Final Day of Airwaves (latest write up ever?)

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!

Icelandic band Rythmatik perform at Lucky Records for Iceland Airwaves Off Venue Program
Rythmatik @ Lucky Records

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.

Strangely & Shay? busking on Laugavegur

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.

1. Futuregrapher @ Eymundsson, 2. Futuregrapher @ Eymundsson, 3. Futuregrapher @ Eymundsson, 4. Futuregrapher @ Eymundsson

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.

1. Flaming Lips @ Vodafone Hall, 2. Flaming Lips @ Vodafone Hall, 3. LOVE, 4. Flaming Lips brought their own balloons to the party

1. Flaming Lips @ Vodafone Hall, 2. Flaming Lips @ Vodafone Hall, 3. LOVE, 4. Flaming Lips brought their own balloons to the party

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!

Airwaves Day 4 – getting going

We started Saturday early – hitting up one of the first off venue performances at Slippbarinn for the ever lovely Laylow – again playing with a band rather than solo and including some songs from her latest album Talking About The Weather (if you haven’t heard it – go buy it). Her vocals were a soulful and dusky as ever and did not disappoint.
Then it was off to Reykjavík Fish across the road for lunch – we opted for a Fish & chips (fish type unknown) and a breaded cod & chips then shared so we both got to try each. Delicious, we came here last year and again. It did not disappoint – also this year we had a window seat with beautiful views over the harbour.
Next up was ÍRiS at Around Iceland, a quaint little cafe / tourist information shop. Again she was not perform in solo and had ‘Frank’ on percussion which included playing a saw and one of those air-tubes you swing around your head. Playing several tracks from her album Penumbra, she finished on what was described as a classic we might know, but it was in French so I’m pretty sure it’s nothing I’ve heard before.

Next of the evening was Epic Rain at Lucky Records whom after my initial listen online I’d decided sounded quite dark and goth like, however it was almost rapping very reminiscent to me at least to Canadian artist Buck 65, but not as lyrically entertaining.

Lastly of Saturday evening, arguably the biggest party night of Airwaves weekend, we opted for seeing The Knife perform at Harpa- the shaking the habitual tour – their last ever tour, with this being their last ever show of last ever tour, we were expecting great things.
Because of the afore mentioned info we knew this would be a case of arriving early or queueing pointlessly later on, so we arrived at around 8:15 with first act in Harpa Silfburg – Samaris starting at 8:40. It was already pretty busy but we managed to get a floor space near the front. I was looking forward to hearing Samaris and their music should’ve sounded great, except the bass was way off, like when it makes speakers buzz because of too much bass. It was almost like AMFJ ‘s power noise except totally unintentional.
After Samaris finish their 40 minute set (leaving at unusual 40 minute gap
until the next act) the room gets inherently busier with groups of young ‘adults’ who look barely older than 15 pushing each other into people in order to create a space and push forward, it’s hot, overcrowded and boring.
Then eventually The Knife’s warm up act comes on, a lady who gets the crowd geared up, excited and ready for a thrilling show. At this point a doubts I’d had, all thoughts of leaving early and heading somewhere else disappeared – this was going to be fun!! Who cares if my friends who saw the show a few nights back had thought it was disappointing (apparently only singing live for 3 tracks then miming the rest of the show), this was gonna be fun!
After spending all that time getting bored and impatient crowd to warm up and get hyper, they came on with one of the most sedate tracks from the album, then followed with another at which point we left. Oh sorry at which point we had to physically fight & push our way OUT of the venue. Because it was over crowded (and a real fire hazard) with zero crowd control. What I mean is that on this floor of Harpa there are two venues both with different room capacities, however there is no one checking that either of said rooms have the right amount of people in.

So we left, we walked back via Herfisgata where my husband commented on a crane being almost invisible at which point I noticed behind the crane was the Northern Lights! I’d totally forgotten despite checking weather reports all week that Saturday night would be clear.
I didn’t have my tripod but I still managed to get a few photos of the northern lights dancing mostly around the Imagine Peace Tower – and my night was made.
To top it off we stopped by the bar in Hlemmur Square which has one of the most epic beer lists I’ve ever seen!

Airwaves Day 3 – the queuing

Today was the day that you could queue for Flaming Lips tickets – included in the price of your wrist band but with only 2200 tickets and 8000 wrist bands sold, obviously not everyone gets to go (you could purchase tickets as an extra prior to the festival as well). So based on last years queues for Kraftwerk we decided up early was the way to go, as at least you’d be queuing in the warmth of Harpa, good plan as the Icelandic weather was showing up who was boss today!
We decided to walk to Harpa via the seafront as we know from experience it takes half the time as it does to walk via Laugavegur – the wind was blowing a gale and waves were crashing against the rocks a couple of meters high, spraying the footpath with icey cold salt water – needless to say, once we reached Harpa at just after 8am we were a bit wet. And only 20th in the queue. Seems a lot of people had the smart idea of staying in bed little longer, but we like many others sat down with a book, grabbed a coffee and waited patiently (some ham & fried egg butties also helped).
Thankfully the Airwaves staff decided to not make everyone wait until
12 and handed out tickets a little early, as we left there was a substantial queue snaking out the doors into the cold, so we headed back towards our apartment feeling chuffed. We popped out head into lucky records and saw Brooklyn singer Eric vitoff performing with lots more energy than most of the people in the room put together, dancing and singing into his guitar at times!

After a refuelling back at our apartment we stopped by Lucky Records again, this time catching Bellstop – not my cup of tea but the husband enjoyed them, self described as folk rock.
We also caught the tail end of the intriguingly named Hide Your Kids (which tbh just reminds me of that bed intruder song from a couple of years ago), we only heard 1 song so I don’t feel I can make a judgement call on whether I like them or not – but they were giving away free CDs so something to listen to when we get home!
At this point in the evening my husband headed back to the apartment as man flu started to kick his ass, so I fought my way through the howling wind into the sanctuary of Frikirkjan to see Snorri Helgason perform. I’ve seen Snorri play at airwaves last year, and in Manchester supporting Asgeir, but both of those times he was very much a one-man-band with simply an acoustic guitar and harmonica. For his Airwaves show however there was the band Snorri Helgason (we noticed this a few times, solo performers create a band then the band performs under what is essentially the solo artist’s name) which included Mr Silla (not a mister at all btw) also on vocals as well as a bassist & drummer from some other well known local bands.
The church looked breathtaking with candles lighting the stage area, it was very atmospheric, with everyone seated in the pews. Having a full band and the addition of Mr Silla’s vocals brought a wonderful depth and richness to songs that already work well stripped down. It was a show that in my opinion was all to short!

FALK night @ Harpa

Next stop was Harpa (again!) for Mugison (again!) which was yet another fantastic show with the added depth of having a full band, some new tracks and plenty of old favourites meant the crowd were excited but Mugison brought it down a notch with a duet with his wife who is (like many other music teachers in Iceland) currently on strike to protest against unfair pay for music teachers. It was a beautiful moment to watch.

Last events of the evening for me were part of the FALK (fuck art let’s kill) night in the smaller, seated room in Harpa Kaldalon.
First up was power noise artist AMFJ who gave us a full on ear assault, having seen him perform before I felt the music balance wasn’t quite right and was struggling to hear the vocal performance over the music. Ok so I don’t understand Icelandic but still…
Last show of the evening for me was then KRAKKKBOT who is slightly more palatable to the ears and plays (like quite a few electronic musicians) from his laptop, except he holds it kinda like he’s playing guitar!
Also people started bringing him drinks during the performance – which started getting a bit surreal.

Airwaves Day 2 in brief

Day 2 was a bit of a wipe out for us off venue wise, I had a headache that started to turn into a migraine that needed sleeping off in a darkened room which meant we didn’t venture out until late afternoon to try and see Mugison at Bunk Bar, after fighting our way through the throngs of people stood in the doorway yet again we headed downstairs where we bagged a table with a good view of the screen, I think we possibly caught the end of Ikorni’s set also as they were running late but I wasn’t overly impressed.
Mugison however was as on it as ever, after he and his band fought their way to the stage (at this point it’s seeming quite ridiculous), he played about 4 to 5 songs I think only 1 was new, it was great to hear songs I had seen previously performed by Mugison as a one man band with full percussion to bring a much richer sound, especially for the finale with Murr Murr which had the whole crowd going.
For the on venue evening it was another trip to Harpa – this time we saw the ever amazing For a minor reflection. We saw them last year in the teeny tiny space at Hlemmur Square, so again it was great to see them perform in a larger venue with their instrumental beautifully layered soundscapes.
Next up was Emilie Nicolas from Norway who’s sound was large vocals over a fun poppy sound, very popular with lots of folk singing along to her tracks!
After this is was back to our apartment for an early-ish night as tomorrow was the day Flaming Lips tickets were being given out first come, first served!