returned to Dillon again, where Beneath proceeded to scorch the place with such steadfast aggression that the floor seemed poised to collapse from the sheer weight of a pit so hell bent on destruction that the bouncers we’re remiss both to eject pit code offenders and upright upended pieces of back line. In short, the best Beneath show I’ve yet witnessed.

Saturday rhymes with… fuck if I know!

Saturday night saw more important matters halt most musical enjoyment, but these matters laid to rest (license plate theft is apparently a thing now), I wandered aimlessly to where I knew I’d be in the company of my peers, and where I was quite intrigued to catch Cell 7 belt out the beats. Ragna’s reputation precedes her, but what she had in store for me was off all the hooks that the term would have been used to describe such a hip-hop performance in her heyday. That shit was truly unfuckwithable. I’d even consider buying her album with actual money. Snowboard legend Halldór Helgason was in the house, and caused his usual ruckus, along with his infamous entourage of ruckstodians.

Sunday for the variety show

Sunday night I set out to see Poetrix rock the Bus Hostel, but the bitch cancelled. So off I went to Húrra to experience the femino-dominance of Reykjavíkdætur. Fourth time’s the charm they say, as three previous attempts to catch the goddess platoon in action had proved unfruitful. The notion of this being a mere gimmick act was immediately shed as their set went into full swing. Most, if not all, of the gals could obviously rap worth their salt, and the songs were far over par, if not scaling the heights achieved by Cell 7 the previous night. Their performance was over far too quickly, and left me wanting for more.

By this point I was unsure of what to see next, but I ran into my old foosball team mate Hallur, who was about to perform with Lily the Kid where I happened to be, at Húrra. I’m glad I stayed.

Hallur’s sister Lilja K. Jónsdóttir, who he shares the stage with (in what they claim to be a duet, although rounded out with an additional three members, or, as it were, session players) is some kind of a super star, wrapped in a diva, endowed with a voice that launched a thousand ships. Their sounds where more beautiful than beauty itself, and the experience was like some sort of spiritual event unfolding right before my eyes.

At this point I started getting restless and jumped ship over to Fredriksen, where Kött Grá Pjé was straight up bitch slapping the crowd with an aural assault of rapping proportions. Their front man, who looked like he’d missed more than a few sessions with his hip-hop stylist, tore through the venue like he was in frantic search of the nearest fire exit. The performance was like if you’d feed speed to The Dillinger Escape Plan.

Airwaves was drawing to a close by this point, and the much awaited Ghostigital show got me as excited as the sign language news in Ríkssjónvarpið, while Zebra Katz closed the evening with a performance that left me feeling like I wasn’t privy to an inside joke. Although I might have thought differently had I’d kept with my program of pushing to the front of the stage, instead of hanging out by the bar, engulfed in conversation. But them is the breaks!


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