Part two of our massive Iceland Airwaves festival review from Emmett Mullaney. If you missed the first part you can find it here.
Friday morning sees a particularity nasty hangover emerge but somehow I manage to drag myself to a bar down near the harbour at noon to see Rökkurró
. Just before they start a teacher ushers a group of little kids in and soon there are twenty or so little Icelanders sitting on the ground in front of the stage. Class resumes after this with dreamy soundscapes filling the air as the band showcase some tracks off their latest album, the excellent Innra
. A half an hour later everyone is beaming from ear to ear and hangovers are almost forgotten.
After a bit of walking around to clear my head I find myself at another of my favourite pubs in Reykjavik. This one goes by the name Boston and today they are hosting a showcase of acts from the Faroe Islands. First up is singer songwriter Marius Ziska who gives a great performance that gets feet tapping with his own particular blend of acoustic based compositions.
This paves the way for Sakaris
who include a keytar in their arsenal. The last time I saw this band was on a cold beach in the Faroes a couple of years ago but this time jackets are flung in the corner as the bar fills up almost to capacity as they play a selection of very danceable electronic tracks including some off the excellent 2012 album I Have Beautiful Eyes
An announcement from the stage tells us there is free Faroese beer to be had so seeing as I’m already sitting on the bar at this stage I don’t have to move far to grab myself a bottle of Föroya Bjór. The bar is packed by the time sultry songstress Greta Svabo Bech
takes to the stage but you can hear a pin drop as delicate piano based compositions fill the air and her wonderful hushed voice wraps itself around the audience gathered.
This sets the scene for something completely different in the shape of Byrta
, a band made up of the ever busy Janus Rasmussen and Faroese singer songwriter Guðrið Hansdóttir who bring an ’80’s pop vibe to the party. It takes all of ten seconds before everyone in the place gets their groove on fueled no doubt by that tasty Faroese beer. Songs such as Loyndarmál
with its handclap intro and the bouncy electro feel of Norðlýsið
soon have the whole place bopping. Did I mention there is free beer?!
Falling out onto the main street I make my way to Gaukurinn where Strigaskor nr. 42 are playing. It’s straight up the front for me for some headbanging. All this booze is making me a bit queasy however so I manage to get as far as the smoking section where I get sick over the balcony. Head cleared it’s back inside and more hard rock and boozing before I decide a course of ambient music could be the way to go and find myself at a cinema that just as hard to spell as it is to pronounce where Yagya aka Aðalsteinn Guðmundsson is laying down some sublime dub techno ambient grooves.
It’s perfect music to sit on the floor and listen to with the eyes closed, each track taking me on a journey deeper into sound and into his wonderful new album Sleepygirls
. I haven’t a notion of going anywhere for a while so am still quite relaxed and sedate when Jónas Þór Guðmundsson otherwise known as Ruxpin
comes on next. The relaxed vibe continues with ambient bliss and minimal beats filling the space both outer and inner. Just what the doctor ordered. Oh and Björk was there too.
Having seen Kiasmos on Tuesday in KEX doing a short set I’m dying to see what their full show entails so I make my way to Harpa concert hall and into the Norðurljós venue at the top of the stairs. Here Rasmussen and Arnalds waste no time in tearing the joint to pieces with each playing off each other and heads bobbing like sea lions with the strobe lights working overtime to keep pace with the minimal techno on show. They get through practically all of their self titled debut and leave the crowd roaring for more. Fantastic stuff.
It’s quite late now but the party ain’t over just yet.
Arriving into the bar Hurra in time to see Introbeats
I meet some friends and we delve into a load of booze while the dancing shoes come out and do their thang to the housey grooves being laid down. Arni2
finishes off the night with some more upbeat tunes after which we all wander out into the street, talk shite and somehow make our way back to our beds for the night.
Saturday morning feels like the ghost of Hunter S. Thompson is dragging me out of bed at gunpoint. The only solution for this of course is more booze so I make my way to Boston where Good Moon Deer
are just starting. This was another band that I had checked out while doing research and had written off but here I find that this two man operation are actually pretty damn good. It’s very experimental electronica that brings to mind DJ Shadow in places.
Talking about research the Airwaves off venue schedule was only released two weeks before the festival started and contained over twice as many shows as the official line up. It’s grand having most of the year to check out the bands on the official line up but when you only get a couple of weeks to delve into the off venue stuff then the temptation can be to just say fuck it and not bother.
I did dive into it however and the gem that I picked out was Canadian act Glass Apple Bonzai
who have one show and one show only during the whole festival. This is in Dillon Whiskey Bar so it’s there I go to see Daniel X Belasco whip up his own particular blend of ’80’s synthwave. Track after track of synthpop goodness follows including the excellent The Freeze
. The set reminds me a little of Covenant and Gary Numan which is always a good thing.
Feeling a lot better after that wonderful performance I happen upon Casio Fatso
playing in a clothes shop window and stop on the street outside for one song which reminds me a little of Modest Mouse. Feeling a chill I keep walking until I get to Gamla Bio which used to be an old theatre. I must be early as I find I’m the only person in the whole venue.
Grabbing a perch up on the balcony the place soon fills up as Lily The Kid
take to the stage. This is a group fronted by Lilja K. Jónsdóttir formerly of Bloodgroup and her brother Hallur Jónsson who’s still a member of that band amongst others. Here they are joined by a full band and showcase songs off their recent Ghost in Mainland
ep. It’s a great set of atmospheric electronica underpinned by Lilja’s wonderful ethereal vocals which comes together best on the brilliant track Ghost
It’s only a matter of moving downstairs for the next act as I want to be as close as possible when Low Roar
do their thing. This is basically a solo project of Ryan Karazija who made the move from sunny California to not so sunny Iceland a few years ago and has released two albums thus far, the latest one O
being a serious contender for album of the year in my mind. Here’s he’s joined on stage by a quartet as well as a full band to produce a stunning display of ambient tinged electronic pop songs while adding layer upon layer of otherworldly vocals which reach a crescendo on tracks such as I’ll Keep Coming
and Easy Way Out
. There’s hardly a dry eye in the house by the time the band depart. Simply breathtaking.
After this I have a big dilemma on my hands. Namely whether to go see Future Islands in the Art Museum or go see the final show anywhere ever by The Knife
. In the end I make the wrong choice and end up at the Swedish siblings swan song way too far away from the stage and being jostled and pushed around. I last until about midway through their set until I decide that since I’d seen them in Copenhagen the year previous it was getting uncomfortable and was time to leave. I make my way out and decide to call it a night.
The head feels very delicate the next morning so I sup on a pint of Thule beer in Kex while Australian musician Lucianblomkamp
makes an appearance. Some downbeat electronic passages follow which merge seamlessly with the various samples to produce a dreamy set tailor made to soothe the most fragile minds. He breaks out a violin midway through the performance and even samples Kylie Minogue’s Slow
which incidentally was co-written by the Icelandic musician Emiliana Torrini. Great stuff.
I’m not in the mood to stir too far today so wait around for Royal
which is a new band made up of Icelandic musicians Borko and Árni Grétar of Arni2 and Futuregrapher fame. It’s a fun half hour of electronic pop music that get heads nodding along and feet tapping. As Árni says when I meet him afterwards it’s “like the Icelandic Pet Shop Boys”. Indeed.
A quick bite to eat and it’s off to the massive Vodafone Hall with some friends where we get there just as The War On Drugs
are in the middle of their second song. It’s fairly packed in the middle but as we make our way up to the front and off to the side a little there’s actually a lot more space to be had. It’s the perfect vantage point to see Adam Granduciel and his band belt out classics such as Under The Pressure
from what is bound to be album of the year on most critics end of year lists, namely the excellent Lost In The Dream
Here we get an hour long set before a band that I had never seen before, The Flaming Lips
come out to a huge reception. Of course I had heard and even seen photos of their legendary stage show but nothing had quite prepared me for what was to come.
Cannons shooting confetti, inflatable dinosaurs, a flowing silver cape over 30 metres long and of course the inflatable orb like ball that the happiest man on the planet, Mr Wayne Coyne gets into and crowd surfs to the middle of the crowd. That’s not even mentioning the huge silver helium balloon structure spelling out “Fuck Yeah Iceland” that is passed back and forth throughout the performance.
In the middle of all this we get such great songs as She Don’t Use Jelly and Race For The Prize. To cap it all off they bring the house down with a cover of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds for the finale.
Breathless and making our way towards the exit with confetti in our hair and smiles on our faces we look at one another with that look. That look that says see you here next year. Same time same place…..for the time of our fucking lives.
All words by Emmett Mullaney. You can read more from Emmett here.