Airwaves Friday saw some of the big guns come out, from Ásgeir at Harpa to FM Belfast at the Reykjavík Art Museum, and from Arab Strap’s Scottish poetry to the party blow-out of Mura Masa. Here’s where the Grapevine’s roving team wound up.
John Rogers – Raining petals and emotional electricity
My main act for Airwaves Friday was the opener at the beautiful lakeside Iðnó concert hall: Sólveig Matthildur. Her 2017 album ‘Unexplained Miseries & The Acceptance of Sorrow’ has been blowing my mind since it was released—the spacious, melancholic production is enticing and hypnotic, and Sólveig’s huge voice seems to come from the core of her being. Live, it’s truly special—the vast, booming, echoing sound emerged from clouds of smoke and arterial red lighting, creating an atmospheric fog that sent jolts of adrenaline through my bloodstream. Sólveig’s music delivers intense, affecting emotion at a voltage that genuinely feels electric. During the final song, she crushed some roses and let the red petals rain down onto the stage, holding her face with both hands and sinking to her knees, overwhelmed by performing. My jaw dropped, and my eyes filled with tears—we were with her every step of the way.
With no major headliner on my radar—and wistfully remembering the days of trying to decide between coinciding sets from huge international talents like The Knife and Future Islands at earlier iterations of Airwaves—I spent the rest of the night roaming from venue to venue, soaking up the atmosphere and seeking inspiration with a scattergun approach. A trap anthem from Irish rappers Hare Squead here, a mumblecore indie-rock track from Canadians Lonely Parade there, an accomplished but familiar blues-rock stormer from newcomers Roforofo somewhere else. GDRN made a good showing with her simmering R&B, and Jae Tyler lit up the stage with his eccentric, skronky, Dirty Projectors-influenced indie-rock. But really, it would have taken a lot for anyone to touch the same stunning heights and plumb the same dark depths as Sólveig. Despite some solid attempts, nobody did. The night had been won early, this time—and once again by a local act. Drop a star on her final show at Gaukurinn on Sunday night.
Alice Demurtas – Mindblown, dancing, cracked to the centre
When I headed out to see amiina at Bíó Paradís I thought I was going to see just another experimental band—the latest to come out of the Icelandic music bosom. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. I sat down with a beer and a bag of popcorn in front of a 90-minute-long screening of “Juve contre Fantomas,” a French black and white movie from the 1913. It turns out, the genius minds behind amiina have created an entire soundtrack for the movie, and it completely blew my mind. With a mix of percussion, violins and mandolin, amiina crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s, right where it was needed. It wasn’t simply a matter of giving birth to a fun, interesting project: these guys are the boss, and to be able to perform with such precision and passion for such an extended period, you don’t simply need stamina, you need pure talent. Thank God they’ve got that in abundance.
I was so excited about amiina’s performance that I didn’t think anything would top it. So when I headed to see Pinegrove at Gamla Bíó I wasn’t surprised by how underwhelming they were by comparison. Don’t get me wrong, the kids are alright. But the Airwaves app said “indie rock” not “Dawson’s Creek pop.” As my eloquent flatmate put it: “This is what Joey and Pacey get off to.” Not my cup of tea. Thus, we left the homecoming dance vibes of Gamla Bíó and tried our luck down at Iðno instead, where Swedish Indie band Hey Elbow blew my socks off.
Anyone who knows me can testify that I’m not a dancer: yet I swear to God my body was swinging left to right for the entire time the trio was playing. There wasn’t one thing I didn’t like about their performance. The drummer seemed to be in the midst of a mystical experience throughout the concert. He was truly feeling it, banging on his drum set and rocking back and forth on his seat like there was no tomorrow. The powerful voice of the singer guided me through a red-tinted dream, shaking me to the core, cracking the centre of my very being.
I could have closed the night with that passionate, loud, striking performance. Instead I headed back to Gamla Bíó to see 20-year-old Scottish band Arab Strap. I didn’t get much of their lyrics but soon the light washed over me like the magical touch of an otherworldly being, and I found myself dancing once again uncomfortably close to the stage. Arab Strap delivered an old-fashioned man-on-wood, dirty guitar and drum set—loud and powerful like a proper Glaswegian kiss at one o’clock in the morning, and a breath of fresh air in the synth-heavy Icelandic music scene.
Jenna Mohammed – The most fun ever
I think last night was the best time of my life. It all started with Mammút at Bryggjan Brugghús. I arrived half way through their set, so I got a pretty bad view when I arrived. Their sound was amazing, but the crowed was a little static; they didn’t seem very into it so that ruined the ambiance. I wasn’t overly excited about the show, but really happy I went. It was a great way to start my night. Afterwards I went to the Reykjavík Art Museum where I stayed for most of the evening. The first act was Auður. His beats are so good it distracts you from his lyrics. If you listen carefully “When it’s been a while” is a song about how he misses sleeping with some girl. His lyrics are very basic, with very little depth, and the visuals—falling rose petals and kaleidoscope patterns? No thanks. However, I don’t hate him. He has some sort of element that just works for him, he’s enjoyable but I think he’ll be one of those Spotify Only artists for me.
The next cheesy act of the night was Sturla Atlas. He was exactly what I thought he’d be like, just pure fun. Again, his lyrics are corny but his beats are hype. The crowd was having a great time and so was everyone on stage. The energy was high, and by the end I was wishing I were a 101 boy.
The last act at the Reykjavík Art Museum was FM Belfast. If anyone says anything bad about this performance, I will hunt them down. They were probably the most fun I’ve had at a show; they’ve got that carnival-esque vibe like Arcade Fire when they toured for Reflektor. They’re just here to party. The streamers where such a nice touch, it made the entire night even more lively.
It was back to Iðnó last night for a pensive, elegant show by Sólveig Matthildur. Her voice rang out over the hall, which I thought was woefully empty―it was such a heartfelt performance and I hoped she felt the audience did it justice. Her bedside manner between songs was simple and without pretense, and it combined with the gloomy soar of her vocals to create something which felt intimate and real. I felt it when she sank to her knees at the end of the performance. I think I will try and catch her show again at some point this weekend, if possible.
I stuck around a little for the follow up act Good Moon Deer but despite the strobe lighting, juddering electronic cracks and abundance of crashing symbols, they failed to hold my attention in the same way Solveig did, so instead I found myself squeezed into the crowd at the Reykjavík Art Museum for Mura Masa.
His female counterpart (whom I have Googled and failed to find her name—it’s been three boozy nights out in a row now okay) was pulling some serious shapes to the beat of the steel drums, putting my toe-tapping head bobs to shame.
In contrast to earlier in the night, I found myself wishing it was a bit less busy, as nobody likes to be repeatedly thwarted mid-vibe by some bellend who can’t make up his mind if he wants to go deeper into the crowd or just gfto, but nonetheless, they put on a good show.
In any case, all my gripes were forgotten when headliners FM Belfast bounced onto the stage. I grabbed another beer, shed all pretense of ever being a cool person, and embraced the sheer efflorescent pop sounds as streamers rained down from the ceiling. It was funny and silly and pure. When I managed to peek up over the crowd, I saw Lóa shaking two massively oversized rainbow pompoms with more heart and gusto then I ever thought was possible. I left with a smile on my face.
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