“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” We know that feeling. Our ragtag supergroup of stalwarts has been all over town once again, covering the things we think matter so you don’t even have to think about them. You can check out most of these acts in the days to come, except for the ones that you can’t. “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”. Yes, it’s Friday, and things might be getting a bit edgy, but this is no time to give up on yourselves or Airwaves just yet though—the best is yet to come. Welcome to the Thunderdome.
Airwaves Thursday. My daily horoscope (Sagittarius) tells me: “Stick to what’s comfortable and enjoyable today. This weekend should have a healthy dose of new, unexpected experiences.” Fair enough, astrologists are never wrong. I take this to mean I should go see Sóley, whom I’ve seen on a number of occasions, at Mengi, my favourite intimate concert space. But it’s a bit too cosy and feels like an inferno inside, which is not comfortable or enjoyable as my horoscope advises, so I reluctantly leave early for fresh air just as she’s finishing her new material—what she jokingly refers to as her “mommy songs”. My next goal in seeking star-aligned comfort and joy is Julia Holter at the Reykjavik Art Museum. She gets compared to Kate Bush by some critics, and while I can see this immediately, she also has that French arthouse thing going on, like Charlotte Gainsbourg. She’s one of the most multi-talented young composer/singers I know of at the festival, and her setlist proves she’s not restricted to any particular indie genre; she even works saxophone and bagpipes (!) into a few songs as if to test my comfort zone—something my horoscope warns against. When she starts hissing the memorable lyrics from “Vasquez” off her 2015 album Have You in My Wilderness, there is much joy. So much joy. I think it’s my top fangirl moment of the festival thus far. Continuing on my quest for comfort and joy I skip the next shows on my agenda and instead end the night with good friends and good beers at Ölstofan, where I discuss the awkwardness of kviðmágar (google it) with the Myrra Rós keyboardist and convince/threaten the drummer from Anatomy of Frank to watch Twin Peaks because he has an owl tattoo. Basic Thursday. Bottom line: I think my horoscope is full of shit because Airwaves Thursday was full of new, unexpected experiences. I can barely wait to see what weird, wonderful surprises the weekend has in store.
Hannah Jane Cohen
I started the day off by missing Kilo—who I have been raving about to all my friends for days— which was totally not “Magnifico”. Apparently he started early and only did a few songs. I did, however, make it in time to catch Valby Bræður in a small intimate show at Dillon. I’m going to go see them again tonight at Húrra, which I think is more than scene, but there was this one woman in the crowd who was going INSANE. She was on a completely different level, like interpretive dancing in front of the stage. I’ll have what she’s having? Later in the day I saw favourites of mine Úlfur Úlfur and GKR at Loft. Loft is definitely my favourite off-venue this airwaves. Úlfur Úlfur played some new material which was awesome. I think they called the song “Old School Flavour”, which I really hope ends up being the final name. GKR has cool GKR hoodies but I’m a little tight on money right now so hey Gaukur—hit me up? He was really fun last night and my friend (Parker) and I stood next to the stage like superfans. Later in the night I caught Alvia Islandia and Shades of Reykjavík at Paloma. Paloma is so grungy and gross that I felt really comfortable getting weird there. It’s so grungy that it’s been crudely ignored by the Airwaves app. What did they do? Why isn’t it on the app?
I kicked off the day with Wesen at Hlemmur Square, who, aesthetically speaking are kind of like Hipster Couple Preset #4 you’d find in a Portlandia videogame (if it existed), but are dreamy musical art pop heartthrobs when they get down to it. It felt appropriate to crack open my first (okay, maybe third) beer when Milkywhale came to the stage, but I only hung around for one song because Milkywhale plays all the time this week and I’d like to stretch her set over a couple of days. She gets the people “going”. Me and Hannah then hit up Valby Bræður at Dillon for an intimate rap set featuring a killer hype girl dancing like crazy at the front of the crowd. Later on, I managed to catch JFDR’s absolutely hypnotic solo set, and then ran down to see Crispin Best at Harpa Kaldalón for some fun English poetry. After that was perhaps the most intense experience of Airwaves so far, the ensemble performances with Bedroom Community at Harpa. It sent my mind to some pretty crazy places. Sin Fang played us out of Thursday with new and old material at Gamla Bío. Tonight, it’s all about ULTRAORTHODOX, Berndsen, and Kate Tempest.
Grayson Del Faro
I make a point of always going to at least one show in a random store during Airwaves because honestly, when the hell else do bands play in gift shops? I decided to start my night off by supporting Sacha Bernardson & The Mermaids, who are something like if Imogen Heap and Sin Fang had five babies, one being a pretty Frenchman and the other four actually fairly mermaidenly ladies. Unfortunately, they were forced to cut their set off early, instead ending by casually busting out a hauntingly harmonic acoustic song so stunning than even the elderly tourists genuinely shopping for hats stopped to listen. As I walked out, I had a text message offering a ticket to see Bedroom Community & Sinfoníuhljómsveit Íslands so I sprinted to Eldborg. I settled into the cushy symphony hall seats to see the 10-year-anniversary performance of Iceland’s best musician-collective-turned-record-label supported by its symphony orchestra and I thought, this is Airwaves. Going from seeing a small local band in a tourist shop overcoming technical difficulties like champions to seeing a magnificent display of as many of Iceland’s best musicians as possible crammed into its most elegant of venues in the span of fifteen minutes—that is really Airwaves. Popping into another room to see poet Crispin Best read during the symphony’s intermission? Definitely Airwaves. Then seeing a favorite poet-singer-performer, Ásta Fanney, slide seamlessly from jazz to spoken word to death metal screams with prolific yet incredibly down-to-earth singer-songwriter Jófríður Akadóttir of JFDR, Samaris, and Gangly low-key hula-ing in the background? That’s as Airwaves as it gets. And that’s beautiful. Airwaves.
Hrefna Björg Gylfadóttir
I woke up on Thursday feeling even more excited than I was the day before. I walked around town to check out some off-venue concerts. Hlemmur Square was filled early by the king of rap, Kött Grá Pjé. I couldn’t see a thing and decided to check out Loft Hostel since I knew the cat would playing later that night. Auður and Cyber performed two amazing shows at Loft Hostel. Auður, who was very new to the scene last year, has come a long way this year and in my opinion should be considered one of this year’s festival’s headliners. Make sure to catch Cyber as well—their performances are hilarious, colourful, and cool, with aerobic classes in-between their killer songs. I started my night off at Húrra listening to Hórmónar. They were the perfect mix of adolescence and rage. Headed over to the Reykjavík Art Museum to see JFDR, which I’ve been excited to see. Her music was serene and a sort of intermediate between Pascal Pinon and Samaris. Dream Wife at Gamla Bíó were A LOT of fun! I’d listened to a few of their songs and spotify and would definitely recommend seeing them live because their show was really loud and REALLY good. I ran to Nasa to catch Kött Grá Pjé. He had sweaty hair, great rhymes, and a penis tattoo on his back, Needless to say, it was fun. Connor Youngblood at Harpa was a great experience. He was very talented with a beautiful voice and I believe it was the only concert I listened to from the beginning to the very end. The highlight of my night however was seeing Baloji at Nasa. The Belgian/Congolese rapper and his band were AMAZING. I couldn’t help dancing to the amazing songs. Their outfits, beats, and bars made sure they were placed on my list of favourite Airwaves performances ever.
My first stop today was Boston, for a Bastardgeist off-venue. Full disclosure: he’s a friend of mine. That aside, his combination of incredible falsetto vocals, twinkling thumb piano, programmed beats, and swelling string arrangements gave me a full-body tingle of enjoyment. That’s when you know it’s real, in my opinion—when your body, as well as your mind, react to the music #descartes. You’ve two more chances to see him play off-venue—don’t miss them. On venue, I went all-in with the Bedroom Community label’s tenth anniversary “Whale Watching” show at Harpa, which swallowed up almost the entire night. It felt a little un-Airwavesy at first to be sitting in respectful silence in a posh, shiny auditorium watching challenging, abstract orchestral arrangements—but that feeling dissipated quickly. It was an absolute feast from beginning to end. The calibre of the performers—including Nadia Sirota, Nico Muhly, Jodie Landau, Puzzle Muteson, Sam Amidon, Ben Frost, Daníel Bjarnason and Valgeir Sigurðsson—shone through from beginning to end. The show was an ensemble performance with a programme that switched between pieces by all of the players, with improvisation, crossed streams and deft collaboration throughout. So we got Ben Frost’s rumbling distortion peeking through the sweeping sound of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, and Jodie Landau’s astounding singing voice intermingling with Sam Amidon’s discordant banjo interludes and Nico Muhly’s masterful piano touches. This was a show to remember—so it’s a good job there were cameras and mics all over the room documenting it. Ten more years! Ten more years!
I had planned on spending my whole afternoon at Loft Hostel, floating between getting work done and watching their banger after banger lineup: Cyber, Lord Pusswhip, Alvia Islandia, Úlfur Úlfur, GKR… I managed to make it to 2/5 of the shows, which is a decent ratio for Airwaves ‘planning’. Úlfur Úlfur have a big presence, both physically and in their music, their performance was made for a bigger stage. When their set ended I wanted more music and more movement, so I guess in that way it was a successful off venue show; just enough to leave you wanting more.
GKR came on right after with Marteinn behind him on production. It was just the two of them up on stage, the whole set, I’m sure of it. But somehow in the time it took to make my way down to Nasa from Loft, Marteinn and his entire setup had been beamed down and re-appeared behind a rapper called Tiny, who I went to check out on a recommendation. The emptiness of the venue built for major crowds accentuated his name up on stage. Seems he had the dinnertime slot. But Tiny made it work. He stayed pepped and those that were there made sure he felt the fan love. I was still a little baffled the whole time about Marteinn’s presence there; so this night’s review is dedicated to the producers behind Airwaves, running around without a name on the bill but making sure everyone’s got a beat to lay on and some goofy sound effects. Shouts out, you’re the coals in the Icelandic rap fire.
I had also planned on spending my evening at Airwords with Crispin Best, John Lydon, and Ásta Fanney. I had a 0% success rate with that one. I did manage to make it to the super cyber Vaginaboys at the end of the night though, a sort of poetics in its own right.
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