Whilst my previous recommendations have been based on bands I’ve seen before and enjoyed. This list in 2 parts is conceived of bands I’ve been listening to since the final line-up announcement in August. I can proudly confirm I’ve now listened to every artist (who has an online precence which is almost all of the 240 performing at Airwaves over the 4 days).
My top 5 I’m hoping to see (because rule of airwaves is that schedule clashes will always result in some disappointment):
We took it quite slow today, starting the day by heading to Kringlan Mall, which we’ve never done before for a bit of shopping. The husand bought a new hat and I, we I bought some yarn. Three lots of yarn from three different shops. I have a lot of crocheting to do when i get home. After walking back to our apartment, we decided to catch some off venue performances and started at Hlemmur Square – a hostel with a great bar (seriously, they have an amazing beer range, complete with menu with tasting notes), only stones throw from our base. First up were For A Minor Reflection, with their amazing intrumental, experimental, post rock throw down, it was packed, so it was more listen than watch – but this always happens with this band. We then decided to hang around for Börn – a proper post-punk band, the leas singer singing and screaming like her heart was being ripped out with a rusty fork at time. She seriously reminded me of Ian Curtis with her onstage performance.
Next up was Miri more rock, less punk, grinding guitars and apparently the drummer also works at Hlemmur!
The only official ‘on venue’ gig we managed was Mafama at Idno – it was a bit of an odd one, as a venue, it looked initially like we’d stumbled into a restaurant, that used to be an old cinema or theatre (think huge ornate ceiling). We only stayed for a couple of tracks, due to a few aches and pains and the need to sit down being more pressing. I enjoyed what I saw / heard any how – after listening to them via Spotify for the past few months, the traditional band set up (bar the singer with his errr noise making machine) really surprised me.
Today being our last full day in Reykjavik and also the last day of airwaves we decided to make a bit more of an effort to see a few more bands. So we started out in Lucky Records once more – this time a four piece young band all the way from the West Fjords called Rythmatik. They were a bit late due to leaving their cymbals somewhere the previous night but all was good once they started. The lead singer / guitarist reminded me of a young Tom DeLonge maybe it’s the obvious youthful exuberance or that just sound similar, in that raw state? Maybe I’m just mad, who knows? Anyway, true to their name they had a strong rhythmic sound that got the crowd going! These guys have recently released their first demo and I’m really looking forward to their first Ep or album coming out very soon, I reckon you should head on over to their Soundcloud page and give them a listen or 6 as I’m officially making them my one to watch from Airwaves 2014!
After leaving Lucky Records (possibly my favourite Off-venue, venue of Airwaves – it has oodles of space to browse, even when packed with foreigners wanting to see the next possibly big thing alongside a proper performance area and you should check out their film soundtrack selection, some good stuff), we headed towards Eymundsson book store on Austurstræti (another good off venue place), we think we passed ‘Strangely & Shay’ busking on the street just up from Prikið, but we didn’t stick around as we wanted to check out Futuregrapher.
Having heard a couple of Futuregrapher tracks and thinking he was a chilled out electronic sort of vibe, sounded like a nice afternoon in a book store, although how it would be pulled off, was eluding us. It was a pleasant surprise when he pulled out a book (although I still dont know if it was one chosen from the book store, at random, or a purposely chosen one), and appeared to read, very seriously from the book, to the backing of his music. It was quite theatrical and unexpected from this bloke who wears a trademark 66 North Beanie and floral sort of pajama pants. Either way, it was a performance that left me wanting more and once back in the UK looking up Futuregrapher tracks.
After this we tried the infamous Kaffibarrin. I’d like to point out that we’d previously tried to visit Kaffibarrin something like 4 times each unsuccessful (either closed, open but people queuing out the door, or open but the bar staff choosing to rearrange bottles rather than serve customers..), so we got here early-ish (ie a good 30 minutes before any bands started) and got a table and a drink. Yes, this time we got a drink, from the bar situated adjacent to the stage area, the one that once there are about 20 people in the venue becomes unobtainable… but yet the other bar, whilst open, still doesn’t serve people…. very, very odd. But anway, we ‘saw’ or listened to a band called Oddur who didn’t really make a lasting impact on our recall, and we didn’t end up staying for the next one due to how crowded it got, I’m sure it’s lovely on a non-gig, non-airwaves evening, but this was just uncomfortable.
So back to our apartment and then off for the main event. Last year, we were far too lazy and not really that bothered to queue for Kraftwerk tickets, this year the headlining queuing tickets were for Flaming Lips, a band I quite like and my other half has already seen live before we even knew each other. It was worth the early morning, wave soaking wait. I had no idea what to expect, the husband knew about the crazy exploits. The streamers, balloons, everything, the whole atmosphere of fun, was amazing (it made up for us walking the entire perimeter of the Vodafonehöllin in below freezing conditions due to NO signage), the fact that you could enjoy the show without being arse to cheek with your fellow music lovers was a huge bonus (Note Airwaves, – the Knife’s performance being here would’ve been 10x more successful). The fact that people could dance, or stand, or sit without being pushed / pulled. The venue felt to be around the size of Manchester Academy 1, but not at full capacity.
At the beginning I said ‘ I will die if they play Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots’, ‘oh they never play that any more’ assures my other half (possibly winding me up?). So Obviously I squeed with joy when they did, then followed all the crazy shit, the inflatable characters, the Fuck Yeah Iceland balloon that kept going longer than expected, the Beatles reworking, Wayne in a hamster ball, but most of all the amazing atmosphere.
As we walked back to our apartment, very, very satisfied, through the park (we found out this evening that we were so close to the Reykjavik Art Museum – Kjarvalsstadir that we were kicking ourselves) , I honestly cannot remember a gig in recent memory that we were both so exhilarated by , and the atmosphere plays such a large part of that, that I hope Airwaves can and does use this venue for future events. Although I can accept that there are plenty of bands that play well in spaces that can double as a ‘club space’ there were times where Harpa was dangerously overcrowded, in the UK that amount of people in that small space allocated for the Knife simply would not happen – it was a fire hazard, plain and simple. As we tried to exit people were pushing people over to climb past them and get in, and security did nothing.
Anyway, signing off now. Final airwaves blog finished just shy of 8 weeks post event, bring on 2015, we already have our tickets and accommodation booked for next year. Hoping the organisers listen re: their shortcomings as a few tweaks around capacity and it would be The perfect festival, either way it’s too addictive to miss!
This year has been a busy year with moving our lives to the other end of the country on a permanent basis, that’s my excuse for not updating my blog very often. This time last year I was in Iceland for the first time, for the Airwaves festival for the first time, where I attempted to write about it day by day. The festival was very full on and what I ended up with, was a note book with pages of writing that never made it online (although I managed to upload a daily quota of photos). This year I’m going to make more of an effort, and so tonight, I decided to write about some personal highlights from last year.
AMFJ at Dillon Bar
The decision to go see AMFJ was entirely that of my other half, he had looked up AMFJ online and liked the sound of him, I had no idea what to expect. described by some as ‘noisecore’ AMFJ uses feedback loops (lots of knob twisting on the mixing machine thing) with beats to create a loud and unique soundscape, whilst he sings (or shouts) over the top, his performance is very theatrical and mesmerising. What stuck with me most about his performance, upstairs in Dillon bar (a wood panelled rock bar), was that with all the commotion inside, I could see outside the window the wonderfully peaceful Icelandic landscape, the perfect juxtaposition. AMFJ is playing again this year, at Harpa, I intend to go see he perform again this year.
ÍRiS at Lucky Records
I’d heard a lot of chatter online about Iris, so we were stoked she was doing an off venue performance at Lucky Records (1 minute walk from our apartment), her performance was nothing short of stunning. She played segments of tunes, recording them then playing them back over each other to create a rich layered sound, with both a keyboard and melody harp, then did the same with her vocals so it sounded so much more than just one woman with her two instruments.
Iris is playing again this year – a staggering 10 off venue shows over the 5 days, we will definitely be seeing her again!
Saytan at Cintamani
One of the amazing things about Airwaves, is that as well as the 200 plus bands part of the ‘official’ festival (where a paid for wrist band is required for entry), is the astounding off-venue program of free performances, which also has hundreds of performances, many bands playing several times over the days, and the venues! The venues can range from a bar (nothing unusual here) to a book or clothing shop, a hotel or hostel, music shop (not so weird) to pretty much anywhere a band can set up a drum kit, guitar and a couple of amps.
We saw Saytan perform for the first time at Lucky Records, they were very rock n roll as part way through the first track (I cant say song, as there are no lyrics, so it sounds wrong), when the lead performer through his glasses on the floor and kicked them under a chair! You must realise, I had just had the shock of finding out how much a block of cheese costs in Iceland, so the cost of prescription spectacles must require some sort of bank loan! So we enjoyed Saytan’s instrumental rock so much, we decided to check out their final off-venue performance at trendy outerwear store Cintamani, where the band were performing in the window, amongst the existing window dressing, where they decided to play sporting some impressive cat style ski hats? Not really sure what they were, but made for an amusing show.
it seems odd looking back now that my fondest memories are all of off-venue stuff, but that’s just how it goes. Although Reykjavik Art Museum was possibly my favourite on-venue, venue, as here I ‘met’ (in the loosest sense of the word) Nanna from Of Monsters and Men, and spotted Bjork, inbetween all the great music, also as a venue it has plently of room to get around and never felt over crowded.
So to bed, as I have an early get up and 10-11 hour journey to reach my apartment tomorrow for our exciting week ahead