Wow. It’s in full swing. Iceland Airwaves 15, such a crawling monster. So much good music, so many good times. We are all over that stuff. We are living, pulsating, vibrating, blubbering balls of joy. We are in the thick, in the midst. A lot of you are there with us, others are sadly absent (but you’ll come next year, promise).
You should take time out to read all the wonderful thoughts and images and whatnot our team of writers and photographers and videographers have been sharing at www.grapevine.is/airwaves. But, below, read their highlights from Airwaves Thursday! AMAZING! WOW! YES!
Now, we’re out for some fuckin’ Friday night FUN! See y’all out there!
Night highlight: Mitski. I wanted to like her so much for so long, but a part of me thought that a female surf-rock/punk singer with such a range and such a grounded understanding of a song’s build couldn’t exist. But she does, and she’s also willing to walk outside to do a quick interview if you ask her to. Plus, she has a valid appreciation of bagels, which if nothing else is a testament to her both her musical and emotional talents. Night lowlight: Meat Wave. Maybe a little too reliant on genre, maybe not understanding that faster guitar doesn’t always equal heightened emotional intensity. I like them on record, but in person they fell a little short of the formidable figure I had seen prior (in this case, Mitski). I still danced during their show though, because why not?
The highlight of my night was seeing My Bubba again. Two years ago they failed to control the rowdy and talkative crowd, making their music just sound “sweet.” This year, they were on top of their game, held the whole audience spellbound, and delivered a memorable performance. My disappointment was waiting in line with more than a 100 other people to see Ásta Fanney at Harpa Kaldalón—the organisers can’t continue putting good shows that everyone wants to see down there, it’s simply inhumane. I caught the last two minutes of her show, and I wish I had seen more of the nonsensical and seemingly random vowel sounds she was emitting.
I have an eternal soft spot for unlikely stars. And another for people who do what they love with a kind of infectious, joyous abandon. And an even bigger soft spot for 1980s synth-pop (I’m firmly convinced that the ‘80s produced the best pop music the world has ever seen). And if you put all of these things together, you get Berndsen—a magnetically charming, constantly moving, generally adorable pop ‘80s-retro singer with a huge busy red beard, a sports jacket with massive shoulder pads, and a sense of theatrical fun to match both. Every Hermigervill-produced song sounds like some lost Top of the Pops classic, from the itchy, skittering synths of “Two Lovers Team” to the end-of-the-night singalong “Supertime” to the Kraftwerk-inspired, heavily-vocodered “Planet Earth”. Wonderful, joyous stuff, and a perfect start to the night.
When the tall German man blocking your view suddenly turns to you and asks, as if he is certain you are the one to know, if the guy he is watching is “the musical genius of Iceland”, there has to be something rather special happening onstage. There was, as the charismatic leader of Just Another Snake Cult croon-yelped and shimmied around the stage, slipping into instruments like a warm bath and fixing tech problems without ever dropping the energy. German-man said he moved like Jarvis Cocker—how have I never noticed this before? He launched into a brand new song, singing deeper than usual over layered, starry psych-pop that made my head swim. Halfway through I turned back to John Rogers and asked, “Have we just been transported to a Magnetic Fields show?” He nodded and laughed, “Let’s never go back.”
The official schedule for last night was a dud for us plebs. Sure, there were a lot of high brow things going on at Harpa—but since when has Airwaves been about enjoying music for music’s sake? My eagerness to party lead me to B5 where they had one of the most impressive off venue line-ups this year. Sturla Atlas are darlings of the Icelandic Twittersphere, but it’s offline where they really bloom. I caught the end of their show at Húrra on Wednesday and although they impressed then, they were even better yesterday. That’s just something about them playing really shitty venues that brings out the best of Sturla Atlas. The grittiness dials up, the crowd gets more into it – or maybe it’s just that the Icelandic Twittersphere is to poor to buy tickets to Airwaves. Also notable was Herra Hnetusmjör, who came on after SA. The joke that his DJ looks like a young version of legendary rapper/DJ Danni Deluxe was heard a thousand times over in that room, but HH is the freshest face in the Icelandic rap scene. To truly enjoy him you have learn Icelandic—and it’s almost worth it.
Best show: Sturla Atlas @ B5
Worst show: Everything in the Cintamani window. The people that gather outside it should be ashamed of themselves.
If the inexplicable knee injury I woke up with this morning isn’t a testament to how much fun I had last night, the blisters on my feet probably are. First, I hit up Prikið for the Glacier Mafia showcase. I somehow managed to miss the debut of Gísli Pálmi’s new video, even though it was (apparently) played twice—but it was still kickass and probably the most lively I’ve seen the place that early in the night. After that, we stumbled down to Tjörnin to get our ears blasted off by Fufanu at Iðnó. The band’s frontman threw down some awesome shapes, which only increased in intensity as the performance went on. After a much-needed beer pit-stop, I finally made it to Grandi for the revival of what was perhaps this summer’s best party, with moonshine on tap and hiphop on stage. Messy as always, Reykjavík was definitely on good form.
I literally never get tired of seeing brand new faces at a venue looking completely enraptured by a band I’ve known about for years. Just like seeing tourists standing on the street, mouths agape as they ooh and aah at the Northern Lights, it can be a refreshing reminder to appreciate the things we take for granted. The streets are more crowded and the lines are longer, but the presence of strangers enjoying for the first time things you’ve enjoyed for years lets you see those things through a new set of eyes. So please keep coming to Airwaves; our sense of cultural appreciation depends on it!
Airwaves Day two: I missed a lot of shows I wanted to see. Sad face. On the other hand, I discovered a recipe for a good Airwaves night. I start with a dash of Reykjavíkurdætur, who kind of failed to bring the same energy to their off-venue gig that they had at Nasa on Wednesday. I followed this with a healthy splash of Börn, which was great, but kinda brought down by how early they were on, and the following lack of crowd enthusiasm/inebriation. Then it was time for a sweetener, and Sykur fucking blew my mind, their sound is so good, and the mood was WOW. There was a German guy, covered in tattoos, who managed on three occasions to get an audience clap going.
As a palate cleanser I went to see dj. flugvél og geimskip, which was a crazy journey to outer space that ultimately failed to live up to how I’d hyped it for myself. She wasn’t bad at all, don’t get me wrong, but she wasn’t what I’d expected. The beats were good, but there weren’t any particularly crazy hooks and twists. I ended the night with a hearty serving of BRNS, a Belgian band that played this crazy heavy pop with a twist. It was their last show, and I don’t regret seeing them at all. It was my favourite show of the night, and it allows me to say that I started on a low and ended on a high.
–Alexander de Ridder
When it rains, I imagine Laugavegur (with Bankastræti) is a ship lost in a storm. Hlemmur is the stern and the bow sells waffles. You can take shelter from the storm in the various cabins and compartments lining the deck of this big ship. Occasionally, it’s rejuvenating to face the rain and curse the skies like lieutenant Dan, but with legs.
For me, the best cabin last night was Gamla Bíó. I saw DJ Airplane and Spaceship (google translate). Also, Gamla Bíó has so many places to walk around. It feels like the perfect place for an assassination. The second floor balcony, with its long red-carpeted wings, would contrast nicely with a white-jacketed tux and a sniper rifle. Also, it would be fun to dress up like 17th century royalty and wave at people below.
My least favourite venue was also Gamla Bíó. I couldn’t leave. And I think people in the crowd were getting annoyed at me pointing my finger-gun at everyone–only to quickly duck down when they noticed. I turn 30 next year.
Okay so if day one was a blur then today is like reliving that Prodigy video, Smack My Bitch Up . Without the violence. Or the strip clubs. Okay not much like it, but the flash backs are flowing like oncoming traffic. If you wake up using find my iPhone and you don’t remember falling asleep but you DO remember the fifteen Irish people leaving your house, well… Well. You just need to figure out how to make coffee. The rest is history.
Last night I saw three acts. Jófríður at Kaffibarinn, Kimono at Femdome, and Mr. Silla at Gamla Bió. What was the best thing I saw? Wow. Fuck off. I can’t do this rating thing. Three way tie. For different reasons and I wont describe it. My pictures will have to speak for me today. I’m not a competent music critic and I like the way Steve Martin put it. Talking about music IS like dancing about architecture. Besides I haven’t yet had my first cup of coffee, so I can barely form thoughts. Playing on the stereo is Samaris’s remix of “Ströndin”. As for the Irish they no doubt are feeling better than I am today. It will be another pool day for me and hopefully a nap. Thankfully a Bostonian gave me a bag of coffee and my friend who’s house I crashed at last night has a coffee grinder. All is almost alright with the world.
A day that started with yet another sighting of the glorious Milkywhale ended with a beautiful sermon of Americana from Father John Misty. As is my accidental tradition (and that of many others, I assume), I partied a bit too hard on the first night and thought I’d take it easy tonight at Airwords, the poetry showcase, then call it an early night. I’d already seen Father John Misty this summer, so I’d decided to pass on him again. But as midnight approached, the pull of my American feels was too strong to resist. So around 1 AM, I found myself rocking out to a bunch of dudes who all look like Jesus “in cheap suits” (his own words) singing about digging graves in Hollywood. And by the end of “Bored in the USA,” that excellent Springsteen-pun/ballad about American shittiness, I had even become that obnoxious guy throwing his fists up in the air and shouting along with J. Tillman, “Save me, President Jesus!”
–Grayson del Faro
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